Light source

When Le Studio, Eklipse Lighting’s new showroom, picked up a Crativit Montral 2008 Grand Prize last November, the recognition did more than highlight the design talents of company owner Andr Pallai. It also turned the spotlight — pun intended — on the type of small but sophisticated design/manufacture operation that arguably makes Montreal Canada’s creativity capital. The showroom’s refined minimalist aesthetic reflects the simple elegance of Eklipse’s exquisitely tooled fixtures while providing an excellent venue for demonstrating just how good lighting can define and texture architectural space.

As both a lighting designer and successful manufacturer of lighting, Pallai is primarily self-taught, albeit born with a bent for drawing and a keen interest in architecture. From an early career as a buyer and seller of other people’s lighting products, he “started to get more interested in what lighting could do within an architectural context, how it could change a space, how it could be more profound, more layered.” By 1998, Pallai founded Eklipse to design and manufacture contract light fixtures and slowly “gathered the arrogance,” he says, to start designing lighting that represented his own signature.

Eklipse is an operation that both works with designers/architects on major projects and markets through wholesale agents. While many of the firm’s models are developed for specific projects, almost all are intended to become part of the company’s line of fixtures. Pallai specializes in very clean, fine, jewelry-like fixtures using LED, metal halide and halogen; they are intended to have not much presence — in order to be able to go almost everywhere, from ultra-modern to heritage architecture. It is how the fixture produces light that is key, he maintains.

Award-winning Le Studio is Pallai’s first major interior design project: “I am used to working at the scale of things I can hold in my hand, that I can turn in all directions. This was a whole different angle of designing, but I knew what I wanted.” While the firm’s line is marketed through agents, he wanted, within the modest showroom, a demonstration space in which his products could be marshalled through their unique effects. The space had to be open and flowing to draw the visitor into the core area. He also wanted it free of clutter, with a strict, minimalist approach to detail.

The entrance to Le Studio uses a range across the light spectrum, starting with a warm tone that draws in before morphing to a whiter light that is closer to that of a rainy day. The effect of the latter is to push back the walls, thus adding to the architectural experience. Once inside, an “alley” — one step below the showroom – cuts straight back to a niche with Le Studio’s only coloured wall, in deep blue, as well as a simple shelf made from a salvaged wooden beam. In line with the entrance, on the niche’s back wall is a graphic painting proclaiming the company’s key values: Passion, Innovation, Illumination as Art, etc.

The ceiling rolls up over the showroom, although a piece seems to have been ripped and pulled down to act as a modesty screen for a washroom entrance. Toward the front, the ceiling rolls back down again to define an office/conference room with a completely transparent wall of three sliding glass-only panels using a hidden track system from Europe. A buttery floor of compressed bamboo helps unify the different components of Le Studio. Two shelving/showcases provide “painting canvasses” to demonstrate how the lights work. For example, one contains a series of side-by-side niches all covered in the same coloured suede-like material. The perceived depth, width and colour of each space differ only because of the type of light fixture used.

Save for a single, all-acrylic armchair, the only furniture is a cluster of different shaped “boulders,” custom designed for Le Studio by a South African firm. Despite their convincing illusion, these wool ottomans turn out to make remarkably comfortable seating. The idea, says Pallai, was to ensure the furniture did not impose any direction on the flow of the room.

For Eklipse, the next frontier is Europe. CI