Lessons in Interior Lighting: Learning from a Master

Presented by: Marie Gentry

Context and Problem As design educators and practitioners, we are acutely aware that interaction of light, shadow, and color can determine perception of structure, objects, details, surfaces, and emotive qualities of a space. This understanding is not a new revelation. Nevertheless, despite a plethora of new technology, lighting, particularly in domestic interiors, often continues to be a postscript. Through the examination of selected mid-20th century houses designed by famed architect, E. Fay Jones, this poster will communicate how daylighting and artificial lighting can be choreographed to reveal and express spatial character and to create visual interest in domestic interior spaces. Jones has received praise for his sensitivity to lighting of interior space. Of Jones, Ivy (2001) asserted, “…he understands light’s ability to transform interiors, to suffuse space with light, and to highlight texture, color, and form…” (p. 206). Poepsel (2013) concluded, “Through his carefully crafted details and a renewing kaleidoscope of light and shadow, the inhabitants of Jones houses continue to rediscover the poetic expression of Jones’s architecture…” (p. 46). Methods Analyses of luminous environments in selected historic residences were completed using on-site written and photo-documentation, archival photographs and drawings, and review of literature. The poster will encourage discourse through the opportunity to examine a variety of spaces and details designed by Jones. Outcomes and Implications Through engagement with images, descriptions, and analyses of spaces and details, attendees will appreciate how artificial lighting and daylighting in homes designed by Jones were shaped by architectural and interior features. Poepsel (2013) noted that “The careful working and reworking of details contribute to a unifying generative idea that enforces the part-to-whole relationship of organic building” (p. iv). Lighting was one of these details on which Jones focused. See Table 1. For example, luminaire and fenestration details were frequently an outgrowth of the plan shape or structure. See Figure 1. To delineate ceiling planes, Jones often revealed the ceilings with continuous indirect lighting and silhouetting (see Figures 2 + 3). He also utilized various techniques to control daylighting, such as clerestories/skylights, deep overhangs, corner windows, projecting fenestration, and perforated walls. See Figure 4. To enliven surfaces and spaces, strategies such as grazing and shadow play were incorporated. See Figure 5. The success of these spaces is a result of thoughtful and imaginative coordination of design variables—not simply serendipity. The interaction of architectural/ interior features, color, and light contributed significantly to the animation and visual appeal of the interiors. By examining the interiors of these mid-20th century houses, one learns that successful spaces of any period require careful synchronization of lighting with other variables, including site, structural elements, surfaces, and interior features. Elaborating upon a 2014 presentation by the author, this poster will confirm that deliberation from start to finish is vital—that effective lighting cannot be an add-on or after-thought. Lighting cannot not be designed in isolation. It will become apparent that effective interior lighting strategies can be integrated, regardless of age, budget, size, technology, or building configuration.


  • Ivy, R. A. (2001). Architecture of E. Fay Jones. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  • Poepsel, B. (2013). Fay Jones and his residential clients: Communicating through the details (Unpublished master’s thesis). University of Texas at Austin.
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