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Exposed Lighting Examples

by Chad Ludeman on May 16, 2008 · 31 comments

in Design,inspiration,lighting

In an effort to defend the viability of the exposed CFL throughout the house I have compiled a few example images of modern interiors where the technique was successfully implemented. All of these are from Japan.

The first image is of the “T+M House” by Koizumi Studio.

T+M House Image

The rest of the images below are from one of my favorite Japanese architecture firms – Tezuka Architects.

Honancho Condo Image

Cloister House Bathroom Image

Cloister House Image

House to Catch Sunlight Image

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{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

1 johncommoner May 16, 2008 at 1:10 am

Tezuka, no? (at least a couple of them are). I love their work. Excellent choice of inspiration!

2 chad May 16, 2008 at 1:30 am

Yes, good eye. All but one of ‘em. I could’ve kept going too. Love their work! …a lot.

3 Y. Bzerious May 16, 2008 at 2:10 am

My .02: bare bulb incandescent lighting is harsh; CFL’s are harsher. I’d suggest you try living with it before committing to it. Again, just my .02.

4 chad May 16, 2008 at 2:21 am

Removing the bell shades on the CFLs on my ceiling fan now. I have an open loft with two ceiling fans that have 4 CFLs each and one ikea fixture near the kitchen area that has 3 CFLs. None have covers, but do have surrounds to direct the light.

5 chad May 16, 2008 at 2:36 am

I think I like the look better without the shades. I was able to remove two of the four lights in one of the ceiling fans because I am getting more light without the shades.

We might be able to use 9 watt bulbs instead of 13 to reduce the brightness. It will require some testing but I think the concept is sound.

6 lawless May 16, 2008 at 3:24 am

For your budget sacrifices have to be made in order to meet your price per sq. ft. expectations. Those fixtures and the exposed CFL are a good place to compromise in my opinion.

Hopefully it opens up a little money to splurge in other areas where you can appreciate the details a little more.

Great site, just stumbled upon it today. Looking forward to reading more about it.

7 Shawn Busse May 16, 2008 at 6:34 am

I think the “more lights, lower wattage” strategy could convince me. The pics are nice, though I agree it’s something you might want to “try out” first. It could be easy to fabricate some sort of deflector/shade too…something out of frosted mylar, perhaps. Not sure of the fire code issues…

8 Rob May 16, 2008 at 1:27 pm


Nice, premptive strike! Prior to these pictures I would have said no to the exposed bulb. After seeing these pictures…well maybe. With a sparse, minimalist interior they seem to work. I would agree with the lower wattage strategy. This just might work. :) The real question is will you find someone who wants to buy this non-traditional house?

9 chad May 16, 2008 at 2:07 pm

Thanks Rob. As far as selling the house, we hope it won’t be a problem mainly due to the non-traditional nature of the house. We actually get about one call a week from someone interested in buying the house now.

Philly is a very traditional city in terms of residential architecture and development. The progressive stuff is mainly happening in high priced condos in center city. Unique row homes are few and far between. Unique, green and affordable row homes don’t exist at all…

I could go on and on but I’ll cut this short. Maybe a blog post on the topic is in order later.

Thanks for the comment!

10 Y. Bzerious May 17, 2008 at 10:30 am

“The real question is will you find someone who wants to buy this non-traditional house?”– Wonderful question! Chad, I don’t know how much structured analysis you’ve done around your target buyer, but for what it’s worth — whether for this or other questions — you might want to take advantage of a focus group or (much less expensive) I’m rooting for you!

11 moderns-r-us May 17, 2008 at 8:32 pm


I love the decision to go with the bare bulb and a porcelain socket. I have to admit that I have never tried it with a CFL yet. FYI, you may have trouble getting the bare bulb in a bathroom past the inspectors in Philly.

I have most often used this trick in bathrooms with a silver bowl bulb (mirrored tip).

Another great variation of this technique is to use a smaller two piece porcelain socket sandwiched around a steel cover plate normally used to cover a junction box. Sometimes you can find the plates with the hole already drilled, sometimes not. If not, a good electrician usually has a punch to knock out the hole. Look for cover plates with only two, non-slotted holes. Try to get the junction boxes behind installed with the screw holes aligned vertically or horizontally, not diagonally. I prefer to pre paint the cover plates to match the wall or you can use an accent color.

This will make this bare bulb technique look much classier than the standard porcelain socket. Many people just have a negative perception of the porcelain socket hanging in their basement and this socket gets it out of that mind set.

Here is the cheap Leviton socket to make this detail happen.


12 moderns-r-us May 17, 2008 at 9:48 pm

$2.08 for the two piece porcelain socket plus the cover plate.

13 Rob May 19, 2008 at 1:31 pm


I guess the question was coming from my view point of the very tradionaly nature of this area of PA, including its architecture. But you make a very good point that you are the only green, affordable, rowhome in town. Wanna come to lancaster next? :)

I think a blog post delving more deeply into this topic might be very intersting. To see any comparables, where they are priced and where you expect to be priced. Also will you be targeting specific incomes? Or will this be open for anyone to purchase?

14 lavardera May 19, 2008 at 2:40 pm

This calls for the poor mans dimmer Chad. Goes like this:

For a space with general lighting you put in two switches with 1/3 of the bulbs on one switch, and 2/3s on the other switch. Now you have three light levels using the two switches. 1/3, 2/3, and with both switches on 3/3.

15 chad May 19, 2008 at 2:54 pm

I like it!

16 chad May 21, 2008 at 1:53 am

Just stumbled upon this post on ceiling socket fixtures at Remodelista. Why would great designers be making high-end ceiling fixtures meant for bare bulbs if it wasn’t a good idea? :)

17 Shawn Busse May 21, 2008 at 6:18 am

Nice link and some sweet pics.

My only comment would be that a large part of the success of these fixtures is actually the light bulb itself – the exposed filament, clear bulb, and overall shape lend a sense of “industrial cool” or even “Victorian nostalgia”…I’m just not that familiar with the CFL options to know if they will work in the same manner…

18 chad May 21, 2008 at 12:40 pm

I hear you Shawn and certainly don’t disagree. I really like the Edison style bulb at the bottom of that post. I also really like the round bulbs with the silver coating on the bottom.

There is quite a selection of CFL’s on the market now and there is something interesting about their design to me. I have been seeing more and more chandeliers and other fixtures with CFL’s openly exposed and it really makes a statement both design-wise and energy-wise.

19 moderns-r-us May 21, 2008 at 1:15 pm


What did you think of the alternate two piece porcelain socket that I proposed to the standard porcelain socket?

It really does make slicker finished product.

The silver bowls are very nice but may not give you the spread you are looking for. I have not seen a CFL silver bowl yet. GE, Phillips, are you listening?

20 chad May 21, 2008 at 1:21 pm

I took a look at the porcelain socket. It’s a lamp part. I have used it before myself for a custom application where I had the silver bulbs we were talking about hanging from a clear cord on either side of a bathroom vanity mirror. Turned out very nice.

The nice thing with the $2 porcelain piece we are looking at is that it fits over a standard ceiling box and meets code with no modifications.

21 lavardera May 23, 2008 at 4:41 pm
22 robby May 24, 2008 at 4:47 am

The makers of this blog and the 100k house need to credit the above photos so it clearly states it is the work of “Tezuka” architects, whether it’s inspiration or not. It says they’re from Japan, but this is not enough, as professional courtesy you must credit the intellectual property of others as in any “paper” based publication.

On the flipside, love your work on the 100k house. Go hard, go cheap, go green.


23 chad May 24, 2008 at 2:32 pm

Greg – Nice reference.

Robby – Thanks for the note. I have corrected this error in the post. I was a bit rushed when posting and forgot to go back and fill out the details.

24 jason May 24, 2008 at 10:16 pm
use these even if you have to make it the 101Khouse.

25 Brandon May 27, 2008 at 7:42 pm

Those lights from Bocci are pretty slick, though I think they have one of the worst web-sites I’ve visited in recent memory. What’s the pricing like on those? I couldn’t find anything regarding cost on their site.

26 Shawn Busse May 28, 2008 at 7:04 am

I have to agree with Brandon on this one (for the record, I run a design firm). The Bocci site is exactly the kind of site that gives Flash a bad name. Yuck

27 lavardera May 28, 2008 at 2:30 pm

I wish there was some explanation about how these Bocci devices would work. It appears there is no electrical box, which would mean they need to be making a code compliant connection in their socket head. Perhaps there is a box, but it would seem to break the rules by being inaccessible.

28 robert June 7, 2008 at 7:22 pm

The installation instructions are there if you dig a bit:

Mix these with concrete floors and white walls and you would have quite the statement

29 m.o.d. June 25, 2008 at 1:25 am
30 tracy July 15, 2008 at 10:56 pm

have you thought at all about “radiant” type lighting? meaning low lighting vs. higher up? I have this thing in my house where I use rope lights (Christmas lights, really) along the floor and it provides a soft lighting from below that I find appealing. I’ve seen rope LED lights and they aren’t cheap but they are also not too expensive. Not sure that’s exactly the design statement you want to make but just thought I’d throw out the idea of how to make lighting creative from the floor up, vs. from above.

31 tracy July 28, 2008 at 2:55 pm

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