Lighting is now more about illuminating a dark space with products that can manipulate colour and arouse emotions. This has brought with it innovative home decoration solutions as lighting zones define space and white walls. 'Home lighting has moved from illumination levels to solutions that communicate emotion,' says Sean Hughes, senior design director at Philips Design, who is based in Hong Kong. 'It is being used to make spaces feel bigger and more intimate. People are realising that lighting is actually a relatively cost-effective way to transform the decor or the experience of a space. If you have pockets of light and shadow, you create visual interest in a space.' Technological breakthroughs have made lighting more cost-effective in terms of energy, and innovative companies are bringing what was once mainly seen in theatres and studios into our homes. Domestic lighting products can change the colours of living areas - from warm reds to cool blues. The availability of technologies, such as light-emitting diodes (LED) and compact fluorescents, have enhanced efficiency and cost-effectiveness. With less energy consumption and no infrared heat, LEDs use up to one-eighth of the energy of incandescent lamps and have a longer lifespan. For developers, dealing with about 2,000 flats, this is enormously attractive. But LEDs also have a range of intensities and colours that can make a lighting product into a design tool. There are now products such as dimmable lights and control panels that emit a spectrum of colours, providing solutions for many of the challenges that come with living in small areas. 'More people are demanding that they have flexible lighting solutions in their homes,' Mr Hughes says. 'You might change the lighting around cupboards so it is a warm and inviting place. If you are watching TV, you might want to have a more dark, intimate home cinema experience.' Cost-effective creative lighting obviously opens up opportunities for developers and lighting designers, but a range of factors influence whether these products get into the home or not. And a relative lack of knowledge among developers means that decisions are still left to those with the technical know-how. Hong Kong-based lighting designer Alice Tang adds: 'LEDs or compact fluorescents are leading market trends. 'The main reason is energy saving, but the applications are subject to different market needs. Most of our property clients pay lots of attention to lighting design, but the design is often based on the opinions of lighting designers. 'I believe [lighting design] will add value to the properties to a certain extent in the future but, of course in Hong Kong, size and location are the main factors. Now the focus is on interactive lighting, environmentally friendly lighting and keeping costs down.' Energy-saving light bulbs that fit into standard light fittings have an obvious appeal to consumers. But for a lighting revolution to come into the home through the fittings of dials and dimmable lights, designers, developers and consumers need to become familiar with the luminescent language that is still in its infancy in the local domestic market. 'Products that control brightness and a cross-section of moods are more popular in bathrooms in Hong Kong than in living rooms,' says David Castaneda, business development manager at Traxon, a company that specialises in developing LED fixtures and devices. 'Panels for colour ranges are too expensive for property developers to think about at the moment, and they'd rather spend it on something else even in luxury properties. Most companies are focusing on the lighting itself, and the biggest problem in terms of cost is from the control side and creating the technology that makes this control possible.' Traxon products, which include shimmering fa?ades, have found demand in hotels and offices and are ideally suited to the exterior spectacle of buildings. For interiors, the company produces a plug-and-play dial that can change colours using LEDs. Even as property developers eye the advantages of giving residents more control over luminescent decorations, bringing that spectacle into the home through such applications has challenges in terms of cost. LEDs might be cost-effective in terms of the energy they save, but the market price of the LED applications remains high. 'LEDs are still relatively expensive compared to other sources of lighting,' Ms Tang says. 'Our clients tend to pay attention in the lighting design for their show flat. But it depends on which developers and how much they are willing to spend.' It may be some time before developers switch on to making living environments into light shows by fitting their homes with creative applications. But with the presence of products on the open market that give people more control, they may not be in the dark for much longer. Choices are now available for consumers to take the initiative to control their environments and save money. 'Now you can have a single luminaire which will allow you to have different moods that fit homes,' Mr Hughes says. 'So you are given more flexibility. People know that light is controllable and dimmable and if they have it, they will use it. And products that control the colour of lighting in a room from warm to red at the touch of a button have a wow effect. This is enough to drive demand from the consumer end. People are more aware of design, and the home is no longer just a functional space.'