Lighting can change how your home looks, and the way you feel


It’s time to flip the switch on your home lighting – lose the generic tube lights and choose modern lighting products that improve efficiency, mood and even ‘marital harmony’. Designer Rajiv Shah tells you exactly how 


Growing up desi, you can tap into a countrywide collective memory featuring culinary nostalgia, classic cinema references and cricketing lore. The reminiscing doesn’t come with rose-tinted glasses though. Nope. True blue Indians have all spent time under the glare of blue light courtesy the ubiquitous ‘tube light’. That glare from the unadorned fluorescent bulb, that flicker as it was switched on, that low hum—that’s as Indian as the monsoon. A casual Google search will throw light on our love for this sort of illumination including NRIs looking for the Indian lightbulb abroad. But where did it come from, is it all it’s cracked up to be and how can we go past it? 

Rajiv Shah, CEO Westcoast Collaborative LLP, has lived in all kinds of spaces but remembers his grandparents being “obsessed with bright, white, blue lights.” Indians have a shared history of erratic power supply (that cause incandescent bulbs to blow) and cost consciousness. We also come from joint family households where lighting had to be democratic, every room having multiple uses, across multiple generations, through the day. 

For over a decade, Shah has been looking at, “What works, what doesn’t – the incandescent vs the tube as a source of light.” He believes tube lights still have a place in the modern home because, “Tube light housings have evolved. They do lend clarity. So, in the kitchen or the grandparents’ room, anywhere you need to see detail, they are very good to use.”

white light Mumbai

A building in Mahalaxmi, Mumbai. True blue Indians have all spent time under the glare of blue light courtesy the ubiquitous ‘tube light’. That glare from the unadorned fluorescent bulb, that flicker as it was switched on, that low hum—that’s as Indian as the monsoon.


As families go nuclear and people are exposed to global design trends, local publications mirror the evolution in their tastes. Shah sees this with his contemporaries, “Most of my friends who are married live on their own. It allows them to entertain in their own way, showcase how they handle the responsibilities of being householders. Unlike previous generations, a daughter-in-law is now free to display her own skill. We cater to the emotional, psychological and financial aspect of this change. Younger couples get their ideas from magazines and want to achieve that same look and application with more affordability. Now, with products that range from high end to Chinese knock-offs – it’s possible.” 


happy thai details

Rajiv Shah collaborated with interior designers Sarah Sham, Aditi Savani and Pranjal Ombale on the lighting design for Happy Thai restaurant in Mumbai. Shah says that the intensity of the light is also led by the type of restaurant it is being used in.

The term ‘mood lighting’ acquires greater significance when you see research that proves light can actually alter mood. Shah says, “You’ll relate white light to an office environment. It keeps you wired, awake, enhances activity. Yellow light allows you to settle into an evening routine. Despite their white lights, older houses used to have one incandescent pendant or table light that you could read by and transition into bedtime.” 

Shah explains the science behind it referencing the Kelvin Colour Temperature chart, “From sunrise to sunset, you go through various colour temperatures. 11,000 Kelvin is like moonlight. The noonday sun, when you are most active, peaks at about 7000 Kelvin. Roughly speaking, the yellow incandescent bulb is between 1800 – 3500 Kelvin. Neutral white office lighting is between 3500 and 5600 Kelvin. Hospital white lights have a tinge of blue and stand at 5600 – 7500 Kelvin.” 

The Indian tube light is usually between 4000 – 6000 K. The high colour temperature stimulates the body clock, stress hormones, and muscle tension. Incandescent bulbs bring out warmer colours in objects while a fluorescent bulb’s higher percentage of blue brings out cooler colors. Not only does it mess with your bio-rhythms, but it also causes metamerism – a change in our perception of colour. Shah says, the trick is in mimicking nature and taking into account our circadian rhythms while cognizant of the functionality of light.


Lighting is as important to aesthetic and functional design as structure or air-flow. And it changes not just mood but even perception of value. Shah uses eating areas to illustrate this, “Fine dining atmospheres are dark with an emphasis on the table. There’s a warm, cosy feeling. The portions served are smaller. Think about a candlelight dinner – you couldn’t eat a lot. At a family restaurant, the food doesn’t have an artistic presentation. The light is brighter, you’re more stimulated, you’ll order more and eat more. In an office canteen; there’s high footfall, people moving in and out. This area of interaction is for informal discussions that could lead to business decisions. You need everything well illuminated!” 

The good news is, even if you need a ‘democratic’ approach to lighting, tune-able lighting lets you set the same fitting to different effects. Shah says, “On one project, the husband wanted white light but the stay-at-home mum argued that she spent longer hours at home and preferred yellow light. We gave them tune-able light fittings.” 

Rajiv Shah gives us his designer house lighting tips 

There are three elements to life now with modern lights:

Decorative: Aka mood lighting or softer light via floor lamps, chandeliers etc. Shah recommends dimmers. 

Functional: Functionality is user specific. Depending on whether it is for study or for the elderly, you may need a blast of light. 

Indirect: This is lighting you have with other lighting on and is usually done with a lighting control solution. Set the perfect scene – movie viewing, bedtime, etc. 

Evolving past the all-white, to mood to even a ‘marital harmony setting’, we can safely allow the sun to set on the old fluorescent Indian bulb. And when the lights come on now, they’re much nicer.  


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