One of the founders of Manooi, János Héder, recalls that his fascination with light goes all the way back to an anecdote from his childhood.
Decades ago, János Héder and his sisters were on a roadtrip with their father in the Hungarian countryside. To make the time pass (and to keep them from fighting in the car), his dad suggested a game of “20 Questions”.
The clue their father gave them was “matter”. The kids began asking yes or no questions to deduce what kind of material he had in mind, but the final answer was elusive: Stone? No. Wood? No. Glass…? No.
And the game went on and on.
Finally, after travelling about 30 kilometres on their journey, 8-year-old János came up with a novel idea.
“Could it be light?” – he asked.
“Yes,” answered his father, who began to explain to his kids the properties of light – and maybe, just maybe, that’s when he planted a seed in his son János’s head for things that were to come in his life: a deep fascination with light and lighting.
The essence of creation
“As I see it, light is magic,” explains János. “If we consider from where we acquire our understanding of the universe, it emanates predominantly from light and this is somehow an ancestral mystery. Light appears at the very beginning, according to the Bible – i.e. ‘let there be light!’ So this is the foremost act – the first creation: LIGHT.”
He observes that if a film wants to portray anything to do with the spirit, creativity or the creation – any kind of wonder – it is shown as light, so in practice these are all the same. “It’s the essence of creation.”
Lightening up everyone’s mood
Decades after the 20 Questions riddle, János, who had studied interior design, and his wife, Judit, who studied ceramics, would start their unique enterprise, Manooi, which designs spectacular chandeliers that bring indoor spaces to life, enlivening those who witness them – their objectives as part of their creative process.
“Light, in and of itself, beyond the fact that it’s total magic, completely determines our mood,” he explains. “People are mainly influenced by the quality and conditions of light. Good lighting, which is carefully chosen and comfortable in practice, is a guarantee that a person will feel good.”
Why does good lighting matter? János recalls a recent visit that he and Judit made to a fine dining establishment, where the lighting had a less-than-desirable effect.
He explains, “We sat there and it was apparent that every aspect of the restaurant had been carefully chosen, but the lighting was a bust – it was in the wrong place and it was too bright, even the colour temperature was off – and it cut our enjoyment of the dining experience by half.”
Proper lighting, he says, can exponentially change such experiences. “It contributes positively,” he adds, “that’s obvious.”
Aiming for the stars
As for what it feels like to manipulate this powerful force called light as an interior designer, János thinks back to his hobby of stargazing. He says that he has built several telescopes and wanted to be an astronomer at one time.
“Everyone’s heard about it before, that that light that you see through your telescope has been travelling for billions of years at a certain speed and it arrives exactly where you’re standing. That spectacle gives a person the feeling that he/she is really alive in an enormous universe in which we are all trying to find our place.”
But looking up into the starry night did not make János feel insignificant at all.
He recalls, “No one ever told me that ‘I’m a tiny speck of dust in a cold-hearted universe’; exactly the opposite, that to the extent that I am a part of the universal game and I can possess the universe – it’s as much mine as it is yours and belongs to everyone.”
Light manipulation as a higher art
Properly arranging and treating light, both natural and artificial, in any interior design project is one of the primary building blocks of any project, he says.
“In the beginning there’s just a virtual space in which we arrange the sources of light and then the solid elements come into the picture. The space offers the possibilities, the light gives it life and all of the material things that come in later just serve those initial elements of the project,” explains János.
According to him, and in line with his ambitions, arranging light in the proper way – which he believes is poetic – is one of the greatest impacts one can make.
“It’s a bit of a higher art than let’s say crafting a material; light is also a material but it’s the least matter-like material, and crystal, in and of itself, is similar because we don’t see it as material but as something that refracts light.”
Yes, decades later, János Héder is still thinking, and knows all of the answers, about light.
Stay tuned for more stories and insights from the team at Manooi!