Shedding light on credit crunch depression

Don’t be down in the dumps about the credit crunch. Sir Terence Conran helps Annie Deakin dodge the winter blues with improved lighting. It’s a bright idea.
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The Independent Online

I’m depressed. It’s cold outside, the clocks are going back and everyone - myself included - is moaning about the credit crunch. Darkening clouds aren’t just consigned to the economic horizon; they’re glaring me in the face whenever I gaze outside. But I’m learning fast that at the flick of a light switch, my mood lifts.

As daylight hours dwindle from September until April, at least one in 50 of us suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It doesn’t take a genius to predict this figure may rocket this particular winter as the credit crunch bites deep into the global economy. To ease their depression, sufferers undergo light therapy treatment. Tempers cheer with daily exposure to high intensity lighting (at least 2500 lux -that’s 10 times that of ordinary light bulbs).

For the record, I don’t suffer from SAD but like the rest of you, my mood is dependent on room lighting. Sir Terence Conran told me, ironically on one of this year’s sunnier days, “A simple, yet dramatic way of changing an interior is to improve the quality of light as this directly affects the way we feel.” Could different lighting schemes in City offices calm panicked bankers?

“Where possible, flood a room with as much natural light as possible.” Terence advised, “Improving the arrangement of lighting can transform a room from somewhere that makes you feel jaded or ill at ease for no readily identifiable reason into somewhere that is positively alive with vitality and warmth.” His daughter Sophie told me, over tea in her Bayswater flat, “I like to maximise light and wish my windows were floor to ceiling.”

Signs of the financial market meltdown are omnipresent. My neighbours put up scaffolding yesterday and my little brother Henry is redecorating his Richard Curtis-esque cottage - both realize they won’t move soon. The upside of an economic depression is that people nationwide pay more attention to their homes. While sitting in Henry’s snug, he drew the curtains on what was a bright autumn day and switched on his newly installed "mood lighting". "Check out how cosy this is, I can’t wait for winter," he cooed. A little clever lighting really can shape your frame of mind.

At the top end of the market, lighting has grown into a sophisticated science. Inspired Dwellings offer an intelligent lighting service. Imagine wireless lighting systems that fit on existing circuits and communicate with each other. With the flick of one switch, you can turn on and off every light, from fairy to pendant, under your roof. Slick, huh? It gets better. You can set the mood to whatever you fancy - relaxing, homework, dinner party (you get the gist) - by pressing one button. And if your bank manager lets you holiday this recession, you can deter intruders with "memory lights". Set on holiday mode, it will mimic your every light movement from the past fortnight.

Tough times mean we reassess our (costly) contribution to green living. Organic food sales plummet and the more unappealing of eco home products stay in stock rooms. Lots of low-energy lighting is ugly but a design must be good-looking first, green second; right now, saving the planet is an afterthought. A point proven at last month’s cutting edge exhibition Lighten Up by ReDesign at London Design Festival. Only the most stunning of lamps were showcased making it easier for the consumer. All the lighting was created from transformed wasted material. It’s only a matter of time before David Gardener’s attractive pulp lamp, made of recycled paper pulp, is put into large-scale production. Particularly uplifting was Giles Miller’s flute pendant lamp chiefly handmade from corrugated cardboard. Fashion legend Alexander McQueen bought pretty bone china shoes from mydeco design boutique member Ulrika Jarl. Her gorgeous tactile bone china lamps, inspired by butterfly eggs and shells are set to ride the credit crunch storm well.

“The credit crunch has coincided with winter evenings closing in and clocks changing. It’s that time of year when people think, gosh, I need a light for that dark corner,” says Geoffrey Harris, director of Geoffrey Harris Lighting. “There is no question that a well lit space is more comfortable and makes you feel more content.”

I’ve been humming "light up, light up", the chorus from Snow Patrol's song "Run", as I type. Like a beautifully lit interior, it’s brightened up my mood. Credit crunch? It’s not so depressing now. You should try it.

Annie Deakin is acting editor of