Mike White


Illuminatus

by Brett Levine     Photo by Jerry Siegel

For Lighting Designer and Planner Mike White, beautiful light is a necessity.  Not just beautiful lights, not just fixtures that create new opportunities or unexpected experiences, but also the quality of light itself.

“I am fascinated by the ways in which our perceptions of light alter our experience of a space,” he remarks.  White, the owner of Bianco LLC, a company that conceives, designs and installs lighting for residential and commercial environments, was not always this passionate about light.  “My family has owned an electrical contracting company for many years,” he laughs, “and I initially thought I might pursue a career in the electrical trades.”  Instead, he began to focus on the ways in which creative lighting could add excitement and positive experiences to spaces.

“In many ways lighting is thought of as magic,” he explains.  “I started studying interior design, and I realized very quickly that there aren’t that many courses that deal specifically with light.  In conversations with a number of architects,” he continues, “I learned that even in architecture school lighting design was often one of the more overlooked components.  In many ways interiors are thought of as being all about the experience of natural light.  But as I always say, Mother Nature works all day long, but my work is at night!”

White tailors his approach to lighting to a client’s particular needs.  “I don’t necessarily believe that every amazing experience in a space should have a specific light.  I simply try to understand a client’s personality, and comprehend the needs of a space.”  One approach White does take is an ongoing commitment to forward planning.  “When it is appropriate,” he muses, “I will pre-wire a space for additional fixtures.  Then, if a client decides they need them, it is much easier than having to go back into a wall or a floor.”

Often, clients engage White early in the design process.  For both the Thompson and Beard residences, newly constructed projects in Mountain Brook, White was able to work closely with the architect, ensuring that the specific needs of the clients could be met.  “In the Beard Residence,” he explains, “the real view was of the city at night.  I worked with as much indirect light as possible in their main living spaces so the beautiful views they had created wouldn’t be hindered by interior lights reflecting at night.”

White’s objectives also include sustainability and energy efficiency, and his approach can at first appear unorthodox at times.  “I try to work with LED lighting and fiber optics whenever it is possible.  Recently, for the Leath residence, I even used drive-over LED fixtures designed for the exterior to wash the interior walls of a bathroom.  They were obviously built for durability, but they were perfect for what we were trying to achieve.”

His approach can be seen in a number of retail spaces in Birmingham, including the new Scott James concept shop at Shaia’s in Homewood, and the Meredith Keith Gallery in English Village.  “In each of these projects I was able to use LED monopoint fixtures,” White remarks. “One of the great things about LEDs for gallery applications is that they don’t emit ultraviolet light. It doesn’t mean that you can simply ignore their brightness, but the key component of more traditional lighting that damages art and objects just disappears.”

Although he does not create art installations, White considers his applications of innovative lighting to be artistic.  “I am using many more colored LEDs,” which he did to subtle effect at the new Dungan Nequette offices. “Colored LEDs allow me to program complete scenes for clients.  They can simply press a button and change the scene of the design they’ve had installed.” White sees developments such as these as an outcome of more interest in lighting over the past decade. “I think a good lighting planner and designer balances requirements, opportunities and needs to create an experience that is more of everything that the client wants —more useful, more expressive, more unexpected and more efficient.”

“In the end, I try to use lighting to create symmetry, and to enhance the experience of living in a space.” Whether at the beach, on the lake, in the city or at the store, Mike White works to truly illuminate a space’s needs.

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