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Lighting up a high-tech Phuket hideaway

Designer Ian Potter discusses the smart tech powering this exclusive island bolthole

Ian Potter

Few designers light up a place quite like Ian Potter, founder of CWL Lighting. In recent years his company has supernova’d into a star name in the hospitality industry, with a client-list that covers 14 countries and includes brands like Aman, Dusit Thani, Hilton, Intercontinental, Marriott, Pullman, and Sheraton. Potter has also become a go-to collaborator for famed interior designers such as P49, PIA, Bill Bensley, Leo Inter, and HBA.

While his forte is hotels, the UK-born designer paid his dues — and is still — illuminating the abodes of high-net-worth individuals and celebrities in Asia and further afield. Indeed, he was a major presence during the boom period of villa building in Phuket in the late 90s and the early Noughties.

He has since been enlisted to shed light on two Phuket properties owned by David Roberts, former CEO of the New York-based architecture firm Aedas.

Between 2011 and 2013, CWL and Bangkok-based architecture firm Ideal 1 collaborated on Roberts’ THB200-million (USD5.75 million) villa that sits on 8,400 square metres of prime parcel in the hills near Rawai Beach. The 1,731-square-metre structure radiates inside and out with LED external lights, in-ground uplights at all structural supports, uplit rubble walls, and even a home theatre fitted with fibre optics that evoke the night sky.

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In terms of lighting, would you call David’s villa a smart home?

The fact that the whole lighting system is integrated into one control system is pretty smart. If the owner hears a crash or noise outside he can just hit buttons on his bedside control panel, turning on all the external lights and the corridor lighting as a security feature.

[pullquote]Smart living is using technology to help you perform necessary functions to make life easier — not gimmicks[/pullquote]

The fact that all of the channels are dimmable is quite intelligent too. The lights are integrated to the security system so if the system detects an intrusion it will light all perimeter lighting and various other external lights – even if nobody is at the property.

More: The dawn of the smart home is upon us – are you ready?

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Tell us more about the lighting scenes

There is a clock that turns on the external lighting at designated times. The lighting system calculates when it gets dark. It doesn’t come on at the same time throughout the year though, because the time of dusk changes across the year in Phuket. When it calculates the time for the lighting to come on, it runs with one lighting scene and then it fades into another lighting scene, which is usually softer.

The owner also has a handheld control in his car so that as he approaches the villa he can turn the lighting on.

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What makes each villa you work on unique?

Each individual villa is custom designed; you can’t cut and paste. However, techniques may be similar. This depends on the effect we’re looking for or what the individual owners want. Some owners, especially Westerners, like lower-level lighting. They like to have quiet areas, no glare, a softer, orangey type of light — like candlelight.

Whereas if you do a property for moneyed Asians, they like it to be very bright. They’re not into intimacy and quiet spots so much.

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How much has changed in terms of lighting advancements since you designed the villa?

LED light systems have developed significantly in the last three to four years. Now you’re unlikely to design with halogen or incandescent. It’s all going to be LED, whereas three or four years ago, it would be a mixture.

How would you define smart living?

Using technology to help you perform necessary functions to make life easier — not gimmicks.

Read next: Why it’s no longer luxury if it’s not ‘smart’

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