Holtkotter President Paul Eusterbrock stopped into the Lightology showroom in October 2012 to say hello and give us some updates on the Holtkotter line. Lightology sat down with him to discuss the inspiration behind Holtkotter as well as how they are leading the way in LED technology.
Tell us a little about the history and philosophy of Holtkotter.
Holtkotter was founded 50 years, by Mr. Holtkotter in Germany, I founded it in America about 30 years ago in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Our main thought is we want to provide good light, the best light. Then, we design a very elegant form around it, all executed with quality materials
How do you carry that philosophy through your product development today?
Instead of just using any LED or any driver, we are developing our own light engines that have to meet our lighting quality and quantity standards. We have a standard for light engines that they have they have to reach, we have a standard for dimmability, a standard for drivers etc. I think we are the only ones who approach it that way.
Holtkotter also has a dimming curve defined, and we designed our own chip for that. So there is a matrix for light output over time, and it tells you how LED light should dim over time. We then program the chips around that so the different light engines will follow the standard curve.
How has your design changed as you change lighting technology?
There are some new designs, but Mr. Holtkotter used to say, “Most designers ruin lighting companies.” The reason is it’s really difficult to come up with something really new, there are only so many different forms you can do and so many designs you can come up with. What we try to do is first, define the light function, and then develop a design around it.
One thing LEDs allow us to do is miniaturize the design. Coming up with smaller profiles allows you to design spaces that look more elegant.
What are some of the new challenges you face with LEDs?
The challenge with LEDs is that they are a directional light source. A radial light source, like an incandescent bulb, is sometimes better because it provides more general light. So the challenge is to take a directional light source and transform it into a radial light source. If you want to do more than create a spotlight, if you want to light an entire space, you need to spread the light. A good analogy is if you’re in the shower, and the light is thrown at you in narrow beams it makes you feel uncomfortable, but if it is spread out you feel more comfortable.
Where does your design inspiration come from?
It’s more of a intellectual exercise; it goes back to the Bauhaus school. They really formalized the approach of ‘Form Follows Function’, where you have a functional need and you try to design a physical object to fulfill that need. Since we don’t work with a lot of designers, our fixtures very often don’t look like everyone else’s.
The way we operate is different than a designer; we always look at the manufacturability. Sometimes, when you work in a factory, designs often happen by accident. Once, we had a reflector where we cut off part of it to attach to an arm, and Mr. Holtkotter was walking through the factory. He was mad that there were parts everywhere. He was about to start throwing things around, but then picked up the piece and realized he could make a new reflector out of it.
Other designs wisdoms that have been around for years, such as the golden rule, we are also keenly aware of. The proportions are really important. But if you fulfill the need the proportion follows.
If you look at our finishes, from polished brass, antique, satin nickel, bronze etc. these make a big impact on design. Look at the same fixture in chrome and in bronze, and it could fit into two different environments. The chrome version might fit in a downtown Chicago studio while the bronze one could fit into a Wyoming hunting lodge. If the design is really good it can go anywhere.
What is a specific product you are especially proud of?
The Bernie recently won the Lighting for Tomorrow award because we combined good light quality with our LED layering technology so you get a nice light spread. The fixture also incorporates our dimming technology; we spent a lot of time and effort to get the dimming right. Right now, that’s the one I am very proud of.
We are working on a new torchiere that’s supposed to give 6000 lumens with a wattage of 50-60 watts — about 100 lumens per watt — I’ll be proud of that one when it comes out next year!
How would you explain Holtkotter to someone who doesn’t know anything about your brand?
Holtkotter is the ultimate LED, we pay attention to quality, quantity, design material and workmanship, and control/dimmability. If you took a light meter to compare us with others on the market, I would place any bet that Holtkotter has a better price per footcandle — the cheapest on the market. There isn’t anyone else providing the same light quality and fixture quality as Holtkotter.