Meet Jo Plismy, Designer of Gong Design, London
When you need to create the right atmosphere, the light plays a crucial role. Jo Plismy tells us all her secrets on how to illuminate a place. You will discover that Gong is not just about light but also timeless design, combined high-quality materials, and expert craftsmanship.
What is the story behind Gong?
When I was in my mid-twenties, I came a summer to London to practice my English for a couple of months. I got immediately hooked by the dynamism and the openness of the city.
Having grown up surrounded by 20th century furniture, Asian and African art dealers in Belgium, I had developed a passion for eclectic and timeless objects, and scouring flea markets was a favourite pastime. So the opening of my home interiors boutique on Portobello Road in 1999 was like a dream come true. Gong was born.
A few years later a second Gong boutique was opened on Fulham Road. Rich of that amazing experience I started to design my own lighting models for Gong. And inspired by their success and the desire to be more creative I decided to progressively dedicate my time exclusively to the creation of lighting collections.
Today that is what we are, a lighting design company, and we collaborate on residential and commercial projects with architects, interior designers, hotels, restaurants and real estate developers throughout the world, as well as numerous independent boutiques where you can find Gong lamps.
Can you tell us what inspired your designs?
My inspiration comes from so many sources, whether it is a piece from the 1950ies or from a forgotten past, that I can reinvent to give it a new life, whether it is the nature that surrounds us with all its organic shapes, whether it is an everyday object whose form I think I can transform to make a great light.
I remember during a trip on the island of Sumatra, I was lying on my bed in a modest hotel, overcome by the heat and the humidity typical of these tropical regions. Whilst I was daydreaming, excited about my excursion to the jungle the next day, my eyes were fixed on the mosquito net hanging over my head, it was not fully hanging but knotted halfway as they are usually kept during the day. I noticed it was in really bad state and I was pretty sure it wasn’t going to protect me against mosquitoes that night, but I thought, actually this could be a nice shape for a light. This is how I got the idea of the Meduse model.
This variety of inspirations explains the eclecticism of the Gong lighting collections which is, I believe, a uniqueness.
How important is light in the room?
Lighting can change the atmosphere of an entire room at the flick of a switch. There is of course the decorative aspect of the lamp with its shape, material, and texture that has an important role in “dressing up” a room or part of a room, whether it is a table lamp on a desk, a floor lamp next to a chair or a sofa, a wall lamp in a hallway or next to a bed, a ceiling lamp in a bedroom or in the living room.
But equally if not more important is the warmth of the light and how the light is diffused through the room. This is a very important factor in our creations. Some of our models will have a shade with a golden interior to provide this warm hue, some with have a design that allows beautiful reflections on the walls, some will use fabric which is particularly gorgeous to see through and whose colour will change colour when the light is lit.
That is really what I love about lighting, the whole combination of the shapes and materials to create atmospheres and emotions.
A tip for perfect lighting?
Depending on the room and the project, I would say that you often need to combine what I would call atmospheric lights with more functional ones. The latter ones whose primary function is to manage the volume of light throughout the room, are not necessarily aesthetic, often hidden somewhere so that they are not uncomfortable to the eyes. Whilst the atmospheric lights can also be functional, it will bring warmth and hopefully emotions to the room.
According to you, what restaurant or/and hotel has perfect lighting?
Amankila in Bali is like a sanctuary. All the lighting is soft and provides an immense feeling of peace, each light has its perfect place. It creates a welcoming and recomforting atmosphere, an invitation to forget all your stress for a few hours. A spirit-lifting experience.
In the history of design, which lights have inspired you?
To name but a few, the Akari series by Isamu Nogushi, the Murano chandeliers by Carlo Nasson, the Uchiwa serie by Ingo Maurer, the Fuga sconces of Maija Liisa Komulainen, the Carciofo by Gianni Celada.
Your favourite hotel, restaurant , and decoration addresses in the world?
In no particular order I would say Velona’s Jungle hotel in Firenze, a modish and elegant guest house hidden in the heart of the city, Galerie Pierre Mahaux in Brussels, an antique dealer with an amazing taste, Eat Tokyo in Nothing Hill Gate, a very local and unpretentious restaurant where I often take my kids who love Japanese food as much as I do.