Tobias Grau


Tobias Grau make the finest office lighting. Yes – really!

Tobias Grau XT-A PLUS 70  floor-standing office light

How can we possibly claim that Tobias Grau make the finest office lighting?

Well, let’s agree first that, logically, someone must! And that if anyone knows about fine lighting, it's us....

There are several characteristics that make their office lighting so special; but, in the end, it all come backs to Tobias Grau himself. He is one of a very select band of artist/designers whose exceptional abilities create unique collections for their eponymous lighting brands. Davide Groppi is another. And so is Enzo Catellani.

Tobias Grau’s lights are beautifully designed and impeccably made. (Yes, an office light can be gorgeous!) They are created to fulfil specific lighting requirements, so they are extremely practical and efficient. His was amongst the very first established decorative lighting companies to really get to grips with LED light sources, and it maintains that competitive edge.

The key principle of environmentally responsible lighting is that the light source must be as near as possible to the thing being lit. This is why lights should never be put in the ceiling except when it is unavoidable (for more on this, read my short post on the subject here).

Tobias Grau make pendants that hang from the ceiling, thus bringing the light source down:

Tobias Grau pendant office light

However, the most efficient designs are those that stand on the floor by a desk, or desks. They allow the light source to be lower still, and to be sited in the perfect location. The units can be moved – around the office or, if the whole office moves, to another building. Plus there are no installation costs — at all!

The most important element, though, is the degree to which the light can be controlled. Each can have its own motion and light sensors, be dimmable, and have its own remote control. This means that the light is only on when that desk is being used, and only as bright as is needed at that specific desk at any particular time.

These characteristics make redundant lighting control systems, that are costly to buy and install,  that can only react to the office space as a whole – and that are programmed by someone who is never going to use the office, before the office is even fitted out!

This is the XT-A PLUS 90:

Tobias Grau XT-A PLUS 90 floor-standing office light

Designed for a double workstation, it now has a rotatable head, plus improved efficiency and glare reduction.

The XT-A PLUS 70 is the single workstation version, shown at the top of this email.

Both are delivered with a 6mm deep flat C-shaped foot, so they will fit under any furniture.

The XT-A PLUS Tlights four workstations:

Tobias Grau XT-A PLUS T floor-standing office light

All provide highly uniform and targeted illumination of workstations.

Data sheets and photometric data (a DIALux plugin and a Relux download) are available from the web site.

Colour options include white/white, satin/white and satin/black. Some also come in chrome/white, chrome/black, and black/black.

Click on the names above to go to the relevant pages. Tobias Grau’s home page is here.

Now my claim that they make the best office lighting does not seem quite so far-fetched, does it!

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Falling Leaf pendant light from Tobias Grau

Tobias Grau FallingLeaf white Ambiente pendant lightTobias Grau had not one, but two stands at Light+Building with, as one would expect from them, beautifully designed and made lights that are also technically excellent. There are some great new office fittings. Of the decorative lights, our favourite was Falling Leaf, another fine addition to the Falling range: Tobias Grau Falling Water pendant light setIt is Ø 24cm. The coloured parts have a very satisfying rubberized feel, which also gives them a deep matt finish. Besides the white above, there is also a black:

Tobias Grau Falling Leaf black pendant lightEverybody is using LEDs now, with greater or lesser degrees of understanding and success. Tobias Grau have been a leader in the use of LEDs for many years. The way the LED light is handled in Falling Leaf is as carefully managed as the overall design of the luminaire has been. There is a warm white (2700K) 30W LED behind an optical lens that ensures that the light is evenly distributed, with no glare. They have managed to avoid the multiple shadows that we see when several LEDs have been used, with no lens.

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Is Bill by Tobias Grau the best desk light ever?

Tobias Grau Bill tableLet's first remind ourselves why this question is so very important. It ought to be a civil right that every employee working at a desk has a light on it that is under their direct control. The benefits are:

psychological: they have their own light, in their own bit of space, which they control themselves

practical: only they know exactly where they want the light directed, to avoid glare on their screen, perhaps, or to look at papers on their desk. Their requirements could change regularly throughout the day. Also, the light source is in front of them, so they are never working in their own shadow

environmental: the light source is as near as possible to the thing being lit, so no energy is wasted. Also, if every desk has its own task light, the light levels can be considerably lower elsewhere in the office -- between the desks for example, where the only requirement is that people have enough light not to bump into the furniture

to wellbeing: if there is real, full spectrum light, from an incandescent (halogen)  lamp in the desk light, it does not matter so much what is  being used elsewhere in the office. Proper light will mean that the employee feels happier -- particularly in the winter, when many suffer from SAD, and in offices that have no natural light

financial: if each desk has a task light, less needs to be spent on lights elsewhere in the office, and lighting control systems, which are expensive to buy, expensive to install and complicated to use, are unnecessary.

Now let's look at Bill, designed by Tobias Grau for his eponymous company.

More specifically, why do I -- who can use any desk light I like, and I've tried many -- why do I use Bill?

Tobias Grau Bill head detail

  1. It has a big handle, with an attractive soft touch coating, that I can get hold of firmly, to place the light where I want it. The handle never gets hot. It has the on/off switch conveniently set into it
  2. the head is mounted on a ball set into a socket. This means that I can move the head in any plane. Some desk light heads only move in certain planes
  3. It stays where I put it
  4. the arms have a long reach. A lot of desk lights, particularly LED ones, end up lighting their own bases, rather than what is on the desk. This is pointless
  5. there is still a halogen option and the light is bright. Dim fluorescent or LED sources are not helpful when reading small print, plans or diagrams
  6. it is very well priced.

Note that Bill comes in various versions -- different desk mountings, wall versions (long and short) and floor versions. All have a LED lamp option; Tobias Grau are one of only a very few lighting makers to use LEDs effectively.

So, is Bill the best desk light ever? No. This is,

tecnolumen EB27 desk lightthe EB27, designed, and the balancing movement patented, by Eduard-Wilfried Buquet in 1927, and re-edited by Tecnolumen. It adds to all the virtues of Bill the smoothest, most beautiful, totally mesmerizing movement. It stays where it is put, in any postion, just by the use of counterweights and clever joints.

But it costs ten times as much as Bill.

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