Switching on to style

There’s nothing very sexy about light switches or power sockets. At least this is what I’d thought until I went to a recent launch event for MK’s Elements range of ‘decorative wiring devices’. I came away realising that switches can be cool. What’s more I delved a bit deeper into wireless light switch solutions which save the need to ‘chase’ walls to run cables, making them ideal for retrofits – more on that later.

As was pointed out, one of the first physical contacts with any room is the light switch, so it needs to look and feel right. Until now though, it’s been more about engineering than aesthetics. Before a small selection of consumer brands – most famously Apple – turned the notion completely on its head, it was accepted wisdom that function would always trump form when consumers were faced with choosing between competing technology products. Plug sockets and light switches, with a few exceptions, were just an accepted compromise and there was little the homeowner or the interior designer could do about it.

MK Elements electronic dimmer MK Elements electronic light switch MK Elements electronic dimmer MK Elements electronic light switch

What the Elements range does is allow an holistic approach to be taken to co-ordinating devices such as dimmers and sockets with interior themes like fabrics and wall coverings. Three years of research went into the MK products some of which offer electronic touch functionality for ‘silent’ switching and dimming – dimmers can simply be ‘swiped’ to transform the mood of a room at a touch.

As well as a ‘standard’ range with four different material groups – synthetics, glass effect, metallics and naturals – in 16 different finishes and over 180 different devices, it’s also possible to customise the look of the devices by choosing from a huge range of colours, materials and finishes.

What’s interesting from the retrofit perspective is MK’s Echo range. These switches and controls are wireless and self-powered so require no batteries. They’re easy to install, which makes them labour saving in new build situations, but they really come into their own in retrofits, especially where there’s historic building fabric which would be damaged by chasing walls. As the image at the top of this page shows, the switches can, as if by magic, even operate in clear glass.

The EnOcean technology that powers the Echo products ‘harvests’ energy generated by slight changes in pressure, light levels or temperature, to provide self-powered, batteryless and wireless solutions. This technology is used by many manufacturers so products from these companies can be used together to provide solutions for energy efficient buildings which are more flexible and cost efficient to design, build and operate.

The MK Elements range is available online through Electricpoint.