Review: The Formation Series

Last week we got our hands on the brand new Bowers & Wilkins Formation Series, and have not been this thrilled over innovation in the audio space for a long time…

The first real competitor to the Sonos platform, The Bowers & Wilkins Formation Series wins in some key areas:


The material sciences behind Bowers & Wilkins’ noise reduction, combined with a higher fidelity streaming rate and superior digital-to-analog conversion, create the cleanest and clearest sound we’ve ever heard in a wireless speaker.


With more antennas and Bowers & Wilkins’ own proprietary mesh network, the delay between speakers is down to an indistinguishable one microsecond. Stereo imaging sounds flawlessly accurate, while multiple rooms can be linked without feeling that one room is slightly behind the other (a common complaint with Sonos.)


The Formation Duo and Bass look and feel like pieces of fine furniture on display. The shape and patterns in the Bar and Wedge make them stand out boldly. These speakers are recognizably Bowers & Wilkins, but the design swings they took here give a very unique, ultra-modern aesthetic.

USAI’s Collaboratory in SoHo

We paid a visit to one of the leaders in smart lighting. USAI gave us a look at their architectural lighting showroom and collaboration. There we discussed the state of LED lighting, as well as the advantage of USAI’s inside-out design approach.

Find USAI at our Lighting Summit presenting their course, Light and Wellness: Design Ramifications of Circadian Lighting in the Built Environment.

New Hire: Bill Ash

Bill Ash joined us in March as Accounting Specialist. Bill comes to Cloud9 from Midwestern State University in Texas, where he recently graduated with a major in Accounting and Finance.  As the former captain of the MSU cycling team you can now find Bill cycling around New York City.

We’re ecstatic to have found such as great addition to the team, and with his past experience in a startup environment we fully expect him to thrive.

Ketra Lighting Explained

Ketra specializes in bringing natural light to indoor spaces. With the ability to generate a wider gamut of color via precision optics, Ketra’s technology allows light to be tailored to every room and its purpose. The result is a more comfortable atmosphere, and improved overall wellness.

The Problem with Poor Lighting

We’ve all strained our eyes through inadequate lighting, or squinted through lighting overkill. Less often discussed is the huge impact color temperature can have. Indoor light feels “right” when it matches natural light as closely as possible. The blue hue of a rising sun, a warm sunset, the low flicker of a candle flame… These natural sources trigger emotional and biological reactions from us all. A contrast between our indoor lighting and the natural light around us can cause measurable discomfort.

Ketra’s Solution

Most lights offer a single color. Others mix red, green and blue sources to offer a wide range of color estimations. Ketra, however, has designed custom chip drivers in their lamps to provide the highest quality, most accurate light source across a full range of colors. Each Ketra fixture can then be individually tuned to the area around it, for a more precise lighting design throughout the space. Each fixture can then be programmed to adjust through the day automatically, matching the sun’s temperature as it rises and falls.

Ketra’s various luminaires and lamps use custom silicon domes made to utilize precision optics. Precision optics help highlight a space’s architecture and furnishings with uniformity of color and intensity – free from distortion and unwanted reflections. While traditional optics have proved sufficient for single color points, Ketra’s full spectrum requires a more advanced approach. They start by packing their LEDs as closely as possible under a silicone dome, then align the light via a reflector optic. Finally, a secondary pillow lens smooths out the beam before it spreads into the room.

Source: Ketra

The Impact

At Cloud9, we believe that natural lighting will improve the space, but more importantly your overall wellness. Harsh lighting can impair focus. Cooler lighting can keep your body alert when you should be relaxing, while warmer light can do the opposite. It’s important to let ourselves thrive through the day and rest in the evening. Ketra’s technology produces dynamic, high-quality light that helps you feel more connected to nature. A well-lit space can mean a more comfortable work, living and headspace.

The Demo

Of all the lifestyle technology we install in the homes of our clients, the most dramatic impact on lifestyle (and the most dramatic reaction when demoed) is probably from Ketra. The flaws we’ve come to normalize in indoor lighting suddenly become glaringly obvious when seeing Ketra’s full spectrum lighting experience against normal LED or halogen lighting.

If you are in the New York City area and would like to experience Ketra, set up an appointment and we’ll schedule a demo for you at our showroom in Union Square.

New Hire: Brittany Sanchez

Brittany Sanchez joins us this February as Office Administrator. Brittany received a degree in English Literature from the University of Central Florida. Since then she has been living in New York building her career, her connections, and staying creative.

We’re excited to have her bright energy, and considerable writing skills, on the Cloud9 team. (We also fully expect her to turn us onto some vegan snacks.)

Keep a lookout for her upcoming personal blog on natural living!

Lutron Motorized Shades – Considerations

In 2019, Lutron offers two styles of smart roller shades that our clients keep asking for. The key difference is how they are mounted.

  • Standard Roller Shade (Sivoia QS) – Usually mounted out of sight.
  • Palladiom – Mounted proud.

The Trouble with Motorized Shades

It is an unfortunate reality of the motorized shade world that brackets are hideous. Lutron has historically solved this by tucking the roller and motor up into a pocket or cavity. This way the shade is only seen once it drops. 

This is a tricky endeavour anyway, but especially where space is tight (such as in New York City, where most of our jobs take place.) It becomes exponentially challenging when trying to hide rollers for both blackout and privacy in the same cavity. The rollers need to sit as close to each other as possible without any movement being obstructed (often by stacking one on top of the other and having them descend on opposite sides of the roller.)

The Solution

By designing a beautiful bracket system that doesn’t need to be hidden, Lutron has created a new opportunity to mount smart shades proud. This is Palladiom. The brackets come in all sorts of finishes, letting you match your door handle finish, for example. You can also match the hem bar on the bottom of the shade.

Palladiom also makes keypads with gorgeous finishes in metal, glass and plastic. Each button is backlit and engravable. They match the same high quality and minimal aesthetic as the shades themselves, and give a satisfying tactile response when pressed.

While easier to install in many ways, wiring for Palladiom shades is actually more of an exercise in precision. While wire slack for traditional roller shades can get buried in the same pocket, Palladiom brackets are so small that the wire needs to be in the exact perfect location, or else it will be visible after installation and tarnish the aesthetic.

Options and Impact

Because it’s Lutron, options within each approach are practically limitless. Fabrics, colors and transparencies all run a wide gamut of choices. What used to be an obstacle designers and architects had to deal with, is now a design element they can fine-tune.

And the impact should not be understated. If shade transparency is set too low, you don’t allow enough light into the room, but you also don’t grant yourself any more privacy than if you were to increase transparency to say three, five or seven per cent. By choosing transparency meticulously you can ensure privacy while still letting natural light through. Of arguably more importance, you can make your space appear bigger by seeing silhouettes of the world around you through the shades, rather than a single plane of material.

Finally, blocking UV sunlight that can bleach furnishings and overheat your home is of great value. Lutron can automatically do this based on an astronomical clock. Beyond time of day, it knows the latitude/longiture position of the building and can automatically adjust based on the position of the sun.

Lutron even lets you select separate colors for the inside and outside of the shade. Many buildings specify a single color for shades in order to maintain unity from street view. This lets you play with color on the inside of your home while remaining compliant from the outside.


An important question to ask when specifying for shades is whether they should fall to the backside of the roller or the front side. If we’re mounting outside of the window frame, falling to the back of the roller probably makes perfect sense, but if you’re inside the window frame you need to ask whether the window will open and shut. If so, you might have window hardware that can get in the way, in which case the shade falling forward makes more sense.

Why is this so important to determine up front? When we wire the shade for power and control, spinning the whole shade around to flip where it falls will be a huge issue.

Performance and Noise

The mark of a really great shade is not only smooth motion, but sound implications. We’ve listened to other shade manufacturers out there, and were surprised at the audible mechanics present when adjusting the shade. Not the case with Lutron, whose Palladiom and traditional motors are as quiet as they come.

The hem bars on Lutron shades actually align with one another digitally. This lets Lutron know where each shade is in position to the rest, and maintain perfect alignment in movement. Without this technology shades can misalign or “sawtooth,” which is to put it lightly an undesired look.

What about Battery Powered?

When given the choice, we will always choose a hard-wired connection for its rock-solid reliability and independence from your wireless network. When wired is not an option however, Lutron does offer a straight-forward option with their Serena line. Nixing the need for hard wiring makes them far easier to retrofit, and the batteries last for around three years.


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