The Sky Factory based in Fairfield, Iowa, takes on the challenge of creating illusions of real outside environments in indoor settings with its Sky Ceilings decorative panels. The company’s ultimate goal is to trick the eye and mind using high-resolution, large-format photography and special lighting.
“All the images of skies and trees begin as large-format photography. Then the images are expanded and transferred through the printing process onto the appropriate panels,” says Bill Witherspoon, founder. The Sky Factory uses acrylic panels onto which the photographic image is printed directly. The panels then are lit uniformly with a special lighting system built by The Sky Factory.
“We pay a great deal of attention to light. We always use 6,500 Kelvin lighting in all Sky Ceilings made by The Sky Factory. A reason for this is because the eye and mind can’t distinguish the difference between 6,500 Kelvin and normal daylight,” he says. The Sky Factory doesn’t use fluorescent light bulbs because it doesn’t want the pattern of dark and light strips running across the photos.
The Sky Factory can create custom images if desired. However, wide-angle lenses are never used for the company’s photography. “Because of the curvature created [by a wide-angle lens], the mind can recognize it as being photographic and it won’t work as an illusion,” Witherspoon says.
Hundreds of image options are available on The Sky Factory’s website and a thousand more options are available in its library. “Every job is custom in the sense that we place in the ceiling exactly what a person would see if we were cutting a hole of that same size in the ceiling to see the sky and trees outside,” he adds. “The information that is displayed in a Sky Ceiling is highly accurate in all regards — in color and the amount of information.”
Options are available that mimic natural lighting patterns. “We can program the Sky Ceiling with the home’s latitude, longitude and current date. Then from that day forward the Sky Ceiling’s lighting will brighten up with the sunrise and dim down with the sunset. We can also program it to come up with the same orange, rosy quality of light you get when the sun rises. In other words, the system shifts from 2,800 to 6,500 Kelvin,” Witherspoon says.
Sky Ceilings can be installed in a multitude of applications: over the dining room, main entry, bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, basement exercise room, indoor pool and more. Because installation isn’t complicated, there’s no need for The Sky Factory to be involved. Installation is done by a local contractor. “It can be easily and efficiently done. We provide detailed instructions,” he adds.
The Sky Factory has a handful of clients that operate design/build firms or are architects who automatically include Sky Ceilings in everything they do. “It’s their hallmark,” Witherspoon says.