Previews Inside Out First: how did you first get into lighting design?
Laura Lee DiPietro I started my lighting business in 1991, first doing art shows. Then I was introduced to the High Point Market furniture show in North Carolina, which led me to launch my career in the lighting business. I am a graduate of the Art Institute in Chicago and then went on to the Inchbald School of Design in London for interior design.
Previews Inside Out What’s your philosophy on lighting, in general?
Laura Lee DiPietro Like jewelry, the style and design of decorative lighting sends many messages about a project. For instance, a crystal chandelier or iron chandelier with crystal adornment is traditional, formal, and elegant. A deer antler chandelier is themed, semi-formal, and whimsical, and a glass and iron Italian chandelier and sconces are modern, formal, and hip. When it comes to making an architectural statement, lighting is to architecture as jewelry is to dress—it stands out and begs to be looked at first. But, like jewelry, there are design concepts that work best.
Previews Inside Out What’s the secret to finding the right lighting for a space?
Laura Lee DiPietro A good rule of thumb for the correct location of decorative lighting is often driven by aesthetic expectations. It helps to use a traditional lighting plan as a starting point. Assume there will be a chandelier in the entry and over the dining room table, pendant lights over the breakfast table and kitchen island, sconces in hallways, and lamps in bedrooms. While it is acceptable to design a dining room without a chandelier, it gives the space a different feeling. The eye will be forced to seek other visual interest, such as an architectural detail, artwork, stemware, or table decorations.
Previews Inside Out What’s the one mistake that you often see affluent homeowners make when it comes to lighting?
Laura Lee DiPietro Common mistakes that homeowners make involving decorative lighting include placing fixtures in inappropriate locations—often conflicting with other design elements in the room—or simply using too many or too few sources. Always remember that the key to good design is restraint!
Previews Inside Out When you’re designing a space, do you typically start with lighting and design around that, or is every project different?
Laura Lee DiPietro When starting a project, I always take the architecture into consideration. Light is the most important factor in the appreciation and understanding of architecture; the relationship between light and architecture being grounded in the principles of physics, it is about energy and matter. The quality of lighting in a space defines its character and creates impressions.
I believe lighting has an essential effect on the aesthetics of any room, affecting our perceptions of ourselves, our surroundings, and works of art in the space. It can also affect our moods and senses of well being. The right amount of lighting can make an ordinary space seem almost magical.