Why Lighting is the 'Jewelry' of the Home

Originally published on www.previewsinsideout.com

Laura Lee Designs Iron Lighting

Step into a beautifully designed luxury home, and your eyes often need a few moments to adjust to the décor’s many layers. A textured wall here. Some intricately carved moldings there. And the perfect blend of eclectic pieces that create a meticulously, distinctively, elegant whole.

And then there’s the “jewelry”—that finishing detail that gives the room its sparkle. For many people, not the least of which is Los Angeles-based lighting designer Laura Lee DiPietro of Laura Lee Designs, Inc., that’s the decorative lighting.

I think of it as the jewelry of architecture,” said DiPietro, whose namesake company has earned a reputation for lighting design that features European flair and character mixed with modern refinement. “The principal role of jewelry is to ornament and catch the eye; modern lighting is no different.”

Previews Inside Out had a chance to talk to DiPietro this week, and she told us how her handmade lighting collections can elevate a home’s presentation, gave us tips for choosing the best fixtures for a space, and informed us about why the right lighting is so crucial when selling a home. 

Jasmine Sconces in a French Provincial style sun room.

Jasmine Sconces in a French Provincial style sun room.

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. 

Single Tier Adonis Chandelier.

Single Tier Adonis Chandelier.

Previews Inside Out What techniques do you use when selecting lighting for a particular room?

Laura Lee DiPietro Choosing lighting for a room requires a balance of form and function. Lighting, as we know, is a great way to highlight features in a room; whether it is a painting, an antique, or a unique feature in your space, using lighting in the right way can add a finished and dramatic look to any room.

In a living room, lighting should be warm and able to be dimmed; there should be no brilliant points and instead the distribution of light should reveal textures, color, and balance the dark and clear areas. This atmosphere creates a comfortable impression that helps us to relax and enjoy the moment.  

Siena Lantern

Siena Lantern

Previews Inside Out What’s your advice for buying an antique chandelier or lighting fixture?

Laura Lee DiPietro Know the dealer, meaning: do your research. For example, if you are buying an Italian Murano chandelier, you want to make sure it is authentic. It’s important to have it appraised and authenticated by an expert.

Previews Inside Out In your opinion, how important is lighting when it comes to selling a home?

Laura Lee DiPietro Lighting is a key element when selling a home and should not be overlooked. The right light not only enhances the rooms’ features but can also make a room feel larger, more modern, elegant, and, ultimately, more inviting to potential buyers.