It started in San Francisco. I began working at an architecture and lighting firm as an interior architect. That's where I was exposed to lighting designers outside of my college professors for the first time. Until then, I had only scratched the surface of what it meant to be a lighting designer. The more I learned about lighting, the less abstract it was and the more I realized it was a path I wanted to pursue.
Specifically, I was drawn to how quantifiable and finite lighting design is. It combines science, physics, and design. Lighting can make a space feel expansive or intimate. It can enhance or detract from architectural elements, or it can stand alone as art. As an interior designer, I felt stuck and craved working with a different medium. What other aspect of design is equally ephemeral and necessary? Light embodies so much.
Like any journey worth taking, my path to lighting design didn't follow a straight line. After a few years of living and working in San Francisco, I decided to take a break and spend some time with family in the Sierra Nevada mountains, near Lake Tahoe. Rejuvenated, my partner and I moved to Seattle, a city I knew from attending Cornish College of the Arts. I continued working as an interior designer while staying open to opportunities in lighting design. Eventually, I connected with Gabrielle Serriere, a senior lighting designer at Luma who referred me to the firm’s Seattle office. That’s how I ended up breaking into the lighting world.
In interior design and architecture, there are so many moving pieces — the details of every finish, the items that need to be reviewed, the sheer volume of the scope of work. As a lighting designer, I’m able to focus on one specific piece of the larger puzzle, honing my craft in a niche field. Lighting design has a smaller scope but it requires juggling multiple projects. Like most careers, both interior and lighting design have the challenge of managing workload, just from a different perspective.
Lighting design is taking the ideas of an interior designer or architect and bringing them to life through illumination. I’m able to leverage my previous experience because I understand their challenges. I can help them find solutions more quickly because I’ve been there. When a client says, “I need this kind of decorative,” that’s one of my favorite treasure hunts! I also enjoy lighting design from a relationship standpoint. When I was working in interior design, I didn’t have much crossover with my design friends and colleagues. Now, as a consultant at Luma, my peers can bring me into their projects and we can collaborate.
I love working here because of PAE’s commitment to sustainability. Lighting design, inherently, helps with sustainability because we use energy-efficient fixtures and leverage daylight. I hope to push that even further by developing a fixture that’s compostable or whose parts are completely recyclable — a cradle-to-cradle fixture, all guts included! Even a take-back program from manufacturers would be an awesome first step. We're not there yet, but with the support of everyone here, it feels possible.