John Kelsey: Confessions of a Lighting Junkie

Sally and I are thrilled to be guest bloggers and part of New England Home’s blog experience. We drew straws to determine who would represent Wilson Kelsey Design first. I’m doing the honors today, while Sally will do our March 1 post.

I have a confession to make. I love light fixtures and lighting. I have been known to be willing to give a little in some other aspect of a design solution in order to get the right light fixture for the right spot in a room. There are occasions when I know a particular light fixture in a particular spot will absolutely make a room burst into song. Sometimes it’s the fixture itself—the sparkle of crystal, the grace of a chandelier’s arm or the expression of its form. Sometimes it’s the effect the fixture creates—the quality and character of its light. Sometimes it’s both.

It was while I was employed as a designer at an architectural firm a number of years ago, designing office space for a client in one of Boston’s new high-rise buildings, that I fully comprehended how lighting can affect and alter the character of a space. The client wanted the elevator lobby and reception area to intimidate people—to overwhelm them—as they stepped off the elevator. I developed a design that would have done Darth Vader proud: black lacquer walls, black granite floors with tiny insets of blood-red Turkish glass tile marching down the middle. The only lighting in the lobby was a series of pin spotlights highlighting the red tile, and neon cove lighting ringing the space (matching the color of Vader’s lightsaber). As a visitor turned to walk from the darkened elevator lobby toward the reception area, they were immediately confronted by the receptionist’s dark silhouette against the bright sky behind her—no drapery, no shades.

I’ve been dressing interiors with lighting ever since.

Wilson Kelsey Design. From New England Home, May/June 2010; photo by Laura Moss. Click to see more of this home.

On this recent project, Sally and I created jewel-like lighting for a villa-style residence. Without this particular chandelier the dining room would be like a beautifully dressed woman without her pearl necklace: incomplete. Note the indirect lighting in the cabinets highlighting the crystal and the plaster shells.

Wilson Kelsey Design. Photo by Michael Lee.

In the foyer of the same residence, the chandelier and sconces are the equivalent of a beautiful brooch and earrings.

It’s not surprising that when I pore over my monthly dose of design magazines, I look for or comment on the lighting of a project. Here are some of my recent favorites.

Shelton, Mindel & Associates. From Architectural Digest, October 2010; photo by Michael Moran.

The Louis Poulsen  “Artichoke” chandelier hovering in space over the dining table stopped me in my tracks! Shelton, Mindel & Associates is rapidly becoming one of my contemporary favorites.

Fænø Mansion House, Denmark, by Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects. From Living Architecture, Issue 21; photo by Per Nagel.

The layering of light is just right in this grandly scaled room by Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects. The globe-like chandeliers anchor the seating groups, giving them scale, while the wall washers accent the artwork perfectly. Every light has intent. Then there’s the old world touch with the lighted candles on the side tables—glorious!

John Saladino. From Veranda, November/December 2010; photo by Luca Trovato.

John Saladino is such a master at creating layers of light, as in this long narrow living room, with its antique chandelier and table lamps and reading lamps sprinkled about defining the various seating groups. He is one of my all-time favorite designers. (I could not reliably source the light fixtures in this photo.)

Richard Hallberg. From Veranda, October 2010; photo by Miguel Flores-Vianna.

Notice how the custom cove lighting in this foyer by Richard Hallberg creates such a dramatic effect. Delicious!

Richard Hallberg. From Veranda, October 2010; photo by Miguel Flores-Vianna.

The chandelier in this dining room from the same project is absolutely yummy!

Paul Vincent Wiseman. From Architectural Digest, February 2011; photo by Matthew Millman

Finally, what’s not to love about this Chihuly ceiling sculpture? It certainly pulled me into the living room!

—John Kelsey

John Kelsey and Sally Wilson own the award-winning interior design firm, Wilson Kelsey Design. John’s primary brief is in interior architectural design, detailing and space planning; Sally’s interior design work showcases her sense of color and ability to successfully combine patterns and textures. To learn more please visit their Web site or follow them on their blog.

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