On Designing and Using Beautiful Lighting
A Chat with Marcia & Paul at Zia•Priven
If you spotted one of their fixtures in a magazine, chances are you snagged that page for your inspiration file. Striking, original, elegant.
Since 1999, husband and wife team Marcia Zia and Paul Priven—through their namesake company Zia•Priven—have wowed the design world with their extraordinary lighting. Their lighting graces the Fontainebleau Hotel & Resort, Grand Hotel Stockholm and Wynn Las Vegas. Their work includes designing a comprehensive line of lighting for Oscar de la Renta; and they’ve worked with other top designers including Jamie Drake, Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz, Roderick Shade and Mark Zeff.
I wanted to know how these two approach design, and what we can all learn from them about lighting a space. Enjoy our visit.
HomeWorkshop (HW): How do you approach designing a new light fixture that is uncommon and beautiful?
Marcia and Paul at Zia•Priven (ZP): We follow our instincts first and foremost and prefer to think of lighting first from an aesthetic perspective before the practical approach. Simple, clean, elegant lines are the starting point and then we ask ourselves—what do we feel drawn to and what material, pattern or shape evokes an emotional response from us?
Art and Design are very emotional, whether we like something or hate it, it is an emotion.
Even indifference is a response. Do I feel calm or excited, soothed or experience a sense of drama? We think the uncommon nature of a fixture comes from that particular emotional response we experience when we look at it. When a new fixture comes together for us—after refining and refining—there is a beautiful sense of harmony and peace. You just “know” when it’s right.
HW: Where do you find inspiration for new designs?
ZP: Our inspiration is based partly on what materials fascinate us at the time — currently blown glass, alabaster and hammered metal. We joke that it’s similar to a Picasso “blue period” — we find a material and love working it every way possible before moving on to the next obsession.
We also find inspiration in something as subtle as a pattern, as simple as a shadow or as complex as a piece of art. Other things that inspire us: The reflection or refraction of light—the way it bounces off an object unexpectedly or even how it gets absorbed by a material. That’s the beauty of designing lighting—there are so many elements to consider.
HW: What can beautiful light fixtures and lighting add to a space?
ZP: Beautiful lighting is the jewelry of every home, that gorgeous detail that makes a room stand out and truly shine. It can be subtly elegant, or make a grand statement as a bold focal point. Lighting enhances every single interior space from your entry and dining room to the guest bath or even a walk-in closet. Typically, good lighting creates a welcoming and warm ambience, sets the tone of your home, and adds a wonderful energy to any environment.
Keep in mind; lighting is a home accessory that is not only decorative, but has a function as well. The fact alone that a fixture or lamp lights up with a simple flick of a switch should remind us that it draws attention immediately once lit and becomes an instant focal point. Don’t underestimate the design value of your lighting—it should be selected with
HW: What do you think is the most common mistake people make when lighting a space?
ZP: One of the most important mistakes people make is not considering what the actual function of the light will be and what mood they are trying to create. Think of what your statement pieces are. Is the purpose of the fixture a focal point or to give off ambient or practical light? A lone table lamp in a room is not sufficient light and will make the room seem small and uninviting.
Try to use layers of light from the floor up to the ceiling; a combination of table and floor lamps, wall sconces and ceiling fixtures will give a home a warm and comfortable feeling. And very importantly, do not forget to install dimmers for all your fixtures. This gives you the ability to constantly adjust and adapt the light levels to accommodate your needs for any time of day. They make a huge difference!
HW: What one tip would you give to an interior designer, who wants to create a statement with the lighting in a room?
ZP: Be bold. Be daring. Make it your own — modify or customize something. Don’t just go with what you already see. Ask questions and find out what you can get before settling for just what’s already out there, no matter how magnificent the piece is. And above all else, listen to your client so you can take their ideas and implement them while dazzling them with your expertise and a special, custom fixture only your client owns.
Get out a pencil — here are some specific ideas you can apply in your own home:
- When selecting a fixture for over a dining room table, a round fixture can go over any shape, but avoid putting a square fixture over a round table — the visual lines go to battle.
- When hanging a chandelier or pendant, leave 30″ between the bottom of the fixture and top of the table for an open sightline for guests.
- A cost effective tip is to put two or three small fixtures in a row or cluster over your table for a dramatic effect as opposed to one large expensive piece.
- Sconces are great elements to use in a hallway because they give elegant, soft, ambient light without taking up much space — and they’re great if you have kids because you don’t have to worry about cords on the ground.
But I loved their last, best tip:
That’s what designers do — and good ones channel their instincts effortlessly. Know what you love, love what you buy, and make sure you invest in the pieces you want to showcase.”
What’s your best lighting tip?