'Take for instance a sunset,' says Gregory. 'It's beautiful and wonderful...why shouldn't each part of a day be something like that?'
» Internationally recognized for its extensive repertoire of bold projects, including the Entel Tower in Santiago, Chile, and Town Restaurant and Toys R Us, both in New York City, Focus Lighting resides in a headquarters that emphasizes the firm's dramatic and distinctive flair. Situated on New York City's Upper West Side, the 26-person company is housed in two buildings on opposite sides of 101st Street, one of which is brightly clad in lavender. The podlike studios are tucked away throughout the two spaces, populated by design teams and a plethora of materials, images, and inspiration from glass samples to fixture prototypes. Founded by Paul Gregory in 1986, this architectural lighting design firm is about lighting design with one criterion: 'It's not how big the project can be, but how well it can be done,' stresses Gregory. And while the company boasts an impressive list of projects, from private residences to large-scale entertainment facilities, only so many assignments can be taken on at one time-the chosen ones are those that create an exciting visual experience.
Gregory's enthusiasm for lighting is contagious, a vivacious quality that is expressed through the dynamic, youthful designers he has enlisted, as well as in their projects. Lighting design, he says, 'can support projects and craft them into a series of little visual events. Visiting these spaces should make you feel special, but at the same time the room should feel pleasant.' Considering each project the way an artist contemplates a canvas, Focus Lighting 'paints pictures with light'-a phrase often used by Gregory to describe his method. Inspired in part by his early training in stage lighting, Gregory encourages a theatrical approach to projects, where a layering of effects creates a special, and most importantly, memorable space. While hospitality, an industry Gregory enjoys for its direct contact with the owner, makes up about a third of the firm's projects, it allows the opportunity for the theatrical panache that his designers so love to create.
Gregory points out that 'reflected light is all that the viewer will see'-it is not the materials used in the space that are seen, but the light that bounces off them. Influenced by this approach, Focus Lighting dedicates considerable time to investigating how light affects the materials specified for a project, and therefore the mood of the space. Critical surfaces are analyzed to discover what will and will not be lit. Designer Michael Cummings says, 'I feel that we are the guardians of the visual and visceral experience walking into the space.' With the majority of projects being collaborative efforts, Focus Lighting employs a method that Gregory calls 'the Common Vision.' He explains: 'It's getting the architect, interior designer, and owner communicating the emotion and feeling of a project as one, and painting the important images together. If we can accomplish that, the chances of success are much better.'
Aligning the entire design team to be on the same page is a high priority in Focus Lighting's approach. Through detailed hand-drawn sections and renderings, each space is explored and analyzed to ensure that the important surfaces are illuminated, creating a 'roadmap that everyone can refer to throughout the process, including the owner.' Gregory believes that 'placing the white pencil on black paper is an effective tool to analyze the placement of light on a building.' Used as presentation tools to 'walk' clients through a project, the drawings are also employed to educate the contractor about what the lighting designers are trying to achieve. 'We're very intense about putting the design intent in our drawings. For every fixture, we explain what it is and what it is doing.' The idea being that if everyone knows exactly what is to be achieved with the lighting, they can make educated decisions, ensuring that the design will be a success.
For Gregory, the design process is all about the people working alongside him. 'My staff are very creative, interesting, exciting, and kind. The type of people you want to invite over for dinner.' And they would not have to travel far. Just up the staircase to Gregory's home. sallie moffat
Westin Renewal Suite, New York
Situated on the 44th floor of the Westin New York in Times Square, the Renewal Suite, created to reflect the hotel's new brand positioning around organic well-being for its guests, offers sweeping views of the Hudson River. Drawing on the popularity of day spas, the hotel has transformed an 1,100-square-foot-space into a personal oasis, where travel-weary guests can rejuvenate.
Working with the established interior design, Focus Lighting chose indirect sources for a soft and comfortable light; one that would embody the suite's therapeutic atmosphere. As always, a few theatrical elements were included to ensure a memorable stay.
Entering through a decompression chamber, guests emerge into the suite, which contains a living area, Zen gym, bedroom, and spa. In the living area, recessed low-voltage strips are concealed in ceiling coves for a soft ambient glow throughout the space. A custom decorative wall with dimmable LED flicker candles, partly obscured by a wooden frame, provides a soothing alternative to the flat-screen television hanging on an adjacent wall.
In the spa, the majority of light is provided by low-voltage strips placed behind frosted glass around the perimeter of the ceiling. The theatrics begin with the color-changing chromatherapeutic bathtub and its four underwater three-color LED fixtures. Taking this concept into the bedroom, the design team recessed a color-changing headboard into the wall, which allows guests to create soothing color combinations. With the LED controls integrated into the main lighting control system, the headboard can be turned on and off with the room lighting, and a bedside color dial can be used to change the color of the headboard. As with the rest of the lighting, the option to customize the suite's atmosphere is simple. A decal was developed to describe the various functions and effects that can be achieved with the color dial. 'I love the idea of creating interactive spaces where the users can take ownership of their environment,' Cummings explains; however, 'we also wanted to create a serene atmosphere with a good balance of lighting,' he says. And balance is key to good ying and yang.
architect Harman Jablin Architects, New York lighting designer Focus Lighting, New York interior designer Starwood Resorts, White Plains, New York design, decor, and event production Geoff Howell Studio, New York project size 1,100 square feet photographer Westin New York manufacturers Color Kinetics, CSL, Juno, Lucifer, Lutron, Osram Sylvania
** Renderings courtesy of Focus Lighting
Bar Americain, New York
A collaboration between celebrity chef Bobby Flay and partner Laurence Kretchmer, the Bar Americain restaurant in Midtown Manhattan was redesigned from a preexisting space by the Rockwell Group. In order to create intimacy in the 36-foot-by-88-foot restaurant (the highest point of the ceiling measures 23 1/2 feet), the lighting team created focal points, then added layers of decorative fixtures for an inviting glow.
While the semi-open kitchen and adjoining shellfish bar are saturated with light to achieve sparkle, elongating the space and denoting it as a major focal point, the visual anchor of the restaurant is the bar, which is bordered with frosted glass and backlit with 25W A15 lamps. Contained within the backlit frame is a multilevel, multifaceted mirror. 'When it's crowded,' says Focus Lighting designer Christine Hope, 'you get a great reflection of kinetic energy. The zinc and frosted glass borders evoke the feeling of a dramatic proscenium arch, where the clientele, reflected in the mirrors, is onstage.' PAR30 strips uplight the Venetian plaster walls around the perimeter of the room, 'framing the action and creating a visually unifying wrapper. One that draws attention to the cavernous space,' Hope explains.
A series of decorative fixtures, designed with the Rockwell Group, create an amber luminosity in the space. This is achieved with two sets of four oversized custom pendants stemming from an illuminated vertical column, which fill the restaurant's giant volume and serve a dual purpose: four 100W A-lamps provide a soft internal illumination, while 50W MR16 adjustable accents highlight the tables below and wash the ceiling above. Amber wall sconces, comprised of frosted glass tubes lined with amber sleeves, are arranged vertically around the perimeter of the room and fitted with an incandescent tube lamp for a warm glow. This effect is extended to the banquettes, where amber-gelled fluorescents backlight art glass panels to create a cozy envelope of light from each side.
Compared to the glow of a campfire, the restaurant's soft tawny hue is a particular hit with the clientele. As Gregory says, 'Everyone loves to be in a space where they look wonderful.'
architect The Rockwell Group, New York
lighting designer Focus Lighting, New York
project size 5,600 square feet
photographer Eric Laignel, New York
manufacturers B-K Lighting, CSL, Kirlin, Legion Lighting, Lightolier, Litelab, Lucifer, Lumid, Lumiere, Osram Sylvania, RSA Lighting, Savoy Glass,
Strand Environ II
** Renderings courtesy of Focus Lighting
Designed in collaboration with ICRAVE Design Studio, this Japanese-inspired restaurant is located inside New York's Bryant Park Hotel. The design team applied 'individual elements to the overall architectural premise so as to limit the amount of renovation work in the existing space,' explains Cummings. At the owner's request, the lighting design team worked toward a minimal lighting scheme for a dim and sexy candlelit environment.
In keeping with the sensual atmosphere, a limited number of downlights were used. Instead, selectively chosen focal points are accented throughout the space-the tables, for instance, are lit with pinspot downlights hidden in the structure above. Incorporating both large and small events into the design, the team constructed a feature wall made up of half-cut tree trunks holding candles in front of one-way mirrors for an enchanting effect.
Two significant features of Koi are its immense overarching netlike structure and custom-designed chandeliers. Used to unify individual seating areas, separated for intimacy by uplit slat walls or bamboo, the enormous fiberglass trellis decreases the volume of the space, drawing the eye in, and elongating the dining area. Surface-mounted, multi-head MR16 fixtures streak light across the structure, highlighting the contrasts in its texture and three-dimensionality. 'The trellis material has a really soft quality,' says Cummings, 'and the color reflected light well, which provided a soft, ambient source for the entire space.'
Inspiration for the chandeliers came from the Japanese Koi fish. Rectangular pieces of orange glass (signifying the scales) are arranged around a black steel frame enveloping a center-lit acrylic shroud containing strings of LEDs (signifying the roe). Similar to the glow provided by an 'irregular' candle, the light created is 'a little bit orange, white, and pink,' explains Cummings. To accent the glass 'scales,' four MR16 fixtures angle in on the chandelier, highlighting it from the outside. 'The chandeliers provide the space with a warm glow, as well as a beautiful focal point,' says Cummings. 'All the other illuminated elements take on a support role in creating the intimate, candlelit feel.'
architect and interior designer ICRAVE Design Studio, New York lighting designer Focus Lighting, New York project size 3,200 square feet photographer Frank Oudeman, New York manufacturers CSL, Edison Price, Lumiere, Lutron, Nulux, Osram Sylvania
** Renderings courtesy of Focus Lighting