Lighten up!

By Ronni Diamondstein

Just as a fabulous brooch can punctuate a stunning suit, an exquisite chandelier or an extraordinary sconce can make a statement in your home. Lighting plays a key role in creating atmosphere in a room, and Brian J. McCarthy, an A-list interior designer, knows how to do just that, as the new book, “Luminous Interiors” attests. McCarthy, who began his career with the legendary Parish-Hadley, has headed his own New York-based interior design firm, Brian J. McCarthy Inc., for the last 20 years. He shares some insights into selecting fixtures that dazzle.

“For me sconces and chandeliers are objects of art. They serve the purpose of lighting, but they are sculptures.”

There are so many types of sconces and chandeliers with jewel-like qualities. The 20th-century glass beads from India fascinate McCarthy and he notes, “Murano glass that has been used for the last 300 years can be from the most crazy and outrageous designs to simple and refined.”

About selecting the perfect chandelier or sconce, McCarthy says, “As is true in every facet of decorating, the first pick establishes a voice. If you listen, it leads you.” The architecture and scale of the space are the first considerations. “Start with a central fixture, the larger piece, and then you can begin to focus in on other pieces. See how they play together.” And he adds, “I love mixing a modern space with classical 18th-century designs and vice versa.”

McCarthy, enamored with the work of Italian artist Achille Salvagni, loves the tactile quality of a piece that is done by hand in wax. “You can feel the hand of the artist in the piece. You can see the artist working on it. Its simplicity is elegant and refined.”

Another favorite is William Haines Designs. His Ice Crystal sconces look like an assemblage of ice cubes in a wonderfully abstract composition that floats. “I love that Billy Haines was able to bridge the divide between classic traditional and mid-century modern.”

McCarthy fancies the Dresden Spiegelmanufaktur chandelier, which evokes the late 18th-century Russian chandeliers that inspired the French, Germans and Austrians. “I love the very architectural form and the cascading tiers in crystal and gilt bronze that make me think of an Emilio Terry garden folly.”

The Million Flower chandelier by Flavio Poli reminds McCarthy of a piece of JAR jewelry, with its transcendent use of clear and colored glass. “This piece absolutely feels as though it is breathing through the magical use of shading from amber to coral rose and the lightness of the form.”

As for trends in lighting McCarthy says, “There is so much more sophisticated technology with the new LED cool lights that have really transformed the market with the many forms of light and range of colors.”

And here’s a tip from McCarthy about the secret to perfect lighting: “It’s simple: I love dimmer switches. They give you the ability to change the mood and the atmosphere in a room.”

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