In restaurants, bad acoustics ruin a good time. At home, the culprit is always horrible lighting. Since natural light can only take us so far, we rely on the creativity of brands and studios that do more than make a recessed can or a builder-issued pendant light.
Thankfully we are currently in an era of cool, statement-making designs that make up for decades of underwhelming options. Even LEDs have started to shed their lackluster early versions, which means the entire category is a Renaissance. Two designers, Jonathan Browning and Carrie Livingston, prove the point with different but equally interesting new concepts.
San Francisco-based Browning has mastered the art of illumination with a collection of handcrafted, beguiling designs that have made him a favorite among interior designers and architects. A student of art history, he has shown his love for a range of styles and time periods from Beaux Arts Classicism to the turn-of-the-century archived Viennese designs, which he helped revive for Austrian brand Kalmar.
His latest creation, the Glacon table lamp is an entirely new take for Browning. The piece features a bulb that is captured (or frozen) between hand-carved lead crystal “that appears to smolder inside the thick encasing of block crystal,” he says. “The idea was to capture this ‘burning’ filament in a block of ice. Heat surrounded by cold. Fire and ice.”
It’s a surprising move from a designer so revered for his wall-mounted pieces and chandeliers. Browning admits the design process of going from a fixture to a portable wasn’t totally easy.
“It was more challenging,” he says. “To create something truly fresh and new and relevant in this table category is daunting. I love this design because it feels cutting-edge and very forward without being trendy. Timeless but cool.”
Traveling further south, we find Carrie Livingston, the LA-based interior designer whose no-fear attitude with color, pattern and luxury design has landed her top-tier clients (whose names we can’t reveal). Livingston’s approach to lighting is sculptural. She crosses into art/design territory with her can’t-help-but-smile pieces that seduce like an after-hours party on a holiday weekend. As literal translations, chandeliers, or radiant art installations, Livingston’s work carefully subverts the obvious. “I want to make neon more exciting and artistic,” she says. Taking neon, a material we associate with raves, late-night diners (a few are rather cool), and maybe a seedy joint or two, the designer has found a way to create something kicky and utilitarian, while giving it a fresh interpretation within the interiors world.
Her ultra-custom piece are all made in L.A. and in addition to the occasional upper moments of self-love (Hello Gorgeous), she has also designed funky objects like illuminated scissors and barcodes—each meant to hold their own cultural weight. Paired with polycarbonate, mirror, or Lucite, Livingston’s neon series is a deluxe kaleidoscopic trip that’s has clearly resonated: One client has ordered several for one house. “I want everything I design and create to be the most exciting thing in the space,” she says.