"When people walk into a space that has great lighting, they know that something really special is going on, but they’re not really sure what it is,” says lighting designer Robert Singer. “Good lighting is not something you can see, it’s something you feel.” Recognized for his expertise in lighting techniques in the field, the designer, who started his award-winning firm Robert Singer and Associates in 1981, has been creating the magic of light in homes and commercial settings for almost four decades. “Home lighting design is a very unique industry. It’s not like creating an engineering plan for a house or an entertainment venue, it’s really more of an art form. You have to have an understanding of space and the absence of light. If all there exists is light, there’s no drama,” he points out.
“We design as if we are painting a picture with many layers of light to bring depth, dimension and drama to a room.”
Singer’s cutting-edge lighting design techniques are tailored to not only provide general overall lighting inside and out, but also highlight architectural detailing, accent artwork, define outdoor living spaces and harmonize with the landscape. He often uses fixtures to delineate spaces within larger rooms and accent lights to create focal points for artwork or special collections. He has been known to finesse a home lighting design scheme so skillfully that ceilings are made to look like they are floating, and walls appear to penetrate the ceiling. “We design as if we are painting a picture with many layers of light to bring depth, dimension and drama to a room,” he explains. “Effective lighting is what makes a home feel warm, cozy and intimate.”
Always in high demand and pushing the boundaries whenever possible, Singer and his team revel in the special touches they bring to a job. At a contemporary residence in Beverly Hills, light glows so softly and beautifully through its floor-to-ceiling windows that from far away, the house looks like a lantern lit up at night. Outdoors, special lighting showcases the unique structural form of the home’s exterior and enhances and extends the patios and entertainment areas. Inside, luxurious finishes, custom millwork and artwork are highlighted with a combination of linear and recessed LED lighting. LEDs hidden within a handrail niche not only showcase a stairwell, but also provide illumination that serves as a nightlight. In a master bedroom closet the size of some people’s living rooms, special bulbs show the true hue of the clothing. “Using the right kind of light with a high Color Rendering Index, allows for us to see true color in art, fabrics and finishes,” he explains.
In a master bedroom closet the size of some people’s living rooms, special bulbs show the true hue of the clothing.
Singer and his staff, who are all members of the highly regarded International Association of Lighting Designers, the U.S Green Building Council, and are LEED certified, note that while good design is key to what they do, it’s absolutely necessary to be tech savvy. “Today, everything is 100-percent LED,” notes the designer. “With integrated control systems being so prevalent in homes, lighting products have to be tested and compatible with dimming systems, and state-of-the-art controls need to be extremely user friendly so that even your grandmother can figure out how to turn on the lights or perfectly tune a space to entertain or simply to relax.”
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Singer grew up in New York City and initially studied economics and technical theater design at Stony Brook University, where he was the lead designer for events. “I ended up doing the lighting for all these great bands that came to the university. Seeing how lighting affects people emotionally got me excited, and I realized I had an aptitude for it,” he recalls. With only half a semester left before graduation, he left school to study with a premier theatrical set and lighting designer in New York City. Gaining knowledge that still influences him today, he went on to work with a major entertainment lighting company before starting his own company.
“At that time, there were no real accredited schools for lighting,” he notes. “Pretty much everything I learned was by doing.” He spent 75-percent of his time designing for commercial venues, including restaurants, night clubs and hotels, with the rest being residential. When a wealthy New York City-client asked him to come out to Aspen to do the lighting on his house, including home tech, Singer’s world took a whole new trajectory
“It wasn’t long before I had 16 projects going on in Aspen,” he says. “At the same time, the economy for commercial projects wasn’t in great shape, and I realized it was time to switch my business model and focus more on residential.” Singer moved his office to Aspen and soon after opened a branch office in Paradise Valley, Ariz.
“Light is how we see. Lighting is how we see the world and each other.” – International Association of Lighting Design
While projects in Colorado and Arizona continue to keep him busy, he finds himself traveling a good deal of the time. Jobs in California, especially Los Angeles, La Jolla and San Diego, New York, as well as Montana, are where the bulk of his work is coming from, with many of his affluent clients telling their builder, architect or interior designer that they want a “Robert Singer-designed house.” “When you do something of high quality, people get it and they are willing to spend the money for design” Singer says. “Lighting has the ability to elevate the spirit and make a home truly exceptional.”