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Westchester Illumination Specialist: Elissa Grayer

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“Lighting is not just illumination—it’s an accessory, like jewelry,” says Elissa Grayer, who founded her eponymous interior-design firm in 2001. “It should not be overlooked—use it as another design element, like texture, color, or material.” One particularly significant trend the designer, who studied at the New York School of Interior Design and Parsons the New School for Interior Design, has noticed of late is the use of industrial-style lighting. This might include materials like pipes, piping, and plumbing balls and chains in antique or brushed nickel and stainless steel—nothing polished—as well as exposed bulbs, especially the see-through Edison type. “It’s a clean and simple look that goes with lots of different interiors,” Grayer explains, “and a way of bringing the real world into people’s houses.” 

Ralph Lauren gets top marks from her for doing this industrial style particularly well in the medium to high price range, with Restoration Hardware noted for being on the forefront of the industrial or loft-style trend among mass retailers. In the kitchen, Grayer explains, the industrial feel might translate into pendant lighting for over an island that is a copy of lights from the 1940s factory floor—metal, white enamel, or glass shades with exposed screws for a chunky feel. In the bedroom, she says, you might bring in a crystal chandelier—not the typical dripping-crystal type, but rather a “stronger, cleaner look combined with the polished nickels and bronzes that go well with the grays and neutral colors being used in bedrooms.” Whatever the style, “the chandelier should be the focal point in the room,” says Grayer, “and set the tone, feel, and style for what type of room it’s going to be—whether it’s going to be as one with the rest of the fixtures or different, as an exclamation point.”

Another trend Grayer has noticed is the use of natural materials, like glass, and glass and wooden beads in grays and browns or bleached blue or white, and capiz shells in neutral colors—no red trims or bright blues. Arteriors, Ro Sham Beaux, and Oly Studio, are all doing terrific things in this category, she says. 

With regard to table lamps specifically, Grayer sees them used as accents—both handmade ceramic gourd-shaped lamps in blues, reds, and oranges used for pops of color sprinkled throughout the room, as well as more glass neutrals. The latter might include chunky clear crystal pieces, a mercury glass lamp, or a beautiful sculpted alabaster one. “You don’t want lamps to match one another—unless they are on either side of a sofa or bed,” Grayer adds, “but they should look like they go with each other.” 

Whatever the look, says Grayer, be careful to avoid having a lot of dark corners. “And you always need different forms of light in a room,” she adds. “You can’t have all the light coming down or up. Mix it up—you don’t want all ceiling or all table lamps, for instance.”

Illumination Math: Never know how big, small, or tall a lighting fixture should be? Grayer offers some basic rules of thumb and simple formulas. 

The height of a bedside lamp: Measure your nightstand and your headboard. You don’t want your lamp to be much higher than your headboard.

The size of a room chandelier: Measure the length and width of your room and then add those figures together. The resulting number in inches is the ideal diameter of a chandelier for the room. So, for a room measuring 13 feet by 13 feet, you’ll want a chandelier with a width of 26 inches. 

The size/height of a dining-area chandelier: The diameter of a chandelier should be approximately half the width of the dining-room table and hang 30 inches above it.

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