Five questions with a Yardzen Pro: Ian Russell Lighting Design

Editor’s note: Welcome to a new feature on the Yardzen blog where we interview a Yardzen Pro: a contractor in the Yardzen Pro Network helping to bring our clients’ Yardzen designs to life. We hope you enjoy it! And if you’re a contractor interested in joining the Pro Network, get in touch.

YZ: Let’s start at the beginning. What’s your backstory? How’d you find your way to lighting design?

IR: I was introduced to lighting design in a round-about way. It began with a need to use up-lighting for my art glass, a hobby of mine. I wanted to create a dramatic edge-lit effect. It was more of an intuitive move. My father, who’s an architect, introduced me to all kinds of materials and glass constituted a large part of his architectural designs. I would hold up different colored samples of plate glass to the light and try and position it for the best light penetration and effect. I guess one might call it a natural progression, experimenting with translucent materials and light. Iterating and self-critiquing is how I became a lighting designer.

  Credit: Ian Russell Lighting

Credit: Ian Russell Lighting

YZ: What’s your favorite thing about your profession?

IR: Definitely the problem solving that’s a fundamental part of the role. Every project involves problem solving. I’ve learned to allow myself space for it and over time developed a confidence that I’ll come up with the right solution. I‘ve learned to be patient, too.

  Credit: Ian Russell Lighting Design

Credit: Ian Russell Lighting Design

YZ: . Tell me a story about a specific job that really stands out where lighting really made all the difference in the space.

IR: It was a custom house in Mill Valley, CA with a steep-pitched, open-beam ceiling that was 25-feet high at the highest point. Compounding the problem was the fact that there were no walls separating the kitchen, dining and living room areas. After experimenting with many different types of fixtures, we used small high-tech projector lamps, the same type that are used in fine art galleries and museums. The projector lamps enabled us to change focal lengths so we could frame just a wall painting or just a seating area. At night it looked like a theater stage. We could manipulate the projector lens and create a very dramatic and mysterious look. The quality of light made everyone and everything look softly Illuminated.

  Credit: Ian Russell Lighting Design

Credit: Ian Russell Lighting Design

YZ: Why is lighting so important to outdoor space design?

IR: I like to make my outdoor lighting designs serve as a welcome mat of sorts, so people can truly enjoy the beauty of the outdoor space. If it’s done correctly, outdoor lighting increases the living space. Example: put subtle up lights in the corners of your landscape’s parameter and your eye will automatically go to the farthest corner that has light. I call it “quiet lighting.” And in a project done well, quiet lighting should exist throughout the entire project.

  Credit: Ian Russell Lighting Design

Credit: Ian Russell Lighting Design

YZ: What trend in lighting design has you most excited right now?

IR: Mobile technology. The ability to dim and control a single light in the garden using an app on your phone. It’s amazing! Each individual light bulb is controllable.

  Credit: Ian Russell Lighting Design

Credit: Ian Russell Lighting Design

Thanks, Ian!

Who: Ian Russell Lighting Design

Where: San Francisco, CA

What: Expert lighting designer and contractor, whose number one goal is to help you get more out of your outdoor spaces. (Hey! That sounds familiar!)

About Yardzen: The brand new way to design your outdoor spaces, all online. Starting with just your address and an understanding of your lifestyle, taste and how you want to use your outdoor space, Yardzen designs the perfect yard for you without ever stepping foot on your property. Then, should you choose, Yardzen connects you with vetted landscapers and contractors who can bring your design to life. Learn more.