What's your favorite restaurant? The Commodore in Williamsburg. They have the best fried chicken and vacation drinks, bad lighting though...
Who is your favorite artist? Daniele Buetti. He uses piercing dots of light to create creepy cool mixed media art.
What's your drink of choice? A Manhattan. A Manhattan a day keeps the doctor away, right?
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? I've wanted to be an architect for as long as I can remember, and I always loved lighting. After architecture school I was glad to find that I could do both!
Why Focus Lighting? Lighting can change a persons feeling and mood. Focus Lighting doesn't only illuminate the architecture, we completely transform the space into somewhere you want to be and feel great in.
What's your favorite city? Copenhagen is amazing! I went there as a 14-year-old to visit relatives and they took me to Tivoli Gardens (an amusement park built in the 1800s). There were rides and games, and I even got to see the legendary Dizzy Gillespie play! But the best moment for me was experiencing how the park transformed at night. That was probably the first time I really appreciated how powerful light could be. 20 years later, I returned to Tivoli Gardens to design the lighting for their largest amusement rides, and it was just as enchanting as I remembered.
What's your drink of choice? A Bulleit bourbon Manhattan - neat!
When do you do your best thinking? In the sleepy minutes between my wife Carrie's first alarm going off, and when I finally drag my ass out of bed. My brain seems to use that time to organize my day, remind me of things I've forgotten about, and work through my biggest problems.
What do you enjoy doing in your leisure time? Anyone who knows me, knows I LOVE to slalom waterski.
Why Focus Lighting? That's easy - everyone here is family.
What’s your favorite restaurant? Oh, there's only one that I would consider a favorite and it's a little all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant in Chicago's Western suburbs. If you're ever in Glen Ellyn, IL you have to check out Hokkai Sushi!
Where did you grow up? Along the James River in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the small city of Lynchburg, VA. My passion for great lighting was ignited in the theatre program at EC Glass High School and it's been burning since!
What do you do first when you wake up in the morning? They say you're not supposed to but I check my email and the news to make sure the sky is not falling.
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? Until I got my start in technical theatre in middle school, I was certain that I would work in law enforcement. At first it was forensic scientist, then police officer, then lighting designer!
Why Focus Lighting? Focus cares so much about the outcome of our projects. We're uniquely equipped to be partners in the whole process to make great spaces even better.
Who inspires you? My wife, she never stops pursuing new goals.
What's your favorite book? The Cat in the Hat. It teaches everything you need to know before you even know it.
The best feeling in the world is... knowing that not only did you do your best, but that it shows.
When do you do your best thinking? Why think? Instinct is way more concrete.
You get to bring one thing with you to a deserted island - what is it? A satellite phone. This way when i'm done with a deserted vacation I can call the National Guard.
What's your favorite restaurant? My favorite restaurant is a neighborhood staple - 5 Burro Cafe in Forest Hills, Queens. I've been going there since I was a kid, and I still love it.
The best feeling in the world is... getting a good night's sleep!
What's the best thing you've ever done? Moving to Costa Rica at age 24. My plan was to stay 6 months, but I met my husband and stayed for 6 years. We got married in Costa Rica, and our son was born there. After 6 years, we moved to my hometown (NYC).
When do you do your best thinking? Late night, usually when I'm trying to sleep.
What gets you out of bed in the morning? My 7-year-old son. He's usually up before the alarm goes off.
What's your favorite book? World's End by T. Coraghessan Boyle.
What's your favorite city? Paris has the perfect combination of food, wine and architecture.
What's the best thing you've ever done? Bought a really big trampoline in college - it's how I met my wife.
What gets you out of bed in the morning? My kids making pancakes.
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? A lighting designer - seriously.
What's your favorite Focus Lighting project? One of them is Andaz Maui at Wailea - it's hard to beat a resort project in Hawaii, and the spectacular beach setting was a real inspiration for the project. So much of the design was about framing the views out to the surrounding landscape, and highlighting the natural local materials. (And all those site visits weren't half bad...)
Who inspires you? In lighting design, it's our own JP Lira. He's so creative, and never stops: one time we were getting on a plane, and standing on the jetway he looked at me and said "This is the corridor at FIT" (a project we were working on at the time) and he was right, the proportions were the same, and the lighting layout was very similar to what were were proposing, and there I was just waiting to get my seat.
When do you do your best thinking? In the shower, the challenge is to remember all my brilliant ideas once I've dried off and can write them down.
The best feeling in the world is.. when I make my toddler son laugh, can't beat it.
Where did you grow up? My dad was in the Air Force, so growing up I lived in Washington, the Philippines, California and Texas.
What's your favorite city? I love New York for its energy, and I know it isn't a city, but I love Hawaii too. I always feel so at home there.. it's the island girl in me.
The best feeling in the world is.. eating dessert. I have such a sweet tooth and always have room for a treat after my meal (or even before).
What's your drink of choice? Iced coffee, and because it's always 5pm somewhere, a dirty vodka martini please!
If you could relive any one moment of your life, which would it be? Holding my son for the first time - so many different emotions that I had never before felt. Nothing existed in that moment except us two.
What's your favorite restaurant? Give me cheese and wine and I am a happy person. I usually choose a restaurant for its design instead of the menu. I can cook myself.
Who is your favorite artist? I don't have one in particular. I like to see and learn about as many artists as I can because each of them has something different to communicate.
What's your favorite city? I love New York, but I am Italian and Torino is in my heart.
What gets you out of bed in the morning? The fact that something interesting can happen!
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? When I was a kid I wanted to be a princess. Things did not go as planned!
Who inspires you? My grandparents - two of the kindest, most caring people I know.
The best feeling in the world is.. the excitement as the lights go down before a Broadway show.
When do you do your best thinking? Just before falling asleep - I keep a stack of notecards nearby just in case I need to write something down.
You get to bring one thing with you to a deserted island - what is it? A camera, to document my hilarious attempts to escape the island.
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? A professional Lego builder.
What’s your favorite restaurant? My favorite restaurant in NYC is Boka, a Korean restaurant on St. Mark’s Place in the East Village. I taught English in South Korea for a couple of years, and I am always able to bring back memories of the good times when I have some authentic Korean comfort food.
Where did you grow up? I am proud to be from Northern Maine, near the border of Canada. Northern Maine has a dark, cold, and snowy winter, so people band together to get through it together as a community. Many of my personality traits come from growing up in small town Maine.
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? My future professions ranged from magician to carnival ride operator to artist, which eventually turned into engineer and then lighting design. Basically, anything that’s creative that’s related to people experiencing wonder or beauty.
What's your favorite city? New York, because it's open 24/7.
The best feeling in the world is.. seeing my family happy.
What's the best thing you've ever done? Giving back to people in need.
When do you do your best thinking? After a cold one.
You get to bring one thing with you to a deserted island - what is it? Water!
What’s your favorite Focus Lighting project? Tao Downtown. When I took my sister there, she took one look inside and said it was the coolest restaurant she’d ever seen.
Who inspires you? Leslie Knope.
What’s your favorite season and why? Fall. Seasons don’t really change much in Miami. It was cool to see the leaves change my first fall away from home.
What gets you out of bed in the morning? Usually my cat walking all over my face.
You get to bring one thing with you to a deserted island - what is it? A plane and a pilot. I think it counts as one if the pilot is in the plane.
What's your favorite Focus Lighting project? The Entel Tower in Chile. It was the first automated color-changing building in the world - running off of information stored on floppy disks. It also had soft blends of color and became the icon for Entel Communications, the largest telecommunications company in Chile.
What do you enjoy doing in your leisure time? Glass blowing. As is lighting design, glass blowing is a combination of art and physics.
What's your favorite restaurant? Morimoto in Philadelphia. It has internally illuminated glass divider between all booths. It was one of the first restaurants to use LEDs and it slowly shifts through a "sunset" custom color palette in 1-hour cycles. There were a number of challenges with the design; the biggest was how to cut through the colored light to create a constantly beautiful warm glow at each table. Completely unchanged a decade-and-a-half later, Morimoto remains as a highly-regarded dining experience. The food is great too!
The best feeling in the world is... walking into a space that looks and feels so wonderfully, that it evokes an emotional connection within you. This is why with every project, we aim to begin with a single concept that resonates across the entire design. As lighting designers, we have a unique ability to visualize the finished design - to see the light reflected off each surface and into our eye. Our most successful projects were collaborative efforts where we offered input during the initial concept meetings, which helped create a strong, memorable design.
Who is your favorite artist? Rodin. I could sit in the Musee Rodin sculpture garden for hours.
What's your favorite city? San Francisco. It's compact enough to walk around and has a great food scene.
What's the best thing you've ever done? Sailing in Greece and Croatia.
You get to bring one thing with you to a deserted island - what is it? I prefer paper books, but if it's my only option, I'd buy a Kindle (assuming the island has wifi??)
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? A princess, obviously.
What's your favorite Focus Lighting project? It would have to be the Ocean Wonders: Sharks! exhibit at the NY Aquarium. It has been in design and construction for so long (over a decade) that as completion nears, the anticipation of finally giving these sharks a new home is immense. I cannot wait to take my kids there once it's finished!
Who is your favorite artist? How could I ever chose one!? I love cubism, constructivism, suprematism - all those great avant-garde movements.
The best feeling in the world is... being alone in a dark restaurant in the wee hours of the morning before opening night, stepping through each lighting treatment one by one and watching the vision come together. There is a huge amount of satisfaction and excitement.
When do you do your best thinking? With my husband in the evening after a few glasses of wine - we have some great conversations and come up with all kinds of sketches and ideas to implement into design work the next day.
What gets you out of bed in the morning? My little kids, yelling and pulling on me.
What's your favorite Focus Lighting project?
Tavern on the Green. The story behind the design - the extent to which it pays homage to the restaurant's history and nature wrapped in light, and the process of creating those 500 little crystal chandeliers - it's a really cool story to tell.
You get to bring one thing with you to a deserted island - what is it? A Wilson brand volleyball, obviously.
What's your favorite city and why?
Queens isn't a city, but it's certainly the size of one, and probably the most diverse place on earth. My third-grade class covered over 40 different nationalities.
What's the greatest movie of all time?
Anything with Samuel L. Jackson (who has somehow managed to remain the same age his entire acting career).
What's the best thing you've ever done? I once pitched my high school softball team undefeated all the way to the city championship. We lost that last game, but it was the greatest four months of my life.
Justin Keenan Miller
What's your favorite Focus Lighting project?
HMM.. I think it would be TAO Downtown. It takes the principles of the company and brings them to life by giving you a background, foreground, and focal point. The restaurant also has a great reveal and huge sense of drama! (And the cocktails are amazing!)
What's your favorite restaurant?
The food cart on 116th and 8th. Chicken over spicy rice!!! Could have it everyday (and sometimes do).
Where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in the greatest city in the world (NYC).
Who is your favorite author?
I'm torn between Ernest Hemingway and Dr. Seuss.
What's the best thing you've ever done?
I once swam with sharks in Hawaii.
What's your favorite book? All (7) Harry Potter books hold my heart.
The best feeling in the world is.. looking at the clock and realizing you have more time to sleep.
What's the best thing you've ever done? To date, the best thing I've ever done is graduate college with a degree I'm passionate about, land a job in my field, move to the city and continue to have adventures with my friends and family.
What do you enjoy doing in your leisure time? Baking.. and renovations. I'm now fully prepared to build my own bakery!
What's your favorite season? Fall. The holidays are approaching and the trees are changing color. It's a very comfortable time and there's a certain feeling of excitement in the air.
What's your favorite Focus Lighting project? The TAO restaurant in Downtown NYC. It's an expansive space, but the design team did an amazing job of incorporating a high level of detail into every corner.
Where did you grow up? A small (I mean one stoplight small) town in rural Connecticut.
What do you enjoy doing in your leisure time? I usually like to read some sort of non-fiction book to teach myself a new skill, like brewing or a new programming language.
What gets you out of bed in the morning? My alarm clock tries to.
What's the best thing you've ever done? Whichever new project I'm working on. I strive to make sure my best is never behind me.
Who inspires you? My mom. She taught me not to take life (and myself) too seriously.
The best feeling in the world is… hard-earned accomplishment.
Where did you grow up? Ukraine. Where the rivers flow and the mushrooms grow.
If you could relive any one moment of your life, which would it be? Watching the sunrise at the beach with my boyfriend. We saw dolphins.
What’s your favorite book? Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.
Who inspires you? My parents are my biggest inspiration. Their perseverance through any obstacle has shown me that I can take on anything that comes my way.
What's the greatest movie of all time? Anything made by Disney's Pixar.
What do you enjoy doing in your leisure time? In my free time I have always enjoyed making pottery, both hand building and wheel throwing. I have been taking ceramic classes since I was 7.
You get to bring one thing with you to a deserted island - what is it? A boat.
As a kid what did you want to be when you grew up? I always wanted to be an artist/designer. I think my younger self would be proud to see where I ended up.
What's your favorite Focus Lighting project? The Times Square Ball, because I never really thought about someone having to design it before I came to work at Focus.
Who inspires you? Kind strangers on public transportation.
What's your favorite city and why? New York City, because there's always a restaurant open and you never have to drive.
What do you do first in the morning? Drink water, and then promptly reward myself for being so healthy with an entire pot of coffee.
You get to bring one thing with you to a deserted island - what is it? A tiny umbrella for the drinks that I'm assuming are already on this island. Otherwise why am I going?
Juan Pablo Lira
What's your favorite city? New York City. It's such melting pot of culture and always fun and exciting.
If you could relive any one moment of your life, which would it be? Walking through the Andes Mountains under moonlight for hours to get to the next campsite.
What do you enjoy doing in your leisure time? Spending time with my kids, and sharing with them my love for things like badminton, juggling, bocce and futbol.
What gets you out of bed in the morning? Three little creatures who want breakfast.
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? An explorer to the unknown.
What's your favorite city? Rome - great food, and beautiful art and architecture. There's something about the city and its energy that immediately reminded me of NYC and made me feel at home. I love to travel and explore new places as often as possible.
The best feeling in the world is... hearing my son laugh. It makes my heart feel full in a way I've never before experienced.
When do you do your best thinking? On the subway.
What's your favorite season? Fall - I love the nice crisp air after a hot summer, and the beautiful foliage. I grew up in Southern California, and somehow even after 20+ years in NYC, the novelty of seasons changing hasn't worn off.
You get to bring one thing with you to a deserted island - what is it? An escape plan.
What's your favorite Focus Lighting project? I think I have to say the Yotel in New York. I get to pass it every night on my way home and it's become a great reminder of all the amazingly talented and creative people I get to work with.
What's your favorite restaurant? Nothing beats my grandma's cooking!
Who is your favorite artist? Friendensreich Hundertwasser. Other than creating wonderful buildings and paintings, he used his talent and voice to call attention to things he thought were worth fighting for. Someone who can do that is a real artist to me.
What's your favorite book? Tacky the Penguin. The original book. That guy taught me everything I know!
The best feeling in the world is.. anticipation.
Where did you grow up? In the suburbs of Dallas, TX. It was great growing up so close to a major metropolis, but also near the "boonies" as my friends and I affectionately called the more rural surrounding counties. I got to experience a taste of both worlds.
The best feeling in the world is.. lingering on the edge of uncertainty and surprise. That feeling of anticipation and all the emotions leading up to the final moment of discovery.
What do you do first when you wake up in the morning? Stumble groggily into the kitchen for my morning caffeine shot. Thanks to my lovely Italian roommate, I'm now addicted to espresso!
What's your favorite season? Spring! Because it means warm weather is on its way and as a Texas girl I really can't handle the NY winters.
If you could relive any one moment of your life, which would it be? The night I saw the Milky Way and stars more clearly than I've ever seen. I was traveling in Laos staying in a village with no electricity. I've never been so awed by the beauty of nature as I was in that moment.
What's your favorite restaurant? Cafe Hugo in Place des Vosges, Paris.
What do you do first when you wake up in the morning? Look for my glasses.
What's your drink of choice? Similar to some of my Focus Lighting colleagues, I'm addicted to Diet Coke.
What do you enjoy doing in your leisure time? I love to go out and discover new restaurants.
If you could relive any one moment of your life, which would it be? Being in the first row at a Coldplay concert in Barcelona.
What’s your favorite Focus Lighting project? Mystery Point, it’s a Georgian home with an industrial interior design, in the middle of the woods - who would’ve thought? Focus went in with such great ideas and although the project is not yet finished, it already looks amazing. And there have been rumors going around about paranormal activity occurring… how cool!?
The best feeling in the world is... remembering there's sriracha in the fridge. Or avocado, or sriracha AND avocado!
What do you do first when you wake up in the morning? Try to remember my dream. It’s your subconscious trying to tell you something. I once lost my keys and dreamed about finding them, surely enough they were exactly where I found them in the dream…the bottom of my hamper.
Why Focus Lighting? Because I like to learn. I went to school for interior design and I NEVER thought I would end up at a lighting design company. I always think about a fortune cookie quote above Stephanie’s monitor- “If you understand what you’re doing, you are not learning anything.”
Who is your favorite artist? I dont have one. There are so many creative people out there coming up with new ideas and inspiration everyday.
What's your favorite book? If I have to choose just one, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.
What's the best thing you've ever done? Backpack around Asia. Experiencing different cultures and places is life changing.
What's your favorite season and why? Fall. Everything about it: the weather, the smells, colors, and definitely the flavors.
If you could relive any one moment of your life, which would it be? I had been biking around Bagan, Myanmar all day, and on the way back to the hotel, about three miles away, my bike's chain broke. Not even a minute later, a boy who barely spoke English stopped to help. He left and came back before the end of the night with no less than ten other people who eventually helped get me back to my hotel. Whenever I start to feel jaded, I remember that moment and how often we forget how much small interactions and kindnesses matter.
What's your favorite book? Oh come on! Seriously? That's too broad. If you had said favorite 19th Century English novel (David Copperfield), or 20th Century philosophy (Justice by Michael Sandel), or post-World War II European history (Postwar by Tony Judt), or presidential biography (Truman), or recent US history (Command and Control by Eric Schlosser), I could answer. But favorite book of all? I can't.
What's your drink of choice? Coffee. (But if you had some Bailey's to go with that..)
If you could relive any one moment of your life, which would it be? My son's birth. It was a bit of a blur.
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? An options trader. Can you just imagine?
Why Focus Lighting? The people. There is no place else where I could work with so many passionate, talented, smart, kind, and funny people.
What's your favorite Focus Lighting project? Science Storms at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. We helped teach kids about the science of light - a lighting nerd's dream.
What's your favorite city? Granada, Spain. The minute I stepped off the train, the spirit of the city infected my soul.
The best feeling in the world is... waking up in a hammock to the sound of birds chirping.
What's the best thing you've ever done? I threw a return plane ticket in the trash and kept on traveling.
You get to bring one thing with you to a deserted island - what is it? I once spent a week on a deserted island. I brought a battery powered blender. True story.
Who inspires you? My daughter, Jesse Vilinsky.
Where did you grow up? I haven't yet.
The best feeling in the world is.. knowing that I did something that actually helped someone.
You get to bring one thing with you to a deserted island - what is it? George Clooney
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? A stand up comic.
What's your favorite book? Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari.
Where did you grow up? Nan Chang, the capital city of Jiang Xi province in China. It's a historical revolutionary city.
The best feeling in the world is.... when you can feel proud of something you create. Also, falling (and staying) in love.
What do you do first when you wake up in the morning? Think about three things for which I can be grateful.
What do you enjoy doing in your leisure time? NYC is a great city that feeds my curiosity. I normally walk around to explore the city, go to museums, and find a good place to hang out with friends. I also try to run in Central Park whenever possible.