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Lighting design creates the right feeling

“Lighting amplifies whatever you are trying to convey,’’ says Nancy Goldstein. “Lighting amplifies whatever you are trying to convey,’’ says Nancy Goldstein. (John Tlumacki/Globe Staff)
By Cindy Atoji Keene
Globe Correspondent / April 15, 2012
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Nancy Goldstein, principal of Light Positive, a Marblehead lighting design firm, has been in the lighting profession for more than 30 years, ever since a college dorm mate knocked on her door and asked her to help light a theater.

From that day on, Goldstein, 54, was hooked on manipulating light and shadow.

“Lighting amplifies whatever you are trying to convey, whether it’s a dance concert or an interactive exhibit at a museum,’’ said Goldstein, who earned a master’s in fine arts from Boston University. “It affects how you feel in a place.’’

You recently lit the Boston Flower and Garden Show. How was that?

The Seaport World Trade Center has fluorescent overhead lighting, but we turned them off and hung over 400 theatrical lighting fixtures. I use filters, so one side of the exhibit looks like it’s in the sunshine and the other is in the moonlight, for example. I look at the plant material and then adjust color and aim the lights, so exhibits are ready for the judges.

What’s hot now in lighting?

LED, LED, and LED. I attended the international trade show and conference called Light Fair International, and it was all about LEDs, or light-emitting diodes.

Isn’t LED lighting quite cool or bluish-white in appearance?

LED runs the gamut. There are different color temperatures that appear warmer, although they are less energy-efficient.

How do you plan lighting for outdoors?

Ideally, interior and exterior spaces are integrated so a client can enjoy the landscape from the inside at nighttime, whether illuminating a treescape or garden. There should be no “black mirror’’ effect - when you look out the window, all you see is a glaring reflection. Often when creating yard settings, I do a mock-up, running temporary lighting up trees. After that, we come up with a proposal.

Is there a common lighting principle, whether lighting a kitchen countertop or home office?

No matter what you’re doing in lighting, the goal is to put the focus on the most important objects in the field of view and create a composition. What changes are the tools you use to achieve the look you want.

Have you used your lighting knowledge in your own home?

My house is very old, and unfortunately it is currently lit as you might expect that an 1867 farmhouse would be. It’s the syndrome of the cobbler’s children have no shoes. But when the kids were young, I was known for Halloween displays, which included theatrical light fixtures projecting patterns on the side of the house and fog rolling down the front steps.

Cindy Atoji Keene can be reached at cindy@cindyatoji.com.

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