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Setting the Scene

By Marcia Zia and Paul Priven


Our experience in the film industry has taught us to appreciate the great impact of lighting. Drawing on our background in set decoration and film directing — and on our love of old films — we founded Zia-Priven Design in 1999, a custom lighting company based in Brooklyn, New York. We’ll share a few of the trade secrets we’ve learned over the years; you won’t need a background on a Hollywood set to use lighting to achieve the effects you desire.


Your goal is to “frame” each room like a movie scene, incorporating lighting into it. You’ll get the best effect by incorporating a combination of three types of lighting into each space.


Ambient lighting — a ceiling fixture (a chandelier or pendant), centered in the room, which provides sufficient levels of brightness for general use. Recessed lighting used in quantity — several smaller-sized fixtures set into the ceiling — serves the same purpose but gives a different look.


Accent lighting — a well-placed table lamp, sconce, or uplight. This can bring focus to an area you want to highlight — perhaps an architectural element, or even a cozy nook.


Task lighting — a direct and focused light designed for a specific task, like reading or food preparation.


Use a blend of all three levels of lighting for every room. Dimmers are a must! The lighting must be adjustable at all times. If you use dimmers, the mood can be changed with a simple flick of the wrist. We install a dimmer in every lamp we design.


Begin with your ambient light, because it is your focal point. Then, build around it by assessing your needs and the mood you want to create. Balance is the key: Focus on the areas you want to draw attention to or soften, keeping in mind that you should place lighting at different heights and light levels.


For example, highlight your mantel with a pair of gorgeous sconces, or make a bland sitting area more inviting by adding a delicately lit table lamp. A glamorous dining room can be achieved with a spectacular chandelier or a row of striking pendant lights. Finally, add a mix of gentle mood lighting and uplights around the perimeter to give your room depth and visual texture. Dining should be relaxing, but also memorable.


Don’t be afraid to experiment. The ambiance you wish to convey is within your control. Now, get ready for your close-up!


Marcia Zia and Paul Priven, a husband and-wife team, began their careers in Hollywood—Marcia as an Emmy-nominated set decorator and Paul as an assistant director. In 1999, they established their custom lighting firm, Zia-Priven Design. Showroom Location: (By appointment only) Brooklyn Navy Yard, Box 329 Building 280, Suite 220 Brooklyn, NY 11205

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