Rachael Stoner follows the light in every sense of the phrase. Throughout her eight-year career in lighting design, Stoner has traveled from coast to coast to hone and share her talents with the world. After earning a bachelor’s degree in architecture, she interned at an architectural lighting firm in New York City. She eventually switched firms and experienced everything the fast-paced metropolis has to offer a rising star in the field.
Her brilliance impressed clients and colleagues alike, and before she knew it, Stoner was on her way to Los Angeles to help the lighting firm open its new office. The West Coast presented her with new leadership opportunities, ways of doing business, and colleagues and rep agencies to collaborate with on exciting projects.
Now, Stoner works at EXP, an international architectural engineering firm. Stoner is based out of the firm’s Chicago office, where she’s expanding the lighting department’s capabilities and presence. Read our interview with Stoner to learn more about her work, design inspirations, go-to lighting techniques and predictions for the industry’s future.
What inspired you to pursue a career in lighting?
I went to study architecture in college, and halfway through my schooling realized I did not want to become a licensed architect. My boyfriend at the time was a theatrical lighting designer, so I became more involved with theater at the community level. Knowing that lighting has such a great influence on the built environment, I decided to become an expert in that.
If you could articulate your philosophy about light in one sentence, what would you say?
Light is like music: it can be soft or harsh, quiet/dim or loud/bright, and each individual has their preferences.
How would you describe your lighting or artistic style?
“Less is more.”
Tell us about one of your favorite lighting techniques and why?
You must pay attention to the vertical surfaces in the space. People live in elevation, not plan. Light the walls! Light the columns!
What types of spaces or projects do you enjoy illuminating?
Hospitality and gaming are my bread and butter. I love restaurants because the time between taking pencil to paper and opening day is so fast that you can see how everything turns out–what worked and what didn’t. Casinos are great because there are usually playful focal elements.
Can you tell us about one of your favorite lighting projects? What was it about the final product that made it a standout project for you?
StripSteak Waikiki was a great project because it came with a site visit to Hawaii. But, in all seriousness, it turned out very well. The concept of a “villain’s lair” is something the interior design team and lighting team worked on together. It uses warm dim sources that are often hidden from direct view. The project, from concept to realization, stayed true the entire time, which makes it a standout project to me!