The Real McCoy
May 10, 2013 - 2:59pm
Nancy McCoy of McCoy Lighting Design trusts her instincts when specifying lighting environments.

McCoy: My guide is the client. Is the interior modern? Is it Moroccan? I’m working on a house right now that takes inspiration from Bali and Thailand.

I like to travel to places like Las Vegas to see cutting-edge restaurants, hotel rooms and retail spaces, where the designs will trickle down and inspire residential projects. Also, I keep binders full of photographs from magazines — innovative, cutting-edge interiors and creative lighting solutions. Often, I begin a project by pulling out photos from these binders.

When designing, I work with layers of light — ambient, task and accent lighting. After I decide which layers I want to use, I select the fixtures. With LEDs, I take extra care to run footcandle calculations. I don’t yet have an intuitive sense of the light from LED fixtures. I’m a visual person, and after 30 years in the business I’m able to walk into spaces and judge the ceiling heights and how far apart the fixtures need to be. I can make those decisions with my eyes. But LEDs are new, so right now I depend on the computer.

LEDs are forcing a new vocabulary into use for the general public — lumens and color temperature. People will have to learn how to select lamps based on lumens. And they’re absolutely going to have to select the color temperature of the lamps. If they take whatever’s on the shelf, the home is going to become a visual nightmare.

For a Palm Springs residence, I was told that there might be two tables and they might get moved around. There was no way to hang a single pendant. A cluster of lighting fixtures became the solution — fixtures from Morocco and Indonesia controlled by a dimmer.

In a Millennium Tower residence in San Francisco, the space has a reinforced concrete ceiling with two junction boxes: one over a kitchen island [not in view], another above a dining area [also not in view]. Rail lighting was the way to pull the electricity around the room. The interior designer wanted something sculptural, so we created overlapping and intersecting squares. The rail system became part of the artwork.

  • A McCoy-designed Palm Springs, CA, residence with multiple Moroccan lanterns.
  • Nancy McCoy used rail lighting as an overhead “sculpture” in a San Francisco living room. Interior design by Darlene Jurow, ASID. Photo by Misha Bruk,

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