By March 10, 2021March 12th, 2021No Comments


By Babs Rodriguez
Photos by Aaron Dougherty

Editorially speaking, capturing the spirit of a home always involves a lot of talk about lighting — the movement of sun through the rooms, the spots where light pools and how that relates to the places where people gather.

Warmth and comfort are elements of this conversation. And, of course, there’s the practical side: illumination for cooking, dining, reading, settling in and drifting off. We also know that while our photo assignments lean toward poetic, asking our photographers to translate emotion into imagery requires hard skills that we know very little about. But photographer Aaron Dougherty knows exactly what he is doing. As he encapsulates our whims into his work, he turns his lens into a tractor beam and pulls into focus all the feelings that light up a home.

817 HOME You’ve been a professional photographer for 15 years, including shooting for name home-furnishings brands. What appeals to you about shooting home interiors?

Aaron Dougherty I see interior design as high art that requires constant innovation and creative problem-solving; I am fascinated by designers’ abilities to create rooms that are stylish yet so functional. The challenge of capturing the designer’s voice in any project is part of the fun.

817 Do you think about light as a tool in your kit as a photographer?

AD Lighting is my passion; it is the most important tool that I use to make the design of the room the hero of the image.

817 What sort of lighting speaks to you on a personal level?

AD I love watching movies about the English monarchy because the cinematic lighting of palaces and castles is so magical. Often, a scene appears to be naturally lit by the sunlight flooding through expansive windows. My lighting preference for an interior design photo shoot is much the same. If I am not using natural light, I will sometimes place a light outside to give a sunlit-window look to the scene. It can be a slow process, but the payoff is lighting that pulls the viewer into the scene — a goal shared by designers in how they place fixtures.

817 What sort of lighting inspires you as a photographer?

AD I love bright, energetic scenes, so I often have sun puddling in my photography. Sunlit rooms make color and texture pop but, more importantly, provide an ideal representation of the space. The end result is bright, inviting scenes that showcase the design.

The handmade kitchen pendants in this historical Austin house — renovated by Ford Strei Builders — are from The Urban Electric Co. in North Charleston, South Carolina. The custom color Architectonics backsplash tile is from Waterworks.

What we love

The way light floats in this kitchen feels uplifting. We are taken with the pendants, too, and their modern farmhouse nod to candlelit fixtures past. Cheerful but clean-lined and highly functional, this space wins the prize.

The photographer’s take

Every time I shoot interiors for Evensen Design in Austin, I am impressed with Erica Volkmer’s selections of light fixtures. They always become a beautiful focal point that reinforces the style of the space. In this image from a complete home renovation, I was caught by the natural sunlight coming through the window. I backed up the camera to allow for capturing the matching pendants. The composition helps balance the scene and showcases the masterful design layering.

Interior design Erica Volkmer, Evensen Design, evensendesign.com

What we love

The striking sightline in this Vaquero home’s entry is all about the transition of light that ushers a visitor inside. The horizontal transfusion of sunlight and the vertical shower from the pendants flow together to create a warm welcome.

The photographer’s take

Walking up to this home, I was stunned by this incredible entry hall. Finding the best time of day to capture it was a challenge, but I knew this would be an impressive image right out of camera — not always the case. The light fixtures do a wonderful job of setting the mood in sync with the level of detail in this home. The pendants also bring warmth to the stonework.

Interior design Fran DeLeo, DeLeo & Fletcher Design, deleofletcherdesign.com

The Beveled Arcs pendant in muted silver leaf finish with beveled crystal accents, foreground, backed up by the Westminster pendant in a weathered iron patina inset with crystals — both from Fine Arts — amplify the light to warm the stone in a regal entry.

The crowning glory of this home office is the Tiara chandelier from Corbett Lighting. Custom handcrafted ceiling paper
by artist Maya Romanoff suggests sunlight on a pond — in a room touched by garden elements.

What we love

The stunning pineapple chandelier, the softly lit bookcases, the compelling ceiling — everything about this home office space is inspiring. That the lighting is as beautiful as it is functional is a good thing, because otherwise we might be tempted to spend our work hours staring at the ceiling.

The photographer’s take

This colorful Vaquero home office inspires creative thinking, and it feels as lavish and feminine as the photo suggests. When composing the image, I knew that the incredibly colorful ceiling was an important element to capture as a backdrop for the grand chandelier. I also wanted to show how the gold accents of the ceiling marry with the gold and crystal of the fixture.

Interior design Fran DeLeo, DeLeo & Fletcher Design, deleofletcherdesign.com

What we love

The river of light through matched, opposing clerestory windows floats the dramatic cubic pendants in a space both lively and serene. The window-to-wall ratio enhances the transfusion of natural and artificial light, adding buoyancy to the room’s spirited elegance.

The photographer’s take

When I first scouted this custom-built Forest Hills home in Dallas, I couldn’t help but notice the playful geometry in the design — evident in everything from the architecture to the lighting. The matching gold hanging fixtures create a beautiful vertical element proportional to the open dining/living space. For the photo, I knew a one-point perspective would show the geometric design at its best. Thankfully, the lights are installed perfectly in the center of the room. The lines of the vintage gold and green dining chairs help to draw the eye up to the impressively scaled cube pendants.

Architecture/Interior design Eddie Maestri, Maestri Studio, maestristudio.com

Pendants from Kelly Wearstler for Visual Comfort join Phillips Collection console lamps to balance the light flow in this custom contemporary home. Dining chairs are vintage Pierre Cardin, and the sofa and console are custom designs from Maestri Studio.