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Lighting Up Houston

Martin Sunday enhances local homes and businesses with his lighting designs.

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Martin Sunday (Photo by Yvonne Feece Photography)

Lighting is becoming an increasingly important element of residential and commercial design, and that has translated into a business bonanza for Martin Sunday Lighting Design’s namesake proprietor.

“We have doubled our business in the last four years,” Sunday says in a telephone interview from his Kirby Drive design studio and lighting store. “It is off the charts this year.”

The growth of the business has allowed Sunday to hire an office assistant in addition to his new associate designer, Travis Power, who has 14 years of experience in lighting and architectural design. The two met while Sunday was giving a lecture at the Art Institute of Houston. Sunday and his husband, Rice University LGBT Studies Professor Brian Riedel, have been married for almost three years. They have two large dogs—a Siberian Husky named Logan, and a retriever mix named Riley.

Bentwater Lake House staircase

This success story is an interesting development for the Detroit native, who studied computer science at the University of Michigan. He worked in that field before partnering (both professionally and romantically) with Los Angeles lighting designer Ken Paulsen for seven years. Sunday explains that he set up Paulsen’s business on computers, and the veteran designer taught Sunday all about the lighting business. From there, he moved to San Diego to work for The Case Companies, learning more about lighting design and becoming that company’s vice president. He finally moved to Houston in 2000 to work as a designer and outside salesman for Lighting, Inc., while he prepared to launch his own company in 2010.

Sunday says he moved to Texas for better opportunities. The use of Hollywood stage lighting effects had already found its way into homes and businesses in California, but Texas was still an untapped market. “In Houston, I was a much bigger fish than in California,” Sunday notes. “Bringing stage lighting into homes was kind of a new thing, but it’s becoming more popular even in average-sized homes.”

Other types of specialty lighting can be used in a variety of ways to highlight objects and add layers of light, Sunday says. “We sculpt with light. It’s pretty awesome.”

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Much can be done to enhance a room’s lighting with a simple dimmer switch. Sunday adds that the type of lightbulb and how it’s directed can also make a big difference. Precise lighting effects can also be controlled from a WiFi smartphone app. “You don’t have to be rich to have good lighting,” Sunday emphasizes. “You just have to call the right people. The use of LED light bulbs is everything—[they let you] do so many different things with lighting today.”

Sunday’s firm works with all types of residential and commercial projects, and highlighting art collections is a major focus. Martin believes that “lighting should inspire people and enhance  their lives as well as the objects that it illuminates.”

About 10 percent of Sunday’s business comes from the LGBTQ community, and one of his recent clients was Houston Municipal Courts judge and LGBTQ activist Fran Watson. He credits the pandemic lockdowns with the dramatic increase in home lighting projects.  “It’s from people being in their homes a lot and deciding to fix them up.”

For more information on Martin Sunday Lighting Design, visit martinsundaydesigns.com.

This article appears in the April 2021 edition of OutSmart magazine.

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David Webb

David Webb is a veteran Texas journalist with four decades of experience in the mainstream and alternative media.
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