Hungry, motivated, humble: The philosophy of Paul Nulty, the man behind Nulty+

STIR in conversation with the award-winning architectural lighting designer on the challenges of illuminating the London Underground, and what makes for good design.

by Jincy Iype Published on : Feb 24, 2020

“I want to be the worst person in my business, at everything!”

It’s difficult to find such refreshing honesty, especially in an industry where no one leaves a stone unturned in proclaiming the success of a completed project, whether or not it is really remarkable. Paul Nulty of Nulty+, however, is as humble as he is hard-working and good humoured.

One of the most well-regarded architectural lighting designers, Paul Nulty speaks to Mrinalini Ghadiok (Editor, STIR) about the nuances of his profession, his journey, and what good design must accomplish. Sitting in a sunlit room, Nulty faces the camera and shares his undying passion for lighting, his demeanour as curious as that of an eager child ripping open presents on Christmas day.

Nulty+ has worked extensively and won numerous awards for illuminating a spectrum of spaces - retail stores for Nike (Manchester United) and Superdry (Regent Street), various residential projects, and hospitality projects such as the Ned (London) and the Hyatt (Delhi). They have also illuminated the public realm, for instance, the London Underground Masterplan and a 15 km long public park in Cairo (both ongoing), as well as charity projects such as the lighting of a hospital ward in London.

Paul Nulty pictured here with his London design team | Paul Nulty | Nulty + | STIRworld
Paul Nulty pictured here with his London design team Image Credit: Courtesy of Nulty+

From Paul Nulty Lighting Design to Nulty+, the award-winning designer has come a long way. He started his company alone at his kitchen table, with almost no savings. He taught himself HTML coding because he couldn’t afford a software specialist to run his website then, and purchased a camera, his first Mac and a printer with an interest-free credit card. Fast forward eight years and he pinches himself, giddy with how everything turned out. “The journey seems almost surreal. But I can say, none of this came about because of luck. This was pure obsession and a ton of hard work. I have had a lot of help along the way, and can humbly say that everyone I have learnt from and worked with has contributed to my growth and evolution as a designer and as a person,” says the designer, who has offices across London, Dubai, Beirut, Miami and Bangkok today.

It comes as an added surprise that Nulty had ambitions of becoming a medical practitioner, but ventured into studying performing arts. He followed it up by studying set design for theatre, and fell in love with the art of storytelling through light. It is on this journey that he was struck by an epiphany – how light transforms a space and deftly directs people’s attention and moods – you can say that a light bulb went off in his head! He then moved to London and worked at Light Bureau, Pinniger & Partners and Lighting Design Partnership, before starting his own company in 2016.

Asked if he has any advice for young designers, he says, “You need to come across as hungry, driven, motivated and humble as it is important for you to learn, grow and evolve. I’d want to hire someone that presents themselves as malleable, because that means they will learn. You are never a finished product. Also, your CV needs to be precise, and that means a good page layout, because that tells me everything about you as a designer and your skills! Be tenacious and don’t give up!”

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