Lighting Designer K. Brett Malak, Associate AIA, Shines Right Back on the AIA New Jersey Women In Architecture Spotlight

March 26, 2019

Lighting Designer K. Brett Malak, Associate AIA, Shines Right Back on the AIA New Jersey Women In Architecture Spotlight


K. Brett Malak always knew she wanted to be a designer. At a very young age, around 6 or 7, the desire was to be a fashion designer, and she used this creative drive to make stylish clothes out of scraps and remnants for her Barbie dolls. Although they made great models, sketching rather than sewing started to become more appealing after a while. Sketching objects was the starting point, which lead to drawing rooms to put the objects in. By high school, it was clear that architecture would pave the path ahead.



While studying architecture at NJIT, Brett took an elective course simply called “Lighting Design.” And that opened up a world she never knew existed within the realm of architecture and design. “I found the study of the science of light to be amazing and exciting! In this class, we learned everything from how light is created, how it is measured, and how the human eye functions in certain light levels, to how the lighting in a space can either elevate or destroy an architect’s vision for their creation. I decided that this was going to be my specialty.”



Since graduating with her Bachelor of Architecture degree, Brett has become a prominent, award-winning lighting designer. She has over 20 years of design experience and expertise in architectural lighting layouts, LEED compliant, energy efficient design, centralized dimming system design, and custom fixture design, having worked on numerous corporate, hospitality, retail, cultural, educational, and high-rise residential projects. Prior to starting Brett Malak Lighting Design, Inc (BMLD) in 2009, she was Director of Lighting Design for Cosentini Associates, where she provided executive oversight and direction throughout all projects, served as lead designer, provided quality assurance of lighting design documents at each project phase, and audited drawings and submission documents for compliance with project requirements. In 2010 she appeared on an episode of HGTV’s program Home Rules to explain energy efficient lighting techniques for homeowners and designed the lighting for the featured project. “This was an interesting career twist for sure! A surprise opportunity. I never envisioned myself in front of a camera like that.”




Brett has won several awards for her designs including an IES Illumination Award of Merit for her Homewood Suites by Hilton hotel project on 37th street in Manhattan and the Gotham Lounge at the Peninsula Hotel in NYC. “Keeping current on the latest energy codes and technologies is crucial to success in lighting, as is offering clients top-notch service and attention. At my firm, we have extensive experience working closely with large teams involving architects, interior designers, engineers, owners, developers, energy consultants, landscape designers, construction managers, contractors, manufacturers, and distributors. We are dedicated to producing designs that are sensitive to the architect’s design intent, the owner’s needs, budget, energy consumption, and on-going maintenance.” Entering its 10th year in business, her firm continues to grow.



Over the years, Brett has been back to NJIT a few times, as a guest critic of the students’ final projects in that same lighting design class that inspired her years ago. “I can’t pass up the opportunity to see what the new young talent is bringing to the table and, if I see a twinkle in their eye, perhaps lure a few of them over to the “bright” side.

Brett is an Associate member of the AIA, and also holds memberships in the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES), NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research and Development Authority), and WILD (Women in Lighting Design), where women in the industry come together to support each other, exchange knowledge, and offer their time as a group to various charities. Brett loves what she does and is very proud of her company’s certification as a nationally recognized Woman-Owned Business.


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