LIGHTING IS HARDLY an enlightening subject, bringing to mind raw images of fluorescent tubes, tungsten bulbs and tangled electrical wiring. And few will be able to name a lighting designer, never mind a famous one. However, Arnold Chan may be the man to change all that. The Hong Kong-born architect is, almost single-handedly, bringing sex appeal to a decidedly dull industry. Chan's most recent work with Philippe Starck on Ian Schrager's highly publicised hotel projects (St Martins Lane and the Sanderson in London, the Mondrian in Los Angeles and the Delano in Miami, arguably the most fashionable hotels in the world), has drawn him increased attention and Chan is finding himself being tugged, somewhat reluctantly, into the limelight. 'My main goal is to make the client look good and make the architect look good,' Chan stresses. 'If they look good, I've done my job really well and I'm happy. I'm just the support group. In fact, I'm just one of the support group.' His clients, the list of which reads like the current Who's Who of design glitterati, would claim otherwise. Over the past 18 years, Chan has worked with almost every major name in architecture and interior design: Christian Liaigre (the revamped Selfridges department store and London's hottest restaurant of last year, Hakkasan); John Pawson (the spartan Cathay Pacific VIP lounges at Chek Lap Kok); Zaha Hadid (the Vitra Chair Museum in Germany); the Costes brothers (Georges restaurant in Paris' Pompidou Centre); and Anouska Hempel (the Zen chic Hempel hotel). He is currently illuminating the New York apartments of Donna Karan, Calvin Klein and America's arbiter of home style, Martha Stewart, and has already lit the pads of Rupert and Wendy Murdoch, Chantal and Bob Miller, Richard Rogers and Pawson. He brightens up the stores of Gucci, Armani, Louis Vuitton and Bottega Veneta worldwide and is currently being kept busy by the recent wave of jewellery label rebranding - among them Cartier, Dior, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Asprey & Garrard (spearheaded by Jade Jagger). Starck will allow only Chan to illuminate all his interior projects which, along with the Schrager hotels, include Felix at The Peninsula and Asia de Cuba restaurant in New York. He worked with artist Damien Hirst on his Pharmacy restaurant venture, celebrity chef Marco Pierre White on his restaurant Mirabelle, and recently collaborated with product designer Ross Lovegrove on Airbus Industries' forthcoming double-decker superjumbo and furniture designer Marc Newson on the new Ford Concept car. Chan admits working with the world's leading trendsetters is rewarding but says it's not without its drawbacks. 'High-profile clients are very difficult and very demanding,' he says. 'But they have an eye and it's worth the suffering because at the end of the day, you know it's going to be beautiful. 'It does give you a buzz though. When you're in New York and you're working with these people, it doesn't get better - even though they drive you mad sometimes.' His most high-profile project to date has been Schrager's achingly trendy St Martins Lane Hotel in London. Working with Starck, Chan came up with the hotel's signature Colourwash lighting system where guests can bathe their rooms in any of 236 shades of the spectrum to suit their mood. Viewed from the outside, after dark, the bedroom windows light up like a multicoloured mosaic, creating an interactive light show and rather voyeuristic experience for passers-by. 'You tend to get 'before' and 'after' shades,' Chan says suggestively when asked which colours have proven most popular with residents. 'Reds and pinks before and greens and blues after ? it being a hotel after all.' Chan grew up on Hong Kong Island and left to board at St Paul's in London at the age of 14. He went on to study architecture at London's Architectural Association and, on graduating, got into lighting by accident while designing a showroom for the lighting company iGuzzini. With interest planted, he took a lighting engineering course and subsequently set up Isometrix Lighting + Design in 1984. His first major commission was for Joseph Ettedgui, of the women's clothing retailer Joseph in London, on which Chan worked with architect Eva Jiricna who designed the controversial Spirit Zone for the Millennium Dome. In the nature of referral that has gone on to mark almost all his subsequent projects, Jiricna introduced him to Rogers and from there his reputation gathered momentum. As is normally the case, many hands make light work and Chan now employs 35 staff members in his offices in London, Paris and Hong Kong. However, Chan insists on being in charge of his light brigade and meets every client personally, thus spending about two-thirds of his time travelling. In Hong Kong he is currently working on lighting schemes for Exchange Square, Swire House, Alexandra House and the connecting Hongkong Land bridges between them. But despite working with international celebrities and leading designers, Chan says there can actually be more pressure on him in local projects. 'It matters more because my family are here, who will visit [the projects] and I'm more concerned that they will enjoy it.' Lighting in Hong Kong can be quite sophisticated but can often be overdone, Chan says. 'Hong Kong people tend to like everything very, very bright. I don't know why but if you look at a typical Chinese restaurant, it's always uniformly brightly lit. 'If I'm doing somebody's house here they tend to want everything bright so I try to influence them. I install dimmers to give them bright but also give them moody.' Chan is full of bright ideas. Lighting Essentials, a contemporary lighting collection aimed at the mass market, will be launched in London this summer and Chan hopes to bring the range to Hong Kong at a later stage. Rather than a more predictable partnership with Starck, Chan has chosen to pair up with Iranian interior designer India Mahdavi, a Liaigre protege who has been described by American Vogue magazine as the next big thing in design. 'I wanted to create a family of lights comprising every single type of light you could want in the home,' Chan explains. 'Table lamp, floor lamp, wall lamp, ceiling lamp, shelf light, picture light, bathroom light, garden light - even baby light. You don't need an electrician - just plug in. It will be high style available to everybody, more expensive than Habitat but not as expensive as Le Cadre.' Despite this new foray into retail, Chan maintains his objective will always be to blend in to the background as much as his lighting. 'It's good to be part of a winning team. If you're doing a boutique hotel, a Schrager, you know it's going to be an A-team and you're proud to be part of it. The client has a vision, the designer has done a good job and you've helped to complete it, but you should never stand out. 'I'm not trying to make my own mark. I'm there to help realise somebody else's vision.'