Lander Graduate Carli Enjoys Success as Lighting Designer in Charleston
Tuesday, Jun 23, 2020

Matt CarliLander University graduate Matt Carli’s lighting design for a rooftop living area in Charleston is featured in the April issue of “Landscape Architect and Specifier News.”

It’s not the first recognition for Carli, lead designer for Moonlighting Landscape Lighting Systems in Charleston. During his 10 years with the company, he’s been published in several trade magazines. In 2018, he won a national award, conferred by the Association of Outdoor Lighting Professionals, for having the top commercial lighting design of the year. He’s the only certified outdoor lighting designer in South Carolina.

Carli’s rooftop design, described in Mike Dahl’s article, “Enhancing a Rooftop View,” involved lighting a putting green, outdoor dining area and seating area near a fireplace for a homeowner with a view of Charleston Harbor and the Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge. Carli called it “one of my favorite projects, just in terms of being able to work with the view that they had. It was nice to walk around the site with them and see their reaction when the lights came on. That makes it all worth it.”

A native of Beaufort, Carli has been involved in some form of landscaping almost his whole life. “Ever since I was about 12 or 13, I was going door to door cutting lawns. That continued as I grew older and worked summers and winter breaks doing landscape work and golf course construction and maintenance.”

After graduating from Lander in 2007, Carli, who majored in history, had hopes of landing a job as a sports historian, but “there weren’t a ton of opportunities available to me in that field. I fell back on what I loved, and that was being outside, working with equipment and being a part of transforming gardens and landscapes.”

For four years, he helped run a successful landscape company in his hometown, then joined Moonlighting. Learning outdoor illumination, he said, “was a whole new beast. I worked and continue to work hand-in-hand with our owner, Mike Rollins, who is widely considered among the top lighting designers in the industry. He taught me how to be thoughtful and creative with my lighting designs and how to ‘paint with light.’”

Carli said that “the plan is for me to eventually buy the company.”

Carli’s career as a sports historian might not have panned out, but he takes some consolation in the fact that he’s working in one of the most historical cities in the country.

“A lot of our work is focused within the historical district and working in some of the most historical gardens in the city. I’ve designed lighting projects from Henry Ford’s summer home to Drayton Hall, one of the oldest plantations in the country.”

Carli said that Lander played an important role in preparing him for the success he’s having now.

“Lander was appealing to me because of the small-school atmosphere and how it would benefit my learning style. I was always appreciative of the fact that I was never a ‘number’ there; I always had the ability to have conversations with my professors and the luxury of one-on-one instruction when it was needed. Greenwood was just far enough away that it forced me out of my comfort zone; I had to meet new people and forge new relationships, as I didn’t know anybody from home that went there. It’s an experience I will never forget, and I remain appreciative of everything I learned during my time at Lander,” he said.