Around thirteen years ago a wealthy local landowner came into my showroom and drew a sketch of the type of wall lights he wanted for his courtyards and stable yard.
“Can you find me something like that, Claire?” he asked showing me with his hands a size around 450 mm high. They had to be low energy (we were talking fluorescent in those days rather than LED) and, because his mansion was large in every sense, they had to be big.
“Well,” I replied, it wouldn’t be easy. I hadn’t come across a fitting matching his description and suggested that it would have to bespoke.
No, no, no, was the reply, he didn’t want bespoke, far too expensive, so I kept on looking.
On one of my trips to the wonderful Tyson showroom in London I came across four beautiful French antique wall lights that met the description and I sent pictures to my client who approved. There was only one slight problem – there were only four available and we needed fourteen!
Eventually my client relented and agreed that the bespoke route was going to be the best solution so we moved forward, basing the design on the proportions of the antique light fittings. It was agreed that copper was the best metal to use as it would withstand the maritime climate of Cornwall and we even incorporated the family emblem at the top of the fittings giving that final stamp of individuality. Once the craftsmen were selected and the drawings approved the whole process took around 13 weeks.
I can’t include photographs of the final fittings as my clients are very private but I have continued doing work for them over the years and every time I go back I see how the lights are faring. They have patinated gently and sit well against the high granite walls of the building- in fact they totally look as if they belong.
Were the lights expensive? Yes, quite. Luckily, the cost of the design was spread between the fourteen fittings so per unit it worked out less than having one or two individual fittings designed but the price was not horrendous and the result was wonderful.
Sometimes you need bespoke because it is just impossible to find anything that suits the situation and other times it is bespoke that will bring the drama and individuality that is needed in a space. For example, take the amazing Shoal installations by Scabetti
Check out the website for their amazingly individuality.
If the budget won’t run to the truly bespoke there are many ways to incorporate individuality into the light fittings of an interior.
At a recent Decorex exhibition I was very impressed by a new range of light fittings byDavid Hunt
Take the Hyde Wall light for example – these come in a standard choice of four finishes but there is also a bespoke lighting option of ten beautiful colours. David Hunt are also doing a wide range of shades in 23 different fabrics which will help to enhance any interior.
Jielde – one of my absolute favourite companies, although not advertised as bespoke supply their wonderful range of lighting in a total of 26 different colours that will bring individuality to any scheme.
Lampshades can do it. If you’re good at drawing to scale, just work out the size of a lampshade you would like, choose the fabric and get it made by a company such as Iberian Lighting
I’ve used them in the past, such as where we needed three oversized stacked shades for a large hotel lobby.
Don’t want to go quite that far? Check out the range of lampshades by Heathfield They come in a wide range of sizes and fabrics.
Or if you want lampshades that look truly individual and original check out Beauvamp
In fact I love their shades so much it’s almost worth creating a bespoke interior just to match!
Bathrooms and wetrooms are getting more luxurious by the day and constitute a large proportion of the spend in contemporary new builds and renovations
Planning your bathroom and wet room lighting will reap benefits if carried out in advance of your new-build. This one small area has to change from being a functional zone on a gloomy winter’s morning, when the light needs to be crisp and sharp, to relaxing haven with a pre-party drink in the bath and all the scenarios in between. This can be created through a combination of layering the light, allowing for enough lighting circuits and the flexibility of dimming. Whilst shower rooms and wet rooms tend to need only one or two circuits more circuits and dimming options will be required to optimise the mood when there is a bath in the room.
Downlights placed close to the wall will give a softer effect by creating reflected light which is gentler on the eye, however, if using dark coloured wall tiles or paint allow for a greater number of downlights as less light will bounce back into the room. Try and avoid a grid layout which tends to be flat and give thought to the style of downlight used – a dark baffle with the light source set back will create less glare, as will a fitting with frosted glass.
These add the benefit of lowering the light which gives a better ambience; I tend to use wall lights either side of mirrors over basins – much better for applying make up or shaving – or even coming out of mirrors as this can enhance the space-expanding elements of mirroring. There are a vast range of bathroom wall lights on the market and don’t just look at dedicated bathroom lighting – exterior lighting can work brilliantly in bathrooms and can give a more individual feel.
Ambient LED Lighting
This is the fun part! The inground LEDs washing up walls, the low level floor washers and don’t overlook alcoves which, when lit can create an additional dimension. At the same time planning is crucial as this form of lighting can sometimes highlight any irregularities in the walls or even an unbalanced layout. Sometimes, when planning lighting with clients, it can flag up an unbalanced feel to the room and if done in the early stages the layout can be addressed.
The bathroom lighting has to be easy to manage and PIRs (movement sensors) can be very useful when linked to one of the circuits; it is easier to set this on the ‘ambient’ circuit which can then double up as soft lighting for night time visits. Dimmers are vital for bathrooms but not so important for wet rooms and shower rooms as they are not generally used for relaxing, however, the PIR circuit is again useful for night time visits and I don’t usually dim this particular circuit.
We can all get rather muddled with our zones but in general it is better to err on the side of caution and largely dismiss any of the plans that show areas where you can use standard light fittings. In reality it probably isn’t going to happen! The electrician is going to have to sign off the work and he may be reluctant to sign off a bathroom with an IP20 fitting even with a high ceiling so although technically you may be well away from any source of water he would need to be very amenable to agree to this
Generally I would opt for IP44 as the mildest light fitting and a minimum of IP65 in shower enclosures. In theory these can be mains voltage as long as they’re fitted with a 30 mA RCD (ie so that the electrical supply cuts out if there is any water/electricity mix present) – in reality, again, the electrician may insist that these are low voltage to be on the safe side. IP65 downlights in a standard height ceiling above the shower would be fine but if you were to specify exterior surface mounted spots in shower areas where there is a sloped ceiling it would be wise to run it by the electrician beforehand. It is also worth noting that the low voltage fitting should have a remote transformer as an integral one would be just as vulnerable as a mains fitting.
Always verify the fittings to be purchased with the electrician prior to placing the order
Work out where you’re going to put the driver or transformer during the early stages of the build – ensure that access to this is relatively easy, eg a cupboard or in the attic.
Now that things are starting to open up, delayed weddings are now going ahead. These days the ‘wedding list’ is on the wane as so many couples live together before tying the knot. They already have the pots, pans and plates so, as a guest, selecting a gift can be quite tricky.
Don’t they say that you should always give the gift that you, yourself would like? That’s easy for me. As I’m so absorbed by lighting I usually give something connected to light in some way. From reading lamp to candles, candelabra to tea lanterns. I can’t believe that people can be immune to the magic of light. So that’s the gift I try to impart – some magic. Here are some of my favourites:
Amy Cooper Ceramics
Amy Cooper produces beautiful porcelain atmospheric lights which make wonderful gifts. When I had a showroom many years ago, I used to sell masses of the urchin lamps throughout the year – especially as we were based in Cornwall and they have a very maritime feel.
Amy has increased her range enormously now and makes beautiful tubular table lamps as well as pretty little candle holders. I’ve given many of her lights as special gifts. Brilliant for wedding presents but also a gift to yourself!
I could easily buy up half the Cream Cornwall shop. However, I’ll try and keep focused on the lighting aspect.
Cream Cornwall do beautiful lampshades suitable for lamps as well as pendant fittings. Do check the orientation of the design prior to purchasing. You can specify which type you would like and they will make to order.
Many of their designs have maritime theme but not all of them. They also do a simple, stylish range of table lamps as well as a lovely solid wooden floor lamp which looks great with one of the larger lampshades,
Hannah makes beautiful laser cut parchment lights reflecting the delicate beauty of nature. She used to have a lovely shop called Radiance in Hebden Bridge which sold her fabulous lighting as well as other illuminating pieces by British artists and makers. Unfortunately the shop closed in 2016 but she still sells her products online and has now branched out into designing fabrics and wallpapers.
I love the tubular table and floor lamps that will soften a dark corner in any room.
For an economical present why not give a candle cover or two? I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t love one.
I really love this company by design duo Marie Rodgers and Maria Livings. They create really quirky and original designs and I used to sell mounds of their beautiful lampshades when I had my showroom. In fact, the lighting section is only one small part of Lush Designs so there’s a multitude of gifts you could choose from.
Make sure you state whether the shade you select is for a lamp or a pendant as, due to the design, you need to ensure you get it right.
Luna Lighting make beautiful porcelain globe lights which cast magical pinpricks of light around. Place them close to a wall to get the full benefit. They look wonderful any time of the year.
Fabulous in a cluster on the floor of a hallway, but also work beautifully as a single light.
Also a wonderful range of pretty tealight holders for little gifts. Really lovely.
For many years now so many of us have revered Italian, Spanish and Scandinavian lighting without paying heed to the wealth of fabulous lighting that’s designed and manufactured in the UK.
Without being jingoistic I truly believe that now is the time we should open our eyes to what’s available within our shores. There are some wonderful British designers and lighting companies who employ a huge number of artisans using British products. It’s time for us to support them and this, in turn, will do a bit towards helping our national economy.
Over the next few weeks I’m going to cover some of these companies so you will be able to see what’s available and hopefully this will encourage you to buy British
I’m going to start my summary of British Lighting with one of my absolute favourites: Original BTC.
I’m particularly fond of Original BTC as I sold a huge quantity of their wonderful lighting when I had a showroom several years ago. In fact, I could honestly say that my lighting showroom, Illumina, was practically launched on the back of Original BTC.
I remember stumbling across their small stand at a trade fair in 2005 when I was sourcing products for my new venture. I was bowled over by their clean, unique style and I felt sure they would sell well in Cornwall so I placed a large order on the spot. At that time, I seem to recall that the majority of their sales was overseas, especially in France, but over the years they’ve gone from strength to strength with showrooms now in London, New York, Paris and Taiwan. They also export to over 85 countries
Founded in 1990 by Peter Bowles, Original BTC is a true family business with six family members being directly involved. They own six production facilities including a glass factory, ceramics factory and metal works with their headquarters and assembly factories based in Oxfordshire.
The company has also incorporated two other British brands into their empire. Beadlight and Davey Lighting (robust and stylish exterior lighting), which sit well with their interior range. Their service is excellent and they will always try to meet any specific requirements, such as extra length cord or in-line switches.
One of the other joys of ordering from Original BTC is that their packaging is perfect and I can’t remember ever having complained about breakages.
My all-time favourite has to be the Hector range and you can see the Hector lamp being made here:
CTO Lighting produce some stunning pieces which have a balance of form that comes with exceptionally skilled design coupled with perfect craftsmanship.
Founded in 1998 by trained engineer Chris Turner and his wife Clare who originally came from a fashion background, the company has gone from strength to strength; they have even been commissioned to create bespoke pieces for The Savoy Hotel, The Dorchester and St Pancreas Renaissance Hotel to name a few.
Quality is key and they place an emphasis on using premium natural materials such as hand-finished brass, mouth-blown glass and artisan-crafted stone which gives each piece an individuality of its own.
CTO Lighting has an online shop as well as a brochure. Their showroom is in North London, details on their website.
Bert Frank was founded in 2013 by designer Robbie Llewellyn and factory owner Adam Yeates. Right from the beginning they’ve manufactured their products in the UK, primarily in a factory in the heart of Birmingham where they combine traditional manufacturing methods with cutting-edge technology.
I first came across them at Decorex in 2014 and was immediately smitten by their Sheer wall light (photographed here) which has the makings on a true classic. Since their launch they’ve won several awards, such as the 2016 Elle Decoration British Design Award for Lighting and the Best Product Award at the Design et al International Design Awards.
Their products are definitely high-end and they certainly have luxurious price tags, but to my mind they are way up there with the best.
They have a good website and a showroom in East London, details on their website.
Jim Lawrence founded his business in 1994, originally as a way of supplementing the income from his Suffolk farm. He set up a forge in one of the farm buildings and started making specialist pieces for friends and neighbours.
Over the years Jim Lawrence has expanded enormously from metalwork to fabrics and soft furnishings, although the lighting now accounts for 60-70% of the company’s sales. I often direct clients to the Jim Lawrence website when they are looking for classical pieces that don’t break the bank.
The company is a true family business, still run by Jim and Sheena Lawrence and it employs up to three generations of local families as well as staff in its new showroom in Bath.
They have a really good website as well as showrooms in Suffolk and Bath.
Tom Raffield is one of Cornwall’s most notable designers having originally trained at Falmouth College of Arts. He now runs a 30 strong team of craftsmen in his country workshop in Cornwall, producing lighting and furniture sold in the UK and overseas.
All his products are not only made in the UK but are sustainable and environmentally friendly so tick all the boxes when it comes to sourcing with a clean conscience. They’ve recently gone one notch higher, having partnered with Ecologi to offset their employees’ carbon footprints.
Initially Tom Raffield became known, from the lighting perspective, for his signature bent wood Butterfly pendant lights, but he’s gone on to expand his range enormously. My favourite WOW pieces are the Skipper and Arame Wall Lights but I also love his new Loer pendants which are contemporary but with his own individual stamp.
Personally (especially as I live in Cornwall) I think it’s wonderful that Tom employs so many people locally as well as designing and producing fabulous natural products that add to the plethora of great products that come from Cornwall.
Purchases can be made online and there is also a new showroom in Falmouth, details on the website.
This is a small family business based in Yorkshire created in 2000 by Nigel Tyas and his wife Elizabeth Stocker. It has now been bought by brothers Daniel and Gareth Lowe who employ a small team of metalworkers and electricians. They also use the services of a local ceramicist and a glass company based in Somerset.
When an order is placed, all the metalwork is assigned to one craftsman from start to finish. This helps to ensure quality control as well as instilling a sense of pride and accomplishment so lacking in some of the larger manufacturing companies these days.
As they are based in Sheffield, the heart of British metalworking heritage, they try to source all their materials and components locally as much as possible. All their work carries the prestigious ‘Made in Sheffield’ mark (discreetly) which also gives a stamp of provenance.
Most of the products suit older properties but I do love the Cubley wall light which is perfect for bringing a contemporary light effect into a classical interior.
Prices are realistic and personalised adaptations of designs are also possible.
Well worth checking out.
Elegant Lighting Made in Britain
Wrought Iron Lighting made in Britain
Soane doesn’t just produce beautiful sophisticated lighting. They also design and produce a wide range of timeless furniture, wallpaper and fabrics. All these are made in the UK by a plethora of craftsmen who serve as the bedrock to this thriving design company.
Founded in the late 1990s by designer Lulu Lytle who has a passion for British crafts and classical architecture, Soane now boasts showrooms in London (Pimlico Road) as well as San Francisco and Manhattan in the USA.
The use of rattan is taken to extraordinary heights giving a fresh twist to some classical pieces, both with lighting as well as chairs, sofas and tables. I love their pendant fittings and I don’t know anywhere that you would find such original and well-balanced rattan pieces. Table lamps are lovely also. Everything is individual, original and beautifully designed.
Their products have serious prices. Don’t expect to see them on the website – you need to enquire. But they are beautiful, they are high-end and there is the option for bespoke.
I absolutely love the Alice in Wonderland title of this fabulous lighting company. As original as Lewis Carroll’s book, they take us on an enchanted journey where the only boundaries are limitations in the production process.
Curiousa and Curiousa was founded in 2010 by Esther Patterson who was first spotted by Liberty London during a ‘Designer Open Call’ that year. Liberty went on to retail some of her products which goes to prove what good taste they have.
All the pieces are designed and manufactured in C&C’s factory in a historic mill in Derbyshire and all the glass is free-blown, without the use of moulds, which means that each piece is totally unique. Every order is custom made in any combination of 21 different glass colours which vary from transparent to semi-opaque. There’s also a range of different ceiling fittings and flex colours as well as the incredibly useful option to produce certain fittings to IP45 so they can be used in bathrooms.
The pendant lights are fabulous and above you will see how stunning they can look in a stairway, but I also love their Bass Siren wall light seen here giving a really unique flavour to a bathroom.
Curiousa and Curiousa have recently moved their London showroom to a large building next to their factory in Derbyshire so that, during the current pandemic, they can adhere to social distancing rules. However, they can do online virtual visits or will visit clients where appropriate. Hopefully, things will change very soon but in the meantime some of their pieces can be seen in the Martin Moore showrooms in Notting Hill and Fulham.
I adore Curiousa and Curiousa and it’s one of the highlights of such shows as Decorex to see what beautiful products they have on display.
Originally founded by Mike Stoane in 1995, and known formerly as Mike Stoane Lighting, this company started its life in a small lock-up in Scotland. They are now an employee-owned business based in a large workshop outside Edinburgh where a full team of product designers, engineers and technical staff all work together.
They make fabulous high-tech LED luminaires designed to last and if you’re into precision engineering then they will definitely appeal.
I’ve used them in a few projects – lighting some tricky artwork and also in a conference centre where the tiny diodes needed to be hidden within some classical panelling. Their products are excellent although they come with a price and would usually be specified for high-end commercial projects.
Stoane Lighting work closely with lighting designers and architects and are able to do special orders – a service which is invaluable to designers where colour temperature, beam angles and light quality is key. And they are made here in the British Isles. It has to be good!
Despite the Italian-sounding name this company is totally British and was started in a tiny London workshop by Andrew and Sara Hills in 1988. I seem to remember hearing that they named it after their favourite place in Italy and I suppose in those days if you wanted to make design products sound classy, an Italian name would have seemed an asset.
However, all their lighting and fine furniture is made here in England, in the countryside. They employ a large number of fine artisans, many of whom start with them as apprentices and they still retain some of the original craftsmen from their early days.
Porta Romana are now renowned for their unique designs and quality which doesn’t come without a price. But their products are quirky, timeless and original with a wide range of bespoke finishes and an impeccable service. I’ve supplied lighting from Portaromana on many occasions and each time my clients have been delighted.
Some of my favourites are the Llama wall light – I put one of these in a downstairs cloakroom to give an extra ‘lift’ to a rather dull space. Also, the Trailing Blossom wall light which a client loves in his tranquil meditating space, saying it reminds him of the Tree of Life.
Many of Porta Romana’s lights can be upgraded to be suitable for bathrooms which is a boon to interior designers and lighting designers and again, these can be produced in a range of different finishes.
New designs are constantly being launched which adds a freshness to the range, and each item is given a stamp of authenticity.
Looking at the wonderful selection of furniture and lighting from Porta Roman is rather like going to a fabulous restaurant. You know each course will be sublime but it’s so tantalisingly hard to make that final choice
Boatswain Lighting is the creation of Jason Boatswain, working from his studio in Wiltshire with his team of craftsmen. Boatswain creates beautiful biscuit-crisp porcelain lights which add a wonderful golden light to an interior. The effect of golden light emanating through the transluscent, porcelain is soft and understated so you can go for large pieces without them crowding the space.
Boatswain lights don’t shout. They don’t need to. They are soft, beautifully proportioned and organic in their own right.
I’ve used Boatswain in coastal properties – there’s something about the natural texture that lends itself to sand, beach, light. All my clients have been really pleased with the result.
A word of caution: don’t assemble the full lights until all workmen are out of the area. In the picture above we spent quite a while carefully hanging each of the flat porcelain slabs to the large central light, after which we stood back, had a cup of tea and admired it. Two days later my client phoned to say that the painters had come with their ladder to do some ‘touching-up’. They had written off a chunk of the lower section. Boatswain were brilliant and sent replacement segments which, of course, we paid for, but it was good to know that it could easily be restored.
Beautiful in most spaces – but not if you have rumbustious children!
J Adams and Co ticks so many boxes. Cutting edge design manufactured in a well-established factory in Birmingham using traditional techniques.
Although this lighting design and manufacturing company was only founded in 2016 the design world has seriously taken notice. All the designs are carried out by design director Will Earl, who adds a softness and elegance to a slightly industrial look.
Their lighting is robust and unique and, although their pieces have serious price tags, these are top quality light fittings designed to last.
J Adams & Co will also produce personalised versions of their range – bespoke to a certain extent.
See above for information on Bert Frank also produce wonderful lighting in the same Birmingham factory, and are similarly unique. I love them both!
Classical British Lighting
Christopher Hyde Lighting was founded in 1995 and produces quintessentially English lighting, perfectly suited to classical homes, although they do now design and manufacture some transitional contemporary lighting as well. They have a factory in Milton Keynes and altogether employ the skills of some 60 – 80 artisans at any one time.
One of their main strengths is the amount of customised light fittings they can produce – various metal finishes, coloured flex cables and bespoke lampshades which attracts owners of larger properties, hotels and yachts.
It seems that with every passing day we are tunnelling further down into the depths of winter! If you’re like me – a lover of light and warmth – the whole season can be a bit depressing.
These tips may help to lighten the winter gloom
Candles any Time
The Scandinavians know how to cheer themselves up in the winter and the whole concept of Hygge is embraced whole-heartedly in the Northern Hemisphere. It seems that in the UK many of us save our candles for special occasions or, at least, until the evenings. But why? During deepest darkest winter some days can seem like perpetual dusk, so why not light a couple of candles or tea lights during the day, even when working. There is, on a primeval level, something enormously comforting about a flickering flame that makes me think we’re not so far removed from our cave dwelling ancestors
Personally I find some scented candles overpowering. One sniff in a shop can’t quite display how the scent will actually be after a couple of hours’ burning at home and some can become quite nauseous. I usually burn unscented church candles and my favourites are from the St Eval Candle Company made locally in Cornwall although they also do a very subtle festive range which I really enjoy.
If you like the effect of light reflecting on snow then you will love these wax crystals that bring a magical quality to any interior. Alexander Interiors sells bags of the crystal and the wicks separately, along with containers although you don’t necessarily need to buy these as you can set these crystals up in any container provided it’s not flammable. I use a large glass bowl and pour a good amount of crystals in and add about 5 wicks. They burn for hours and it all works out very economical as the next day you just dispose of the old wicks and clumps of melted wax, top up slightly, insert fresh wicks and start again
Free Standing Uplight
I will often incorporate integral LED uplights when I do a lighting design as it adds another dimension to the lighting but if we’re doing a quick fix a free standing uplight can work wonders. If you have a dark corner which just needs some soft light why not try something like the Marasino by Astro Lighting. This is made of paintable plaster so you can paint it to blend with the room if you prefer. The shape of it means that it can be positioned so you don’t get any glare
Soft Table Lamps
Opaque globes give out a soft light and as they have become very fashionable nowadays there’s a huge range of light fittings on the market. A quick fix is to incorporate a globe table lamp and the Castore by Artemide has been a favourite of mine for years. Available in various sizes from a lovely small one, that I had in my daughter’s bedroom when she was little, to the largest version that I put in my showroom Christmas window many moons ago
I’m also mad about the Rituals range by Foscarini and love the textured light that these emit. Check out their website for more details here: www.foscarini.com
I know that so many new-build houses are so well insulated these days that they don’t really need a fireplace or wood burning stove. Personally I think it’s a pity to miss out on the sparkle of a fire even if, technically, it may not be required. A flickering flame can always lift the soul.
Check Your Existing Light Bulbs
LED lamps (bulbs) give out less light as they get older and can lose their crispness. Try putting some fresh bulbs in where required and ensure that they are a warm white – 2700K is what I generally recommend.
High lumen output lamps can be very helpful and I’ve just ordered a small portable Beurer LED Daylight SAD Light for a very reasonable price. I’ll be testing it out over the next couple of weeks and will report back when I write my next blog on how our health is affected by light.