As I’m a lighting consultant in South West England, it’s important that I keep in touch with the latest lighting trends which means travelling to see the physical light products myself. I make sure I attend lighting shows and design exhibitions but, over the last couple of years, these have been sparce. A trip to London takes time and I’m finding that many larger stores are devoting less space to their lighting displays which is frustrating.
So recently, I decided to combine business with pleasure and head to Bath to visit the lighting shops and enjoy the ambience. In fact, I’m so enthralled with lighting, that it’s always a pleasure to seek out exciting new feature lights and witness how the light falls from each fitting.
Bath, in southwest England, is one of my favourite cities, and the beautifully proportioned buildings, in their soft stone is a balm for the soul. I used to visit Bath for weekends when I was a designer in London, but it’s just as easy to travel there from Cornwall. A day is manageable; a weekend is preferable, just to have a more relaxed time enjoying the ambience and experiencing food from some of the fabulous restaurants.
My first port of call was Jim Lawrence who have recently opened an expansive shop in Walcot Street.
I often specify Jim Lawrence for lighting design projects. Their prices are good, and their light fittings sit particularly well in classical interiors. They may not have the wow of such companies as Vaughan and Portaromana, but their quality is excellent and they also have the added benefit or producing door furniture and other ironmongery so that the whole look of your project can be cohesive.
The shop is very well set out with an enormous range of light fittings without feeling overwhelming. That’s quite an art in itself. Equally, the staff were friendly and attentive without being fawning.
Although I live and breathe lighting it was still really useful to view the lights in reality. I’m currently planning the lighting for a beautiful regency house where the kitchen has a low ceiling, and seeing the lights I was proposing helped me to assess the size more accurately. In the end I chose a mix of the Fulbourn and Ava pendant lights to hang over a long kitchen island. It was very timely, as Jim Lawrence had just added a copper finish to these lights which was perfect, and the clients have now gone ahead with ordering them.
I would recommend allowing a good amount of time in the shop and if you need to replenish some lampshades, or choose new ones, I would recommend checking these out as well. There’s nothing like actually seeing the size of lampshades to gauge how they will fit with the light fittings or lamps. They also do fabrics and curtain poles, although I forgot to pay them much attention.
The Fine Cheese Company
Not exactly a lighting shop but selecting lighting can be exhausting and one needs a break!
As I had travelled up to Bath with my husband, we decided to treat ourselves to lunch in the small restaurant of this exquisite cheese shop. We chose a platter of cheese and one of delicious charcuterie which came with all the trimmings. The plates were so stylishly and generously laid out that I was fearful we had ordered two double portions. But no, our waiter assured us that they didn’t skimp on quantities and wanted us to enjoy.
Replenished, I decided to visit the next lighting venue.
Felix Lighting Specialists
I’ve ordered light fittings from this company in the past and I love the combination of renovated original pieces and replicas of the same. Their feature lights are unusual and stylish and many of them incorporate holophane and prismatic glass which I particularly like. This type of glass gives out a soft lighting effect and sits really well in classical interiors when I’m working on renovations.
Felix Lighting Specialists are based in Bartlet Street and I have to confess that I was expecting more of a showroom. They weren’t technically open but there seemed to be an awful lot of people squashed in the interior between the cardboard boxes. It was a Friday so maybe not a good day to visit. Perhaps the boxes were about to be despatched. I chatted to one of the men who worked there and asked some technical questions about adapting a particular fitting. They are incredibly busy, and it seems that since the hospitality trade has cottoned on to them, they barely have time to draw breath.
It’s really worth looking at their website and, if you plan to view a particular light, I would telephone them beforehand to check that you can actually see it. Also, another piece of advice is, if you order a pendant light make sure you specify a ceiling fitting and chain, or flex, as there’s nothing worse than reaching the moment of fitting the light without all the elements.
Holloways of Ludlow
Next stop was Holloways of Ludlow in Milsom Street where they have an amazing and huge showroom which only opened in April 2021.
Here was a feast for the eyes in contemporary design – not only of lighting but also wonderful furniture, including pieces from one of my favourite Danish companies, Carl Hanson and Son. Useful as well to see the Nelson bubble lamps on display as sometimes it’s hard to gauge the size of such pieces.
The range of lighting on display was spectacular and their piece de resistance was the Bocci 28 piece installation that ran down the stairwell. It’s very hard to see pieces like this in their glory unless you go to a hospitality venue such as a hotel or restaurant, and even then it’s hard knowing where they’re situated. There were some other beautifully extravagant pieces as well!
There was a lovely relaxed, expansive feeling about the shop and the people working there were very knowledgeable and friendly. Definitely worth a visit.
Enlighten of Bath
Enlighten of Bath is smaller and has the appearance of being slightly crammed, which is why you will probably need some assistance to find what you’re looking for. At first sight, it seems more for traditional tastes, although the owner, interior designer Anne Fisher, can help you select more contemporary lighting if you prefer.
Graham and Green
I was pleasantly surprised to stumble upon Graham and Green in Walcot Street. They hadn’t been on my lighting plan! I will often recommend feature lighting, such as chandeliers, pendant lights or wall lights from this company, although it’s worth noting that their range is constantly changing.
If I suggest a piece from here I will usually recommend the client buys it and puts it in storage, as there’s no guarantee that it will be there in two months time.
Like many catalogue retailers, Graham and Green has progressed through online, to a physical store. It’s a good move, especially in Bath. People really enjoy seeing things in the flesh and, I imagine with so many people being in relaxed shopping mood in Bath, the spontaneous sales must make it a very profitable shop.
The Aurelius pendant light is an impressive piece although Graham and Green’s prices have crept up a bit.
Oka has a retail outlet on Milsom Street although I didn’t have time to go in and have a look at the lighting. I know their range, which is primarily classical, and I’ve visited their store in Broadway, Gloucestershire which is a wonderful selection of individually furnished rooms all set up in an impressive Georgian house
I think, in the lighting field, Oka’s main strength is their range of lamps. They really do some fabulous table lamps – especially large ones which are well priced. I particularly like their Minerva lamp – a beautiful shape and large and impressive.
At the end of my lighting day, I couldn’t resist nipping back to The Fine Cheese Company to select some cheeses to take back for the weekend. A bit of an indulgence but I felt I deserved it after the long day.
Claire Pendarves is a lighting designer with over 20 years’ experience
Luxplan offers an online lighting design service ranging from one hour zoom consultancy – ‘Ask me Anything’ to full lighting design and specification. I design and spec; you buy independently