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March 15, 2013 9:48 pm
Is a tangle of beaten-up factory lights now more chic than handmade Murano chandeliers? Certainly that appears to be true in the restaurant world, where vintage or replica industrial lamps have become as familiar as sea salt and artisanal bread.
At the Tunes restaurant in the new five-star Conservatorium Hotel in Amsterdam, vintage black scissor lamps hang at different levels over the tables. And at the Corner Room restaurant, at the Town Hall Hotel in east London, old ship lights dangle from different lengths of cord; a grouping of three black scissor lamps serves as a central chandelier.
“We’ve seen vintage industrial lights in restaurants for a while now,” says Talenia Phua Gajardo, one half of the Singapore-based design team Makemei, which won awards for its industrial loft interiors at the Town Hall hotel. “In fact, they are borderline overused. But now we have clients who are bringing industrial-style lights – both vintage and modern reproductions – into their homes.”
Lars Triesch, the owner of Original in Berlin, one of the city’s vintage design emporiums, traces the domestic industrial light trend to the late 1960s and early 1970s, when early pioneers of loft living took over factory buildings and left the original lighting intact. Back then, using these lights wasn’t a question of aesthetics but rather a practical solution to illuminating large spaces. Interior designer Patricia Urquiola, who is collaborating with lighting company Flos on a series of contemporary floors lamps and chandeliers, agrees. “I look to industrial-style lights when I’m designing a big space and when the physicality of the light source becomes part of the concept,” she says.
Now that vintage industrial lights for the home are so much in demand, Triesch has just launched a small lighting company with Leela Heitzer, a former electrician who worked on films such as Inglourious Basterds. For years Heitzer has been collecting photo studio, theatre and surgery lamps from the 1920s and 1930s. He explains that the lenses in those particular vintage lamps, made from hundreds of tiny mirrors, reflect and radiate light in a dramatically warm way. To replicate a similar effect for his new designs, Heitzer is producing lenses made with metal printing machines at a factory in Kreuzberg that once manufactured satellite dishes in the mid-20th century. These new “vintage”-style pieces will be sold at a range from €395 to €30,000.
“What we’re seeing now are homeowners, especially those living in loft-like spaces and who collect mid-century pieces like Jean Prouvé, mixing in vintage industrial lighting but softening the look with nice carpets and comfortable couches,” says Triesch. “An entirely industrial look is not ideal. After all there aren’t that many cosy industrial sofas around. Factory workers don’t do too much lounging.”
Also tapping into the industrial lighting trend are Dutch brothers Martijn and Kamiel Blom. Ever since launching their online shop Blom & Blom several months ago, they’ve been busy filling orders for homeowners around the world, as well as for the headquarters of Gidsy and Readmill, two Berlin-based start-ups. One of the biggest sellers is the Black Rhino (€680), a 22kg, long fluorescent bulb encased in a 1cm thick glass tube that was originally manufactured for laboratories and chemical plants by the Leuchtenbau Wittenberg company from the 1960s to the 1980s. “People are hanging them in their living room,” says Martijn Blom. “We just sent two to Hollywood.”
|Unused Polish bulkhead wall light, £265, www.trainspotters.co.uk||Black Squirrel lamp, €150, www.blomandblom.com|
|Green enamelled Maxlume downlighter, £280, www.trainspotters.co.uk||
Victory pendant light, £126.18, www.cb2.com
The concept for the business was born, when after a few months of shooting photos of abandoned factories in east Germany, Kamiel Blom took an industrial lamp and hung it in his apartment. “All our friends responded in such a positive way,” says his brother Martijn Blom, “that he realised these items, treated as trash, should be conserved.” For more than a year the Bloms travelled through eastern Germany visiting as many former DDR factories as they were allowed to. “At the time the design philosophy was very Bauhaus: form follows function. Because the design is so pure, many find it truly authentic,” says Martijn. “These objects have a soul.”
A welcome side effect of this trend, specifically salvaged vintage lighting, is that although the lights themselves may not be environmentally friendly, the trend of recycling discarded objects is. “Sometimes, in old east European factories, we find a stockpile of lighting in their original boxes,” says Simon Heath, the owner of Elemental, a vintage store in Spitalfields, London, that specialises in upcycling mid-century industrial items.
|River Turtle lamp, €160, www.blomandblom.com||Larger industrial Maxlume pendants, £420, www.trainspotters.co.uk|
Last floor lamp, £990, www.northernicon.com
|Workshop cage light, $225, www.jaysonhome.com|
“We like bringing things back to life and adding value to forgotten objects,” he says. “That means less waste and greener products.” Heath and others says that vintage and design originals will only continue to gain in value. “The vintage pieces are timeless,” says Martijn Blom.
Designer Mattias Stahlbom agrees: “When I designed the Last Lamp I was very conscious – as someone from Sweden, where big producers such as Ikea make cheap replicas that cost around $5 – about creating a sustainable product that was durable and made from recycled aluminium,” he says, referring to his dramatic floor lamp that resembles a traditional theatre spotlight and retails for about €1,100. “That’s why we called it Last, as in long-lasting.”
Design: Eileen Gray’s E1027 table
The daughter of a wealthy Irish industrialist, Eileen Gray’s work was mostly ignored during her lifetime but she is now regarded as one of the most important furniture designers and architects of the early 20th century, writes Kate Watson-Smyth
Indeed, the Centre Pompidou in Paris has just opened a retrospective of her work (until May 20) cementing her place alongside Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe, who are said to have defined modernity.
“She was a pioneer,” says Cloé Pitiot, the show’s curator. “She was a painter, an architect, a designer – and she was a woman, doing this at the very beginning of the 20th century, and that’s incredible.”
The exhibition spreads over 1,000 sq metres and includes many objects from private collections, including a chair that turns into a ladder. One of Gray’s defining characteristics was making furniture that could move and be adapted for different spaces and purposes. She also made a dressing table with pivoting drawers and a table, the Rivoli, with a fold-down section and two revolving cake trays so the food could be displayed, so she said, in an “interesting way”.
One of her most popular and innovative pieces of furniture is the E1027. This simple, height-adjustable glass and chrome round table was created to indulge her sister’s love of eating breakfast in bed and has since become a design classic. It was designed in 1929 for her house of the same name in the south of France, which she built with her partner and mentor Jean Badovici. The E was for Eileen, the 10 for the 10th letter of the alphabet J and Jean, followed by 2 for Badovici and 7 for Gray. The house is due to open to the public later this year following an extensive restoration programme.
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