Light bulb moments
Is the trend for vintage industrial lighting coming to an end? Nathalie Marquez Courtney thinks so. Instead, she says, light up your home with these
You can't swing a cat in Dublin City without knocking over a vintage-inspired industrial cage light. You know the sort of thing - a bulb encased in a metal skeleton. And though it seems like our love affair with them has, thankfully, started to come to an end, don't let that put you off vintage or industrial lighting altogether. There are still lots of beautiful, quirky pieces out there that can add personality and interest to your home
"There's certainly been a move away from that overly industrial look," says Geoff Kirk, owner of Kirk Modern (kirkmodern.com), who sources quality vintage mid-century furniture and lighting for both private and commercial clients. Geoff has seen that we are beginning to move away from the rough and ready, bare industrial look and towards more streamlined lighting or striking statement pieces. "There's even been an increasing interest in that '60s futurist space-age look," he notes.
Aisling and Keith O'Regan, the husband and wife team behind Trentanove, agree. They fell in love with industrial lighting long before most, and began creating beautiful bespoke cage lights made from original vintage materials, complete with glass filament bulbs and colourful cord flexes, more than six years ago. They were regulars at design and flea markets, which led to commissions for major restaurants and commercial clients, including Platform Pizza in Bray and the digital agency Ebow.
As the market became saturated with knock-offs and cheap high-street cage light replicas, fewer people were willing to part with their hard-earned cash for a vintage piece when a reproduction was so cheap and easy to pick up. "They were everywhere - from cafes and restaurants to shoe shops - and we became tired of them," says Keith. And while there's still a commercial market for interesting, large-scale pieces, they're eager to show there's so much more to vintage lighting than the cage light. Their own home is testament to that. "We have five lights in our sitting room alone," laughs Aisling. This includes a quirky mushroom lamp from the '70s, a clamp light on their mantelpiece, as well as vintage Hadrill & Horstmann counterbalance lamp.
Trentanove now stock and source vintage pieces like these for private clients (follow them on Instagram @trentanovelighting), and have noticed an increasing interest in French task lighting, such as the simple Jielde lamps from the '50s as well as the classic British Anglepoise style. The result is a look that is still industrial, but also modern, elegant and built to last.
Vintage lights work well as accent or mood lighting, warming up a corner or adding interest to a desk or behind a sofa. The key to getting vintage lighting right is to avoid slavishly following trends and stick to pieces you know you'll love for years to come. "Anything we buy, we'd be very happy to have in our home if it didn't sell," says Keith.
You can also get the look with quality high-street pieces as well as beautiful Irish craft creations that use recycled materials. Copper Fish Studio, based in Delgany, Co Wicklow, and stocked at Dublin lifestyle store Industry & Co, creates lamps made of reclaimed wood and upcycled copper pipes and fittings. Each item is unique, and comes with its own backstory - a tag on one of their pieces explains that the timber used "is from a big, old beech tree that blew down during a winter storm in 2015 on an old country estate in Co Wicklow" while another says, "This base is from a huge yew tree that came down in a winter storm on a stud farm in Clane, Co Kildare." A unique piece like this, when teamed with a quirky filament lightbulb, is sure to brighten up a quiet corner for years to come.
Tips for buying vintage
- Flea market find? Make sure to have the wiring and circuitry checked by an electrician, and expect to pay to get your piece rewired or, at the very least, have the plug replaced. Most pieces from reputable vintage dealers will have already been rewired and refurbished for modern use.
- Vintage lamps were often designed to leave the bulb exposed, so standard bulbs could look like an eyesore. Pick up soft glow bulbs or opt for a statement one with filaments.
- Some vintage pieces aren’t compatible with modern bulbs or may even be too small to accommodate them, so make sure to check before you buy.
- Missing parts or switches can be difficult to replace and may not be worth the heartache.
- Vintage lamp shades can be a quick and easy way to update your lighting, as no rewiring is required.