DESIGNING CUSTOM LIGHT FIXTURES

A series penned by Architect (and my partner in business and life), Joseph Vance, AIA.

While there are many well designed light fixtures available on the market, from time to time we find situations where nothing “off the shelf” will work.

The example in the feature photo and below is in our home. It is an apartment in a modern high-rise and there was no ceiling fixture over the dining table. The ceiling is plaster directly applied to the underside of the structural concrete slab- so any light fixture would require a surface mounted conduit. I resolved this by designing a fixture that utilized exposed wires and required no ceiling box. The wire is fabric covered and braided. I had steel blocks fabricated with an integral screw to affix to the ceiling with a hole for the wire to pass through. The sockets are heavy brass with “Edison” style bulbs. A custom wall mount box was fabricated for the wires to connect to with an off-the-shelf floor switch with built-in dimmer. The wires going up the wall and across the ceiling add a sculptural element to the fixture.

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Recently, we completed a small renovation and rooftop addition to a townhouse in Greenwich Village where the clients also asked us to furnish most of the home. Our design for the living room included a curved sofa, round rug and round coffee table- all focused on the existing fireplace. We wanted a pendant that juxtaposed all of the curves, but could not find one of the right size, shape or design. In the end, we designed this custom fixture. The large scale anchored the seating area while the soft, ivory fabric and rounded corners kept it from overwhelming the room. The base, stem and sockets were fabricated by O’Lampia Studio, the shade by Just Shades, both in Manhattan.

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In the same project, we needed a small, interesting table lamp for a floating console in the entry hall. After scouring the internet and lighting stores for weeks, we decided to transform a vintage ceiling fixture with a polished brass base and cast glass cube shade that we had in storage. We had a base plate made by a local metal fabricator, then had him give all the brass parts an antiqued brass finish to match the pulls on the furniture, wired it with a brown fabric cord and switch on the base. Our clients loved both lights, especially because they were designed specifically for their spaces, and are one-of-a-kind.

Joseph Vance Architects specializes in Townhouse renovations. www.josephvacearchitects.com

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