A study: vintage lighting

Antiques collector and vintage ‘hoarder’ (as she puts it), our co-founder Lucy is forever inspired by pieces of old. It is to the past that she, and the Rowen & Wren creative team look, when curating our seasonal assortments, defining, for instance, the direction of our newest lighting designs for the Spring/Summer 2020 collection. Here, Lucy invites us into a select few pockets of her home to see three of the designs in-situ – Ernest, Evelyn and Clifton – and talks through what drew her in, like a moth to a flame…

You first discovered this maker a few years ago. What was it that spoke to you most about their designs?

“I love antiques and I love pieces that appear aged and vintage. My ideal would be to fill our home with lighting from times gone by, and that was fundamentally the instant draw to this maker. Their finishes and their form look so convincingly vintage, and they are one of the few metalworkers in lighting whose pieces continue to age and develop character over time. The zinc looks wiser, the verdigris gets evermore charming, and so you know that you’re developing a future antique. Their pieces represent everything I love about the vintage aesthetic without the trouble of rewiring and the such.”

You invited a few pieces initially into the collection [the Gauzed Wall Light and Clifton Cartouche Wall Light] and then added a further five designs to the lighting collection this spring. But do you have any of them in your own home?

“We certainly do. Most of them are in the cottage section of our home but we have one or two in the romantically-named ‘new part’ of the property to make sure the conversion connects well with the period aspect.

“I knew I wanted the Clifton wall light in our hallway, because it’s so tricky finding small, discreet wall lights that are still capable of making a statement. These are perfect because they don’t protrude too much and their antique bronze finish is a warm yet strong contrast against our white cottage walls.

“We then have a multitude of the Cedric Spotlights, which are mostly positioned in our very ancient roof beams as opposed to on the walls. Again, it’s their subtle character that I just love, but when you do spy them, they show that thought and detail has gone into every inch of your home. Admittedly, they are often covered in cobwebs however!

“I also have a little Cedric in our smallest bathroom – a place of all things tiny and lovely –and the Evelyn wall lights as bedside lamps in the spare bedroom, because the antique bedside shelves I fell for are much too small to take a standing lamp.

“Outside, we also have the Ernest Outdoor Wall Light which has weathered in very nicely indeed against our larch cladding which has faded to a beautiful peach-like tone at the moment – I wish I could pause its ageing process there!”

How might you describe the texture of the aged zinc and antique bronze finishes?

These are lights that are really rather textured, but in a visual sense too; they one hundred per cent add to the visual texture of a room. They’re in no way smooth or glossy but have a rich patina that’s matte and almost a touch rough. That’s all part of what helps them to achieve such a convincing vintage aesthetic. Because our home is part old and crumbly cottage and part contemporary conversion, we get to appreciate just how well the lights work in settings old and new. Ironically, they perform most beautifully in the newer part because they help to bridge the two styles of architecture. If we’d added a chrome finish in this part of the property, the interiors would have felt much departed from one another, but through lighting alone we are able to make one an extension of the other.”

Onto matters electrical, which sockets and switches did you pair with them? Did you feel any in particular complemented them best of all?

“This was a toughie, because we looked at so many, but eventually took the plunge and went for the pricey Forbes & Lomax designs. I really do feel they’re worth it however, because not only is the quality and the finish an impeccable match, but they have these beautiful crisp, square edges that are hard to come by in switches. I love the toggle version as much as the dimmer and it’s the Antique Bronze finish that we opted for.”

If there were one element of this lighting collection that you appreciate most, what would it be?

“I really am a sucker for a cartouche detail, and so that aspect of the Clifton Wall Light (which is repeated in the Ceiling Lantern too) is such a pull for me. At the very beginning of Rowen & Wren we did these cartouche breadboards that Graeme hated but I loved – we still have one here on our kitchen island in fact. So anything with that detail and shape will always get the thumbs up from me. But overall, it’s how this maker achieves scale that impresses me most. It’s no easy thing to find petite, beautiful lighting where the scale hasn’t been compromised along the way. It’s a very special detail indeed to master this.”


See the full lighting collection here.