Firstly, how did your career end up being dedicated to the world of light?
Michael and I started our business in 1980 with an antique shop on the Lower Richmond Road in Putney. We initially sold antique decorative lighting and then soon afterwards we created a small range of our own lighting designs which we sold to interior decorators.
Why is getting the lighting right in a room so important? And why can it be so difficult?
Second to the room dimensions and colour of walls and ceiling, it is the most important factor. Lighting can transform the entire look and feel of a room turning it from a cold, gloomy space to somewhere you would really want to inhabit - warm and inviting. Plainly that is our goal. We think of lighting at different levels, literally from floor to ceiling and how one fills each volume or level with a light source.
It can be difficult because of the fabric of a building, meaning dimensions and materials - ie. ceiling heights, low or very high, intricate mouldings on the ceiling, wood, stone or fabric surface - can vary so much and every project for our clients is unique.
For those who are having a full refurbishment or undertaking a new build, there is the chance to embed the lighting plan within the very fabric of the building. So there are things that need to be considered from the very beginning. What are some of the things to start thinking about early?
From a practical point of view, I would consider installing a dedicated series of lighting circuits from which you can control the three crucial levels of lighting by which I mean floor, table/wall and ceiling. This will give you the ability to add dimmer switches and alter the mood. I would also suggest many more general 13 amp sockets - there always seems to be a shortage!
Not everyone is going to be starting from scratch. What are some less intrusive fixes one can use to improve the lighting in their home?
Simple quick fixes would be dimmer switches, changing lampshades on existing floor and table lamps and for lighting pictures without chasing walls - plug in uplighters.
You design and deal in lighting made from a range of materials and with many diferent textures. Can you tell us about some that you are particularly fond of, things you're excited about?
At Vaughan our thinking has always been to use real materials and we shy away from imitation such as base metals and resin. Most of our products are made from either solid brass, bronze, wood, crystal glass and alabaster. I am particularly fond of our lost wax cast lamps made in England using the original casting techniques - we are very keen on ensuring these skills are retained by our craftsmen and women. Our twig table and floor lamp are great examples of this technique.
We have launched a range of art pottery table lamps which again are made in England using traditional skills and manufacturing techniques producing a contemporary look and feel.
Presumably context has a big role to play here. What do you want the lamp to do?
Taking into consideration what we have already discussed - it is important to be clear what you are trying to achieve within the room. Is this lamp to give directional light (desk lamp, floor lamp), is it to add general lighting ambience or to lighten up a dark corner?
Are floor lamps best for particular spaces?
Floor lamps are ideal beside chairs to give extra light whilst reading and a tall floor lamp is also particularly effective in a high ceilinged room with a shade which helps to project light upwards.
How does the choice of shade / material affect the quality of light?
A cotton or silk pleated lampshade in pale cream or a card lampshade will give the best light, however coloured lampshades in card with linen or silk laminated give a gentle glow with more light omitting from the top and bottom.
What are your views on symmetry - a pair of lights either side of the sofa, etc
We like to mismatch and have different lamps either side of a sofa or bed.
How aware of trends in lighting are you? And how important to you are they?
Not very, we have a particular design philosophy which is mixing old and new - antiques with modern paintings and lighting that can be blended - for example a contemporary table lamp used with a traditional chandelier. This is core to what we believe and you will find this throughout our designs.
What general direction have you seen lighting design going in over the past few years?
A move towards more contemporary, mid-Century/20th Century designs but using new technology such as LED's.
And what are some of the more fashion-driven 'trends' that you've noticed?
Colour has become all-important to us and we have recently added a collection of beautiful cotton lampshades in fabulous colours which forms part of our Tribal Collection.
This article is a transcript of an interview with David Nicholls, Editor at House and Garden, held at the Design Centre, Chelsea Harbour in 2018.