March 5, 2015

Variations on a Theme: Six Prairie Style Fixtures

My blacksmith collaborator Dave Little and I have created over 30 projects together. Some are part of a series that we have come to call the "Prairie Style" lighting fixtures. That refers to an Arts and Craft style that was epitomized by Frank Lloyd Wright's work. The first piece we made in this style was actually sketched out for us by an architect for a client on Lake Sunapee. The concept was a departure for Dave and I, since all our other pieces had incorporated sweeping arc lines.  

This fixture provides the lighting for an 8' long dining table, so the shades are very large, about 18" diameter. 

The next project that we got that utilized this basic idea is installed in a beautiful new home near Lake Tahoe, and the fixture provides the illumination for a 12' long barter that divides the living area from the kitchen. I worked with the renowned interior designer Jacques St. Dizier to refine the design.  The three shades are each about 13" across.

This past Fall, we made a Prairie Style fixture for a house in New London, and this one incorporated a new design feature. The major horizontal element is curved, so it provides a historical connection with the other projects that Dave and I have collaborated on. The shades on this are particularly dramatic with streaks and even some really interesting insect tunnels. This table is smaller, and the shades are about 15" diameter.

Also this Fall, we made a fixture for a home on Squam Lake. The dark ceiling makes it hard to photograph, but "in person," the effect of this fits exactly with the modern feel of the cottage. The shade on the left is a single chandelier over the kitchen island, and the Prairie Style fixture is suspended over a long narrow dining table. The shades are about 15" diameter, and are "pendant style," meaning the wide rim is facing downwards. One thing that is different about this installation is that the ceiling is high, so we have much longer vertical cubes extending from the ceiling to the cross-bars.

As you can see from the chronology of these projects, this Prairie Style design is catching on fast with my clients. In December, I installed the fifth iteration of the design in a rebuilt home in New London. If you look closely at the top, you will see that I created a solid wood "wedge" piece that creates a flat attachment point on the sloped ceiling.

The sixth iteration of the Prairie Style concept is a radical departure, and is going to be built in the next few weeks (not sure when the installation will occur). As you can see from this drawing, all the rectilinear lines and negative spaces have been curved, and it will create a fantastic effect of organic flow and soaring lines. This home sits on a hilltop in Henniker, NH, and the dining room has a wall of windows facing south towards the Pats Peak ridge. I feel wanted the design to complement the panoramic view of the hills and now I am tempted to nickname this piece "Highlands," because it resonates with the feeling I have had in the Scottish Highlands. Other than the obvious aspect of the curved steel lines, this design also has different sized shades, configured in an arc that compliments the metalwork.

As you can see, a single overall concept can lead to a constantly evolving series of pieces for clients, each tailored to the environment of the house and the functional needs for illumination. It is part of the fun of doing this work – the creativity is endless and fruitful, the results of all this effort making such a huge difference in the lives of people.

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