ARTS Award-winning designer Randal Weeks of Aidan Gray Home turns artifacts from old buildings into grand objects.
Weeks: I’m a fan of the chateaus, castles and churches of England, France and Italy. I’m fascinated by their architectural elements, whether old candlesticks, fragments from buildings or found objects. You can put a candlestick on a crystal or metal base, add shades and lighting and it becomes an amazing lamp. It’s something that ties us back to the past when there was so much detail and so much beauty in buildings.
People who buy our lighting like found objects, flea markets and taking old pieces and repurposing them into their world. They usually live in spaces that are big boxes without a lot of architectural details. So when I design, I think about the drama of each element and how that element will play into a background and create the architecture in the room.
We find a lot of little chunks of old carvings, molding from mirrors and fragments from tops of doorways. I’ll think, “What can we turn it into?” It could be the detail of an acanthus leaf. I take that fragment and rebuild the piece to what I thought it was at one point and add it on top of a candlestick for a layering effect. Then we decide if it’s going to become gold or silver and how old or new we want to make it look. That can get challenging, because finishes can make or break a lamp.
I spend a lot of time on the interior shade color of the lamp to help the illumination of the lamp read correctly. Many lights throw off a blue cast. What we do on the inside of the shades can help absorb some of that and still make the lamp aesthetically pleasing. It’s a huge challenge.
I’m a huge fan of chandeliers, but I’ve not seen one light bulb yet that makes my chandelier as beautiful as the old-fashioned stuff. A crystal chandelier that doesn’t shimmer is a problem. New technology has a way to go to make crystal chandeliers shimmer.
The Pauline chandelier started with a fragment from what looked like an old balustrade that my wife and I found walking through a flea market in Italy. We had no idea what we were going to do with it. But it came to be the essential part of our new grand chandeliers. We created a big kind of a pineapple base and grand scrolled arms at top. There’s a grandness to it, but there’s also elegance and simplicity. It came together with the combination of antique gold and the distressed finish of the center column.