|Celebrity designer Nate Berkus (right) joins Rion Stassi, winner of the 2008 Basil Hayden Design Chicago competition. Stassi’s winning chandelier is shown in the background.|
Lighting design draws inspiration from myriad sources; recently, that laundry list enveloped yet another interesting entry: whiskey—specifically, Basil Hayden Bourbon, part of the Jim Beam family of spirits.
In October, a group of creative Chicagoans unveiled their submissions for the 2008 Basil Hayden Design Chicago competition. Sponsored by Basil Hayden Bourbon, Out magazine and Chicago Home + Garden, the contest challenged local designers to create products inspired by the iconic sipping whiskey. From hundreds of entries, celebrity judge Nate Berkus, host of “Oprah’s Big Give” on ABC, selected a chair by Sarah Tranum, a modern coffee table by Bryan Lump and a 36-inch chandelier by Rion Stassi as the winning styles, and each finalist received $2,500 to bring their concepts to fruition and compete for a final prize.
During a gala finale at Chicago’s Crimson Lounge, VIP attendees cast their votes for the winning item; when the ballots were tallied, Stassi’s chandelier emerged as the victor. He received an additional $10,000 from Basil Hayden to help jump-start his design career.
Stassi’s winning design, which is currently installed at the Crimson Lounge, took inspiration from the oak barrels that help condition the premium whiskey over an eight-year period.
Stassi is already putting the prize money to work. He hopes to launch www.rionstassi.com  this month.