Lighting design interview with The Light Yard
Jeff Fuller founded The Light Yard in 2013, initially establishing it as an online business offering British tailor-made high end lighting. Built on solid working relationships with lighting designers, notably with British designer Gwyn Carless, The Light Yard has rapidly gone from strength to strength and is testament to Jeff's expertise and vision for unique, handcrafted lighting design.
An exciting time for the company, May 2016 heralded the introduction of The Light Yard's first showroom. In this interview with us, Jeff shares his approach to sourcing the right lighting designer, business challenges and why he's decided to open a showroom.
What do you look for when sourcing a lighting designer?
I tend to look for artisans who are passionate about lighting and have a willingness to work through problems with a positive approach. Since starting The Light Yard my focus has been on building on relationships with British artisans, and 2017 will see us developing our collaborations with some exciting European designers and brands.
I`m passionate about building and developing long term supplier relationships and it's important to me that we complement one another, collaboration not competition.
How did the The Light Yard come about?
My background as a classically trained chef led me to working in kitchens in both London and France, and it was while I was living in the South of France back in 2005 that I developed a love for photography. Both natural and artificial light play a vital part in photography and I became fascinated with the French architecture, in particular the way lighting was used to illuminate a historic building or monument at night. The iconic Pont d`Avignon and Palais de Pâpes were literally on my doorstep, and the Pont du Gard was just down the road so I was very lucky to have a lot of inspiration from the start.
Looking for a way to merge my passion for good quality food service and lighting, the idea of offering clients beautifully handcrafted lights delivered with the attention to detail and attentiveness of a 5* hotel soon came about.
Who are your clients and how do they find you?
Clients are a mix of home owners, interior designers, architects and specifiers. The home owners often find us through organic online searches or directories such as Houzz, and they tend to have a good idea of how they want the lighting to look but not always how it can be achieved. We work with the client on a lighting plan or design which often leads us to creating bespoke fittings, and in 2016 we introduced a lighting design service that we hope to build on and develop as we head into the New Year.
Our trade clients are anything from interior designers and electrical contractors to property developers and landscape gardeners. Often it is their client that has initially found us through online searches and they (trade professional) will then discuss with us directly the fittings required for a specific project.
Our aim from the start was to build a website that not only had beautiful images but was also very user friendly and easy to navigate. We opted for a darker less conventional background for the website to enhance the vivid colours of the images, particularly with the layered glass lights and also to help the client to visualise the fittings in their own environment.
How important is good customer service?
The importance of the customer journey is at the core of the business and from the start has been a fundamental element in developing and growing The Light Yard.
The customer experience usually starts with that first visit to the website and hopefully the client feels instantly inspired by the distinctive collection of interior and exterior fittings we have to offer.
We endeavour to reply to emails within an hour regardless of the time of day (or even time zone) or at weekends. If we don't know the answer to a question or are unable to supply a particular fitting, we will source one, or at the very least put the client in direct contact with someone that can help. We don`t like to say no or can't!
We go out of our way to ensure each customer feels like they are being treated as an individual and that they feel they have our undivided care and attention. We want to try and bring the exceptional customer service usually reserved for only the finest hotels and restaurants to an online lighting store.
What's been your most challenging or outlandishly creative commission to date?
A new build project of 76 high specification residential apartments in Paris proved very challenging. Fortunately my knowledge of French helped us overcome the technical issues that arose and we were tasked with the design and build of custom bollard light with an integrated French exterior double socket plug built into the solid wood base. A deck light usually reserved for path lighting and mounted on railway sleepers also had a complete redesign so it could be hung upside down and installed as a flush mounted decorative ceiling light.
We were recently approached by a client on the Florida coast to design and build a number of custom glass cubes that were to be installed on an existing 1.5 metre tall post and would be the main feature around the exclusive harbour. Ten weeks, 144 LEDs and 1 tonne of glass later and the cubes were sent ready for the installation.
Current project: We have a number of projects currently in progress varying from a custom glass and steel pendant cluster chandelier in the South of England to layered 600mm tall illuminated glass and exotic hard wood bathroom table lamps for a residential client in Honolulu.
Latest challenge: We are constantly asked about IP ratings for our Alchemist Collection of filament LED wall lights so we have pushed through with our R&D over the past few months and we can now offer all Alchemist Edison LED filament wall light designs with an IP44 rating.
What hospitality projects are you currently working on?
We are working on a couple of interesting hospitality projects as we go into 2017 but I can`t say anymore than that right now!
Are you ever asked to discuss electrical accessories, or is this down to the interior designer?
Occasionally we are asked about accessories such as decorative or high quality plug sockets and switches but it's not something that comes up very often. Because of the nature of the fittings they tend to be hard wired and the aesthetics of the switches, dimmers etc always comes down to either the interior designer or the client themselves.
Why did you decide to open a lighting showroom?
I had been working from an office at home since moving back from France and starting The Light Yard in 2013.
Our twins were born shortly after the move back home and with an active three year old as well, I wanted to be at home to help with the babies and support my wife.
Being at home allowed me to be very flexible with my working hours, often comforting a baby either asleep or dribbling on my shoulder with one hand and emailing with the other. Working from home was fantastic, it allowed me to be at home with my young family during those precious first years but it can be a double edged sword. It's great to be at home, supporting the family, and not missing those special moments. But it can also be incredibly challenging and at times frustrating when trying to starting and building a business. It became a constantly changing balancing act.
After nearly three years since starting The Light Yard, the business has now naturally outgrown the home office and in April of this year I felt ready to move into a bigger office space. I`m not one for wearing a suit or tie and didn`t want to be working in a conventional office environment so the concept of an open plan office with enough room for a showroom was the perfect solution.
The space is divided into an interior showroom which centres around our handmade creative ideas table, and a 40m² space for our exterior collections where we can demonstrate how the fittings look and illuminate a space at night. It's a great space for showing off what we can do and we are partnering with Loxone for all the dimming controls. We are looking to present exterior lighting in an exciting and interactive way that I haven't seen before and the showroom will be completed by early 2017.
We are extremely fortunate to be located in The Cotton Mill which is sat right on the banks of the Leeds Liverpool canal in Leigh, just to the west of Greater Manchester and only 15 minutes from the M6 and M60.
How was the launch of the Hangman collection received by visitors to 2016 Clerkenwell Design Week?
Clerkenwell has a real history behind it – and we were exhibiting in the House of Detention, the same place where Sir William Wallace was believed to have been held before his execution. Spending three full days in a 5m² prison cell with no natural light has a strange affect on the mind and body... but it was well worth it!
Our new Hangman series of XXL handblown LED filament lamps were launched at Clerkenwell and the new collection was extremely well received. We're now working on a number of new projects for bespoke Hangman pendant clusters and wall lights since the launch.
The Alchemist table lamp, the 'Hangman's Assistant' proved to be the most popular fitting and visitors were surprised at which the ease the design of the table lamp could be altered by simply swapping around one of the four light bulb designs.
A new concept feature, of a series of copper leaf pendants, was developed just a week before the show and was included as a bit of an "afterthought". We placed them in a corner of our cell without too much focus on how they would be accepted and they attracted unprecedented attention. In fact, the designs in copper leaf drew so much attention that by day two they'd become the focus of the stand!
We are delighted to be included in Highlights of Clerkenwell Day 2. As a direct result of the interest and feedback to the copper leaf fittings, we have created the entire Alchemist Collection in copper leaf and bespoke pieces have already been commissioned.
We are currently developing a brand new Copper Leaf pendant design which is expected to be out by the end of January.
Networking at The Light Yard
With such a great space to work with we will be looking at hosting a couple of networking events in 2017. Also I really want to expand on the idea of collaborating with local interior designers and landscapers to run a series of creative workshops to help inspire home owners be more confident with their homes.
Follow @jeff_lightyard on Twitter for news!Images of The Alchemist collection copyright Sophie Mutevelian, courtesy of The Light Yard.