In the second instalment of our two-part
feature on reclaimed light fittings, Martin
Tomlinson considers their provenance in
our abandoned, industrial past
WORDS: Martin Tomlinson
PICTURES: Chris Miller and Matthew Emmett
An eerie silence hangs in the stale, fetid air. Around you is a scene of dereliction and neglect: paint is peeling off walls, and floor coverings are rotting and chewed by vermin. Underfoot is
broken glass, strewn documents, broken furniture,
personal effects, the detritus of everyday life, long
forgotten and deserted.
You are the first person in this room for decades. Apart
from the dilapidation, everything is exactly where it was
on the day this building was abandoned. You are a time
traveller returning to another era.
And then you see what you’ve come for: there,
covered in dust and grime and mounted on the wall is
the dull sheen of an aluminium light fitting. And there,
another one. Soon you realise there’s a whole mute row
of luminaires. Bingo!
Welcome to the world of the lighting salvager. These
are the anonymous agents of architecture, the urban
explorers who scour long-closed factories, ships, power
stations and industrial complexes to find the light
fittings that will adorn interiors from hipster coffee bars
to office lobbies.
Their job is to find the retro gold that will sate the
burgeoning, fashionable market for reclaimed lighting.
Although their quarry is the over-engineered, die-cast
behemoths of industrialisation, what they are really
sourcing is authenticity: products with a backstory that
we can anthropomorphise. We ‘rescue’ the ‘abandoned’
to give them a ‘new life’.
One of the UK’s most experienced light hunters is
Chris Miller, founder of Skinflint Design. He and
partner Sophie travel the UK and Europe searching
for stock. On the following pages, Chris shares imagery
of Skinflnt pieces in their original locations, pictures
that remain poignant reminders of an industrial
landscape long past.