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Publication Date: 2018-11-19

Behind the Design

Studio Visit: CL Sterling & Son

From Art Deco landmarks to historical odes, CL Sterling & Son knows how to bring inspiration from the past into its contemporary future. In the latest edition of our Studio Visit Series, we talk with Peter Carlson, CEO and founder, about a couple of the brand's timeless table lamps and delve into his concepts of creating.


Q: What is CL Sterling's process of designing or creating?

A: All of our light fixtures originate with an idea. Very often it is in response to a perceived need — our exterior fixtures are an example. The idea marinates and becomes a sketch, and working closely with our factory in Portugal, a prototype is created. No matter how well drawn and detailed, there is no substitute for holding a piece in your hands to assess. Sometimes multiple prototypes are required before the piece is placed in production. When the stars align, we hit it the first time.

Q: Could you talk about the influence of Art Deco on The Channing Table Lamp?

A: The Channing Building in New York City is an iconic Art Deco landmark, and a series of bas-relief friezes at street level provided the inspiration for the laser-cut cork base of The Channing Table Lamp.

The Channing Table Lamp

Q: What was the inspiration behind the Fenwick Collection?

A: The Fenwick Collection draws heavily on French design from the 1940s, informed as it was by Art Deco precedents while reflecting the more lyrical trends of the era.

Q: How do you determine a new collection? Do you plan out the collection or create pieces and then realize they work together?

A: Most often, a collection starts with one piece and it organizes itself from there. The materials used and the general line of the style combine to create a coherent collection.

Q: What is your favorite feature of The Hepburn Table Lamp? What makes it special?

A: I love the gentle wave of the base which supports the glass platform. The design is derived from the classical bouillotte lamp which employed an adjustable tole shade to follow the height of the burning candles. The vertical element with the surmounting ring recalls that adjustable function.

The Hepburn Table Lamp from the Fenwick Collection

Q: How do you imagine The Viceroy Table Lamp being used?

A: I had visualized the Viceroy as a desk lamp, and I use it as such. It has a strong geometric line which could also anchor a console or bedside table.

Q: When designing, do you look for a void in the marketplace to fill, or design for a particular project and then realize the piece has a broader appeal?

A: Well, actually, both. In some instances, as with our more architectural pieces and the exterior fixtures, it was a lack of product in the category that recommended the design. Very often it begins with a specific need for a particular client and we subsequently add the piece to our product line.

The Viceroy Table Lamp

Q: How do all the products CL Sterling creates coordinate together? How would you describe your aesthetic?

A: I would say our fixtures represent a clean, unfussy and elegant perspective of the practical. Honest, and sometimes unusual, materials are the base on which we build, and quality is paramount. In my opinion, this is what allows the individual collections and our overall offerings to be complementary.


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