The re­claimer

Skin­flint co-founder So­phie Miller ex­plains the pros and cons of us­ing re­claimed and re­stored vin­tage light­ing

Period Living - - Contents -

So­phie Miller, co-founder at Skin­flint, shares her ad­vice for buy­ing re­claimed light­ing

Re­claim­ing the light…

Each piece of vin­tage light­ing is orig­i­nal, and there­fore has its own story. When you buy a vin­tage light, you’re not only pur­chas­ing a unique piece of his­tory, but some­thing with longevity. Lights that were man­u­fac­tured be­tween 1900-1970 were made be­fore the con­cept of planned ob­so­les­cence be­came so ubiq­ui­tous, mean­ing they were built to last, and many have ac­tu­ally out­lasted the build­ings they were de­signed to il­lu­mi­nate. In a world of throw­away fash­ion, the pur­chase of a vin­tage light places no stress on our re­sources.

Unique prove­nance…

At Skin­flint we put as much ef­fort into re­search­ing our lights’ pre­vi­ous nar­ra­tives as we do into their restora­tion. The lights we stock come from a di­verse range of lo­ca­tions across the UK, fur­ther afield to Europe and Amer­ica, and we find them wher­ever they were used – from derelict Vic­to­rian asy­lums to de­funct fac­to­ries; from He­li­pad land­ing lights to clas­sic opa­line glass­ware. We have sal­vaged light­ing from iconic sites that were be­ing re­de­vel­oped – which is al­ways bit­ter­sweet – such as the Rolls Royce fac­to­ries in Derby, Cocken­zie power sta­tion in Scot­land, and Pye­stock, where Con­corde’s en­gine was de­vel­oped and tested.

What to look for…

Look out for well-known light­ing brands such as Revo and Ben­jamin for enamel ceil­ing lights, Vic­tor and Coughtrie for in­dus­trial light­ing, and Mei Elec and Dugdills for ma­chin­ist lights. Glass­ware is a lit­tle harder to brand and date, but the most im­por­tant thing is to buy a light you love. If you pur­chase from a rep­utable dealer you can be sure you are buy­ing an au­then­tic prod­uct.

What to avoid…

If you are think­ing of trawl­ing car-boot sales or look­ing in your grand­par­ents’ shed for a vin­tage light, then I wouldn’t rec­om­mend it – un­less you’re on ex­cep­tion­ally good terms with a skilled elec­tri­cian! It will ei­ther prove to be a costly project, or (if you don’t do a pro­fes­sional job) a po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous one.

How to re­store…

Re­claim­ing a vin­tage light means keep­ing the essence of the orig­i­nal light fit­ting in­tact, but also en­sur­ing that you can rely on it to work per­fectly, and safely, ev­ery day. We re­store and use as many of the orig­i­nal com­po­nents as we can, ex­cept the bulb hold­ers, wiring and sus­pen­sion chains.

You sim­ply shouldn’t at­tempt to re­fur­bish a vin­tage light your­self – work­ing with electrics is a highly skilled pro­fes­sion, and you should def­i­nitely pass on any light you wish to re­store to an ex­pert.

Clock­wise from top left:

A se­lec­tion of vin­tage lights, in­clud­ing a glass and Bake­lite teardrop pen­dant, in the Skin­flint stu­dio; co-founders So­phie and Chris; a pair of Vic­to­rian brass gas wall lights with 1930s shades, con­verted to elec­tric but need­ing rewiring, £90, The Old Yard; Holo­phane pen­dant, £150, Retrou­vius; rare early pro­duc­tion (c.1920s) Holo­phane in­dus­trial pen­dant down­lights, £690 each, Trainspot­ters

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