Old School Lighting
Before fluorescent strip lighting, schools, courthouses, libraries and upscale homes were often lit by handsome brass pendant fixtures with hand-painted, hand-blown glass shades. These lamps, popular from about 1900-1950, cast a warm, even glow and featured graceful shapes that exuded an understated elegance. But for the past 50 years or so, such fixtures were no longer available.
Well, they’re no longer available no longer. A few years ago, Brian Faherty stumbled on an entire warehouse full of cast-iron molds for hand-blown glass lighting fixtures in upstate New York. Scrambling around pallets of molds with a flashlight in hand, Faherty rescued as many of them as he felt had aesthetic merit, and Schoolhouse Electric was born.
Schoolhouse Electric doesn’t just make look-alike reproductions of old fixtures. Instead, it has restarted production of vintage lighting, using the same methods and materials as produced the originals. Fixtures are constructed of heavy-gauge spun brass and are available in eight finishes. Shades are hand-blown into the original molds one at a time by West Virginia craftsmen, then hand-finished and –painted.
Now Schoolhouse Electric is the exclusive source of more than 100 such glass shades. In addition, the company, which retails its products in showrooms in Portland, Oregon, New York City, and via a catalog and Web site, recently added several additional new-old products. These include 1930s black or white Deco-style porcelain sconces and ceiling fixtures, 1950s cone and reflector style fixtures for mid-century homes, utilitarian-chic porcelain fixture for lofts, and other converted spaces. They’ve also added custard-glazed and opal-finished shades to their hand-blown glass-shade lineup.
Even the company’s buildings are vintage: Its Portland, Oregon, showroom is a restored 1885 High Victorian Italianate building, and its factory two blocks away was built in 1901 and recently restored as well. And Schoolhouse Electric has just opened a new East Coast showroom in a landmarked neo-Renaissance style warehouse in New York’s TriBeCa neighborhood.
Old-school need not mean inefficient: 95% of Schoolhouse Electric’s fixtures are available with GU24 sockets, the EPA’s recently approved standard for energy-efficient, fixed-fluorescent lighting. In addition, most fixtures are adaptable to sloped or vaulted ceilings, are available with switches, and can be built to customer specifications. Shades range from $20 - $100; complete fixtures from under $100 to over $400.