Real Living: Let there be lights

A shared passion for Eastern fabrics and a love of vibrant and quirky objects led Lauren Child and Andrew St Clair to start their lampshade company, Chandeliers for the People. Both have other careers - she's a designer, he's an actor - but the business, run from St Clair's flat, is going places. Alexander Lewis reports

IF YOU ARE a one of the growing army of freelance professionals - an actor, say, or an illustrator - it is almost inevitable that that there will be professional quiet periods. It was during one such time that Lauren Child, an author and designer and Andrew St Clair, an actor, decided that they were fed up with hanging around waiting for the telephone to ring. Lauren was moving around a great deal, as house-sitting became a good way of saving on rent, but she longed to have some bright, fun things of her own, to liven up the ultra-tasteful bedrooms she stayed in. A conversation with Andrew got round to lampshades - yes, they thought, a fancy, brightly coloured and glittering lampshade could transform a place with little expense and effort.

Within hours they were off touring London markets for ideas - they're both flea market addicts - and the Indian shops of south west London. It was in one of these shops that they discovered beautiful silks and glittering fabrics. These they stretched over wire frames and illuminated from behind, and their lampshade business, which they named Chandeliers for the People, was born.

At the moment, they sell to their friends and acquaintances at special lampshade parties. They don't plan to get into huge production quantities because it would detract from their other work and also because they can rarely repeat the same shade - they buy small off-cuts of fabric and usually only make a maximum of eight shades from each piece of material. Their headquarters is Andrew's Notting Hill flat, which he has decorated during those periods spent waiting for that phone call from Hollywood. Although appearing in plays directed by Jonathan Miller and a film by Merchant Ivory in between, he restored and beautified unpromising pieces of furniture and small, dark spaces.

"So many of the things in this flat were covered in a thick, orange gloss paint. The metal banisters: the stove and the bathroom mirror," Andrew recalls. "They were selling the stove as an ornament, not as a functional heater, but once I stripped it, fixed it to a flue and fed it with smokeless fuel, it regained its original purpose. It cheers up the landing and heats up my bedroom, too." Andrew also painstakingly designed and stuck up a mosaic sculpture from fragments of tiles and glass behind. "Some intense artist said that it truly reflected my neighbourhood, the square tiles around represented all the buildings and the serpentine streak through the middle the crazy things that go on around here. I had to smirk inwardly, because I never set out for it to mean anything."

Mosaics also feature in the bathroom. "These are not the original tiles I had planned, they were multi-coloured but they were stuck with the wrong adhesive and all came off. I couldn't face doing the complicated pattern again, so I just put up blue tiles. Blue is a colour you have to be careful with however," he warns. "Painting the walls and ceiling blue made the room too cold, so I sponged very watered-down matt white paint and rubbed most of it off, just leaving little bits here and there. This breaks up the solid blue." Little metal crosses and stars adorn the bathroom walls, bought in a New York ironmonger and stuck just with blue tack.

Andrew feels painted walls should have some design on them as well as pictures. In the hall and landing he has painted on the green walls (which are, he says, "the shade they use in asylums to keep people calm,") a design in silver adapted from the banister cross bars. "I had originally wanted to put up wallpaper, but then thought the space was too narrow."

Andrew and Lauren try to have breakfast summits to discuss lampshade business. The meeting doesn't always go smoothly - Andrew is currently doing a spell of theatre work, so is a bit bleary-eyed, while Lauren has a day job painting at Damien Hirst's studio. And in this flat, which is the antithesis to minimalism, there are so many wonderful distractions. Lauren often finds herself starting to play with the Posh Spice doll, or Andrew with a clockwork Virgin Mary. Andrew is a keen traveller and the flat is stuffed with devotional artefacts from the Christian and Moslem worlds, found in downtown New York or in Cairo.

They really get down to business at weekends. Saturdays begin with a morning market on the outskirts of London, from which they return around lunchtime. After resting for a few minutes on a mauve sofa, in front of very groovy lime green adjustable shelves, surprisingly empty, considering every other surface is covered with magazines, old postcards and treasures, they get down to planning an design.

The sitting room was the last room to be painted and decorated, mainly because the room needed the most work: new windows and old shutters and a new sound-proofed floor, the boards of which are laid in chevron patterns. For the first two years, Andrew sat in the kitchen and watched a television that sat on a wooden Greek column. But Andrew is a perfectionist and for him everything is in the detail: floorboards in straight lines were as boring as would have been a white-tiled bathroom. Why he started making patterned and spangly lampshades is now clear.

For details of lampshade stockists, call Chandeliers for the People on 0171 792 1516

Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
people''Women's rights is too often synonymous with man-hating'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Senior Infrastructure Analyst

    £45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Infrastructure Ana...

    Teacher of Learners with Special Needs - Nottingham

    £130 - £161 per day: Randstad Education Nottingham: Teacher required to work w...

    Science Teacher

    £110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Science Teachers needed for s...

    Maths Teacher

    £110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

    Day In a Page

    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments