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

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Life and Style
Powdered colors are displayed for sale at a market ahead of the Holi festival in Bhopal, India
techHere's what you need to know about the riotous occasion
Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
News
Details of the self-cleaning coating were published last night in the journal Science
science
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
News
Life-changing: Simone de Beauvoir in 1947, two years before she wrote 'The Second Sex', credited as the starting point of second wave feminism
peopleHer seminal feminist polemic, The Second Sex, has been published in short-form to mark International Women's Day
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Finance Assistant / Credit Controller

    £16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are an award-winning digit...

    Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

    Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

    £10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

    £17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

    Paul Scholes column

    I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable