Indoors: Let there be light

Ever thought employing a lighting designer might improve an interior that needs that extra something? Claire Gervat talks to an ideas man
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The Independent Online
There was a time, not so long ago, when for most of us buying lights meant a trip to BhS, and the main consideration was whether what you bought would illuminate all four corners of the room at the same time. But things have changed. We now expect our lights not only to make the room look good, but also to be objects of desire in their own right.

If the local shops don't throw up quite the perfect thing, there's no need to worry. Help is at hand in the form of Jack Wimperis, whose imaginative glass and metal constructions will turn the dowdiest interior into something remarkable. His current preoccupation is with outer space, and he draws inspiration from the comics and B-movies of the Fifties to create wall and floor lights that look like the flying saucers or rockets that Flash Gordon might have used.

That said, not all his previous pieces look as if they have just flown down to Earth, since he designs his lights very much with the idea of where they will be used. "I don't impose my will, but I do suggest what would fit with the architecture. I look at the room and explain what's possible. Generally, people don't know what can be done. So I'll take along my portfolio and we can look through it."

After that, Jack will do several drawings until the client is completely happy with the design. "It can be quite a slow process," he says, and he reckons to take an average of four to six weeks for each commission. Pricing depends on the size and complexity of the design; small lights cost from pounds 60 to pounds 400, but a large chandelier could cost thousands. If your purse strings are fairly tight, it's an easy matter to set a budget for Jack to work to.

Jack started as a stained-glass artist, serving his apprenticeship in Devon and from there moving to Ireland for two years. Here, he was asked to do some windows in a club. "They said, 'Oh, can you do any lighting for us?' So I did them a load of lights around the walls and some sculptural pieces, and that's where it all started. I do a lot of club work in England now, along with the private work. So I go in, do the stained-glass windows and tie in the lighting with it."

One of his recent jobs was for a club in Blackpool. "They had a metal- clad corridor, and we did about 10 lights down each side. They were all different space scenes, so as you walk down it looks as if you're walking down a connection corridor or something. From some of the portholes you were flying over the Earth, some over the moon, some over Mars. They were all backlit, so they were like stained-glass windows, but as lights. When people think of stained-glass they think of Tiffany lights, which is not what I do."

The lighting now takes up about half his time, leaving the other half for stained-glass. For that, too, he can be commissioned, with prices ranging from around pounds 5 to pounds 20 a square foot, depending on the design and materials. Much of this work is for front door panels, but Jack cites as one of his stranger jobs the transformation of a downstairs loo, which was given a big, stained-glass backlit window, a mirror with a light on either side and a metal loo seat. "That was a great commission," he says enthusiastically.

And should the thought of a red rocket-ship table-lamp sound appealing, you will be happy to know that Jack is intending to produce an entire line of them shortly.

Jack Wimperis can be contacted at Co-Optic Studios, 31 Westward Road, Cainscross, Stroud, Gloucestershire GL5 4JA (01453 756894). More of his lighting work can be seen at the Chelsea Crafts Show and the 100% Design Show, which will be at Earls Court from 24 to 27 September