skinflint design vintage lighting salvagers

Skinflint Design vintage lighting salvagers

Shop spotlight on Skinflint Design. This is an online venture and indeed a big adventure for the married couple Sophie and Chris. From backgrounds in lighting design and tracking down unique props for the BBC, this duo ended up rescuing vintage industrial lighting for a living. They can often be found reclaiming 20th-century lighting from Victorian hospitals and rummaging around in crumbling warehouses saving vintage factory lights from the dumpster. Their salvage lights are sought after by interior designers, restaurants, hotels and anyone looking for something original and unique for their homes. Not only are they reclaiming these lights, but they are also restoring for future generations to enjoy. I caught up with Skinflint Design to find out more.

skinflint design, vintage lights

Salvaged Lights

Meet the Owners of Skinflint Design

Sophie and Chris Miller are a married couple who own this fantastic online shop. They met through friends just after they had finished studying. Before their venture, Chris was a product designer at two acclaimed lighting companies – Iguzzini, an Italian business established in 1959 and Isometrix, which is famous for its architectural approach to designing lights. Sophie trained as an artist at Central St Martins and went on to have a career as an art director at the BBC working on crime dramas, pop promos and commercials.

skinflint design, sophie and chirs miller

Sophie and Chris

They explain how the business idea got off the ground, “initially Skinflint operated as a lighting design consultancy, based on Chris’s previous work in this field. We were commissioned to undertake a lighting design project for a family home in London who only wanted authentic, vintage reclaimed lights. So we set about researching these types of lights and throughout the project, we built up some great contacts.”

skinflint design, vintage desk lamp, herbert terry and sons

Desk Lamp by Herbert Terry and Sons of Redditch

At that time, they were creating a website to promote their lighting design services. The vintage lighting was so popular that the Skinflint shop was born. They tell me, “obviously becoming an online retailer depends on what you sell, but for a product such as a vintage light, it makes perfect sense. It’s never an impulse buy so customers can browse the site at their convenience.”

skinflint design, vintage laboratory lamp

Laboratory Lamp

The name for their venture is rooted in the meaning of the Skinflint word. They elaborate, “it’s a person who is overly careful with their belongings, so careful they will even save the shavings of a flint. At Skinflint, we believe in reducing and reusing as much as possible (without ever compromising on good design). Our products are expensive compared to some, but this reflects the care and attention to detail that has gone into their restoration. We are skinflints because we don’t like waste and nor do our clients!”

skinflint design, vintage machinist lamp

Machinist Lamp

After the birth of their first child, the couple decided to make a move to Cornwall, and with an online business, they are fortunate to be located wherever they want. They explain why they settled upon this particular location, “we were looking for a more relaxed pace of life, some green space and of course a beach! We had bought a flat in London, but we needed a little more space with our new addition and didn’t want to move out to the suburbs. We also wanted a better work-life balance while we were bringing up young children, so Cornwall seemed the most idyllic place. We now employ three full time and four part-time people locally plus around fifteen subcontractors.”

View the Skinflint Design Vintage Lights

The products are mostly vintage mid-century reclaimed lights which include floor lamps, table lamps, ceiling pendants and wall lights. They add, “these are with a simple clean-lined aesthetic and mostly from around 1920-1970. Our products are vintage, and we firmly believe that the lights we stock look as fresh and interesting now as when they were first conceived. Good designs will always stand the test of time. The lights we stock are often by Thorlux, REVO, Benjamin, Herbert Terry, Maxlume, GEC and Holophane.”

skinflint design, thorlux light, pendant, green

Thorlux Pendant

They tell me about the restoration process, “all the products are fully restored and refurbished, but we do try to keep the knocks and bumps so that each light’s individual story is told. We always endeavour, wherever possible, to find out as much as we can about the story behind a product to pass on to the new purchaser.”

skinflint designs, medical lamp

Medical Lamp

Sourcing the lights is an ongoing journey, they explain, “over the years we have built up a wide network of contacts both in the UK and abroad who assist us with hunting out new lights. We also work with the demolition industry and occasionally have the opportunity to photograph the lights on site before they are removed. We have visited some interesting places from aircraft breakers to derelict Victorian hospitals and crumbling defunct factories. We are also occasionally approached by people who have found an interesting or unusual light in their attic and wish to sell it. This can lead to interesting and personal stories of the light’s history.”

skinflint design, obround bulkheads

Obround Bulkheads

To give you an idea of the lighting available to buy, here are five of their current favourites. These will all come fitted with a new screw E27 lamp holder, two meters of industrial steel chain, a braided cable in a complementary colour and a ceiling mounting plate. First up is the Elegant Glass and Bakelite Teardrop Pendants are very stylish. The Opaline glass enclosures come with original Bakelite covers and short stem hook stanchions – £264.

skinflint design, elegant opaline and bakelite pendant

Elegant Glass and Bakelite Teardrop Pendants

These beautiful Retro Czechoslovakian Pendants feature cut diamond glass pendants with white Bakelite galleries. They were salvaged from former Czechoslovakia and are from around 1970 – £336.

skinflint design, retro czechoslovakian pendants

Retro Czechoslovakian Pendants

An amazing Vintage Pendant by British manufacturer Thorlux. This is an imposing industrial pendant from the 1960s. It features a spun aluminium reflector and oversised polished galleries with vents to permit a degree of uplighting. It has some wear on the external surface of the reflectors, but this adds to the overall character – £576.

skinflint design, thorlux vintage pendant

Thorlux Vintage Pendant

The Giant German Explosion Proof Lights were salvaged from factories within the former Eastern Bloc. They are from around 1960. The aluminium closure is oversised and polished, which features the cast manufacturer’s marks. It has the original glass and steel protection cage – £696.

skinflint design, german explosion proof lights

German Explosion Proof Lights

This amazing Airfield Perimeter Light comes in a distinctive yellow colour. It is from approximately 1930 and is an English airfield light by Benjamin. It has a two-part aluminium enclosure which retains the original weathered factory finish. It comes complete with internal reflector and the convex prismatic glass lens with cast makers marks. It is ideal for suspending over industrial style kitchen tables – £528.

skinflint design, airfield perimeter light, yellow

Airfield Perimeter Light

They offer some sound advice for anyone considering purchasing a vintage light. “Buy from a reputable dealer and if this isn’t possible (you just found your dream light in a car-boot sale) then always have it rewired, and PAT tested by a qualified electrician. Vintage wiring can be highly dangerous and while it is expensive to have a light rewired, it is better to be safe.”

Buy the Skinflint Design Products

To buy these amazing vintage lights go to the website at Skinflint Design. Prices will vary depending upon the products salvaged but to give you an idea it will be between £65-1810. They ship globally and offer next day delivery within the UK. If you are looking for something, in particular, do let Chris and Sophie know so they can keep an eye out for you.

Author: Homegirl London. Photographs: Skinflint. Thanks: Sophie, Chris and Alexandra Thomas.