The poster on your wall isn’t going to cook your dinner; your framed photographs aren’t going to make your bed; the painting you bought at a flea market isn’t going to spring to life and do the dishes. They are there to look good—that’s it. This is what makes the light fixtures from Schoolhouse Electric so great—they’re functional pieces that also look like works of art. We stopped by to take a look at their process, and we talked to Erin Flesch, the company’s Content Community Brand Manager, about the brand, their inspiration, and how you can improve the lighting situation in your own home.
CM: How did Schoolhouse Electric get started?
EF: In 2002 owner and founder Brian Faherty discovered a collection of original cast-iron glass shade molds in an upstate New York warehouse, all but forgotten for more than a half century. Once covered with layers of rust and dirt, these molds have been restored and returned to production. This collection represents some of the best examples of true American lighting design and is the inspiration behind Schoolhouse Electric Co. Between 1900 and 1950 schoolhouse-style shades and light fixtures were widely used in private residences and institutional settings, including schools, galleries and libraries. Originally produced in hundreds of designs and sizes, these shades and fixtures were a popular choice of architects and homeowners alike. But by the 1960s only a handful of designs remained in production. Schoolhouse is proud to have reintroduced many of the original shade designs for use today. In addition to bringing exclusive authentic shade designs back into production, we were the first company to bring back hand-painted and decorated shades when we opened in 2003.
CM: Where does the inspiration come from for new pieces?
EF: Our designers are inspired by the past and how to bring that level of quality and classic shape back in to modern settings. There is a lot of vintage research and looking back to different eras in American manufacturing. We’re all about revival and finding ways to repurpose and bring back lost elements from our past.
CM:What things should someone know about your lamps or fixtures before buying one?
EF: We think it’s incredibly important that our parts and finishes are American-made by skilled people who are paid a fair salary in a good work environment. There is a quality control that happens in our factory that doesn’t exist in mass-produced lighting elsewhere. We offer many of our fixtures as a plug-in option which makes installation extra simple, but even without that, our lights are built to last a lifetime and are heritage pieces so that’s the most important for us. Our lighting is built with precision and care out of fantastic materials.
CM: Do you have a favorite light/lamp the company has created?
EF: Every Schoolhouse light is made to be iconic, original, American-influenced and tell a story. Every person here has a certain connection to or infinity for a particular fixture. Our ion lamp is perhaps most well-known, as well as our alabax fixtures. Current favorites include our factory series, isaac chandeliers, and envoy swing sconces.
CM: How can someone use lighting to upgrade the look and feel of one of their rooms?
EF: Lighting tends to be one of the most overlooked elements of design in a space, yet it’s by far the best upgrade you can make. Thoughtful light fixtures change everything about a room and can really elevate it to the next level. Changing out lighting is maybe intimidating to some people, but it’s not very hard and the impact is huge. It’s something that people might not think of right away but it’s a game-changer for any space. Newer surface mounts, factory lights, pendants and wall sconces are such cool elements to bring in, along with the easy floor and table lamp options that most people think of when they’re thinking about lighting for their home.