To celebrate the launch of Houseof on Bilden Home & Hardware Market, we sit down with co-founder Helen White to discuss her approach to design, what inspired her to found Houseof and the exciting projects they have on the horizon.
Houseof is a climate-friendly lighting company producing carbon-neutral lighting. Houseof specialises in creatively engineered lights but is much more than a lighting company. Houseof likes to think that the world would be better if we treated the planet more like it was our home. So, Houseof strives to change the world one light at a time and build a community of like-minded people who share their values.
“Wouldn't it be great if all the lights in the world were climate-friendly“. Helen, Co-founder, Houseof.
Bilden: What first attracted you to working with lighting and specifically creating a climate-friendly collection, and how did that lead you to create your first range?
Houseof: Lighting is often neglected in a home, with people often settling for the "least worst option". We wanted to create a collection which was easy to buy and understand in the home. Protecting the planet has always been our goal; we want to impact the environment as little as possible, so we made all our production and usage climate-neutral.
B: Did it come naturally to you, or was there training you needed to hone your craft? What is the team's background, and was there any crossover between the industry you worked in before you launched House Of?
H: I (Helen) have always worked in product design and used to design homewares and lighting for BHS and made.com. We have a team of retail experts who work for us, and we all have a passion for homewares and interiors.
B: Were there any influential artists or other makers you considered when defining your aesthetic?
H: We design with purpose in mind; firstly, the light must be fit to light someone's home. We are then inspired by colours in fashion, shapes from Nordic and Scandinavian countries; recently, Japanese interiors have inspired us.
B: You have a very well-defined design aesthetic. Are there other designers or artisans using similar materials that you consider your peers? Do you find there is a community among other lighting brands?
H: We have many friends in the interior industry. We are close business besties with Mustard Made, who make colourful poppy lockers. We love the founders and team at Coat Paints and Yes Colours, too and collaborate with them on shoots and for shows.
B: Can you talk us through the process from idea to design and realisation?
H: We look at trends from all over the world and in different industries. We also evaluate how we live in our homes and operate our lighting. We start with mood boards for the aesthetic and then move on to pencil drawings to brief shapes and forms for our factory. We work closely with the factory to design the best light, which will last a long time and be fit for purpose. The whole design and research process can take up to 1 year before a product goes live online.
B: Do you have a picture in mind of the design before you started, the type of finish you were trying to achieve, or was it entirely organic? How would you define your aesthetic?
H: We have always embraced simplistic forms with clever technology. We also play with colour and fun shapes, giving Houseof its unique handwriting.
B: Do you work with multiple materials, or are you mainly focused on specific components? What is the process?
H: We use a lot of metal and glass in our range, but in the Autumn, we are launching a range of shades made from cotton canvas and a collection of wooden portable lights. We always try to use our signature opal globe or a covering to diffuse light around your room and remove the nasty bulb glare that can be tough on our eyes.
B: Do you need to be in a particular frame of mind when developing new designs or products?
H: We can get inspiration from anywhere, and it often comes up in strange places - from hotel lobbies to nature. We work in phases and aren't always sketching designs. We might be moodboarding or working directly with prototypes to perfect the lights.
B: Where do you bring your creations to life? Do you have a workshop?
H: We have a design studio in Hackney and send our designs to our factory in China. We work with a family-run factory exclusively and visit them often to work on new products.
B: Do you have a favourite product to make?
H: I personally love our new shade collection, which we have produced in the UK and will be available at the end of September. We still have lights in the range we designed for our launch in 2019. They have turned into classics.
B: Do you have a picture in mind of the types of interiors your lighting will be used, or is it quite varied?
H: Our customer's homes are very varied. We have maximalist customers and very paired-back Scandi inspired customers. We also ship worldwide and must consider trends from as far away as the USA.
“We play with colour and fun shapes, giving Houseof its unique handwriting”.
B: What other designers inspire you, whether in product design or other industries?
H: We love architecture and interior design. We follow and work with prominent interior designers to create our collections. We are homewares obsessed as a company.
B: What inspired you initially to create a carbon-neutral lighting brand? What are other brands doing wrong?
H: Firstly, we know we are on a journey and have a long way to go to create a company with little to no impact on the planet. But wouldn't it be great if all the lights in the world were climate-friendly to produce and run? We use climate action to offset our production emissions and our customers' usage emissions for 10 years.
B: Were there any specific challenges you had to overcome to ensure you were a carbon-neutral lighting brand?
H: We have completed an audit on the entire range and looked at our production techniques, what we produce our lights from, and how we transport our products. We have reduced our "miles travelled" by travelling to our UK factory to make shades. We have also eliminated air travel and only use sea freight to transport our products. We have taken high polluting materials out of the range like concrete and replaced them with better alternatives.
B: What are the main benefits of having carbon-neutral lights in their home for the end user?
H: As a country, we must commit to ambitious targets to reduce our footprint, even to come close to the Paris Climate Agreement and stop global warming. We are trying to build a company that meets the targets and helps reverse the effects of climate change. Having a Houseof light means that for 10 years, a customer can be assured any omissions are offset. We aren't perfect and have a long journey ahead of us, but we want to take steps in the right direction.