Lighting 85 Candles for Boyd
Staff -- Interior Design, 8/1/2006 12:00:00 AM
According to Nobel Prize–winning novelist Günter Grass, recollecting means selecting. We asked Boyd Lighting president Jay Sweet to do some selective recollecting about his family-owned company—which marked its 85th birthday at this year's NeoCon.
How does it feel to be 85?
Great. We keep our company young by seeking up-and-coming designers and using unusual materials, like rock crystal and mica. This year, we'll launch about 35 products, our largest release ever. We've got the staying power of the Rolling Stones—only we're aging better.
How has Boyd evolved?
Originally, Boyd was traditional, providing custom Louis XV crystal chandeliers and gasolier fixtures to the architecture and interior design communities. Then, in 1975, we ran our first catalog, Boyd Design Lamps, filled with modern styles. In 2001, we introduced Kentfield, a collection that marries luxurious materials with artistry, as seen in Elisa Bentivoglio and Cary Heefner's Farinelli chandelier, with its airy spheres of woven polished nickel.
We're excited to see an expansion in our designer base, too. Boyd has featured more female designers than any other lighting company—Barbara Barry, Clodagh, and Laura Kirar, to name a few. And that's quite appropriate for a company now headed by a woman: my mother, Dorothy Boyd Sweet.
How has technological progress changed product development over the years?
Boyd is still a made-to-order lighting designer and manufacturer, with fabrication, assembly, and packaging all done by hand. But we've benefited tremendously from CAD and computer-aided manufacturing, which allow us to develop products more quickly and accurately while still hand-finishing almost everything. And we're constantly researching LEDs, other energy-efficient lamping, and environmentally friendly materials and processes.
Tell us about the designs from past decades.
The 1920's were marked by traditional chandeliers and sconces. By the '30's, though, the art deco influence could been seen in our City of Paris torchère. During World War II, we actually made hospital stretchers. Afterward, we did ornate birdcages as well as many custom products for churches and temples. As my mom said, "After the war, everyone found religion."
In the '70's, we introduced the catalog line and rolled out items like the Shell lamp, the first of its kind. We sold more than 5,000 of those in the first five years. Jack Mitchell's Spectro, which was introduced quietly in 1979, has proven to be a design with legs. It's still popular after nearly 30 years.
So is the Pfister wall bracket, which Charles Pfister sketched on a napkin for my father, Jack Sweet, in 1983. The '90's were defined by our collaboration with Barbara Barry. Her Pacific Heights table lamp continues to be a strong-selling signature piece, and it showcases her style—a perfect match for our craftsmanship.
Do any of yesteryear's designs influence today's line?
Yes. A wonderful example is our Cascade series by Todd Rugee. In our archives, Todd found a similar 1964 fixture—which San Francisco architect Mario Gaidano and my father had designed for the Fairmont Dallas hotel—and reinvented it. His adaptation really changed the way our industry works with crystal.
Have there been designs you wished were better understood?
Yes. Among the discontinued ones, the ones that have experienced Sales Darwinism, I was particularly fond of Doyle Crosby's Trigon series. Doyle is our current director of design. He's had many successes—he's responsible for probably 40 percent of our line. But Trigon was maybe too ahead of its time.
Which talents in lighting do you admire most?
In terms of a designer and manufacturer, Cedric Hartman for his precision engineering and polishing. Not to mention that Barovier & Toso and Seguso Gianni, both in Venice, have created new and beautiful objects, including glass lighting, for almost 500 years.
Any plans for a special 85th-anniversary design?
No. Maybe for our 100th.
944 Folsom Street, San Francisco, CA 94107; 415-778-4300; boydlighting.com. circle 303