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Celebrating 50 Years of Lighting Innovation: Hubbardton Forge

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Hubbardton Forge has been at the forefront when it comes to showcasing successful domestic lighting manufacture.

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Hubbardton Forge celebrates 50 years of decorative lighting innovation this year. Founded in a Hubbardton barn in 1974 by two University of Vermont graduates, George Chandler and Reed Hampton, the company has prided itself on design innovation and its Castleton, VT-based forge. The company’s domestic home base allows a level of responsiveness to customers that might not otherwise be available, along with unparalleled customization capabilities and a story the company is proud to share across the home furnishings industry.

For the past 50 years, Hubbardton Forge has been at the forefront when it comes to showcasing successful domestic lighting manufacture —  partnering with sustainable and local companies and being a good citizen within its community while thriving in the decorative lighting industry.

Domestic manufacturing has given Hubbardton Forge another advantage too — the ability to deliver a remarkably creative assortment of light fixtures and accessories that continue to set the bar in lighting design.


Inspiration Abounds

While creative design and technical innovation have been the benchmarks for Hubbardton Forge artisans for decades, the company’s evolution has been accelerated during the last five years, according to David Kitts, VP of Design and Product Strategy for the company. Kitts credits technology, new materials and a broadening aesthetic as some of the elements that have afforded Hubbardton artisans the ability to break the mold and bring a unique and diverse aesthetic forward in the home furnishings realm.

“The design team is always experimenting with metals, glass, LEDs and other materials to find new and creative forms,” Kitts says. “We’re regularly discussing gaps in the market, gaps in our offerings and opportunities for new product with Maria Mullen (CEO) and Andrew Knapp (VP of Sales).” With domestic production, it can take a mere six months to go from concept to product that is ready to ship. In addition to light fixtures, Hubbardton Forge recently introduced accent tables and expanded its lamp collection.

Inspiration comes from everywhere, Kitts continues, suggesting that nature, materials and customer requests all lead to inspiration for new designs. “Living in the Green Mountains of Vermont, we are surrounded by nature, and it’s hard not to be inspired and want to share a beautiful natural element by representing it in forged steel and light and making it available to our customers,” he shares.

Locally sourced materials, too, have dramatically impacted Hubbardton’s ability to grow and innovate, Kitts continues. “Whether it’s LED, leather, glass or slate, we treat all of our suppliers as partners and extensions of our own research and development abilities,” he says.


Technology & Design

The shift from incandescent to LED light sources, in particular, adds Kitts, is likely one of the biggest changes lighting manufacture has encountered, impacting design and light distribution. “LEDs have obviously changed a lot of what we can do now, particularly as regards distributing light in a very different way,” he says. “Our Zephyr pendant, for example, has the light source mimicking the steel in a very sculptural manner that could never have been achieved before LED.”

LEDs have also challenged Hubbardton Forge artisans to balance the potential harsher LED light source with a softer, warmer design, Kitts continues. “What hasn’t changed over the years, however, is our commitment to clean, sculptural classic designs — designs that show off our craftsmanship and innovation while withstanding the test of time.”


An American Classic 

While innovation and newness fuels the creative engine that is Hubbardton Forge, there are attributes that anchor the company and have become iconic, Kitts says. “Elements such as the abstract bark-like hammered texturing we do on our Brindille fixtures and LED platforms on pieces such as the Cityscape, Ardesia and our new Volterra pieces are examples of that.”

Classics are essential to a company that has flourished for 50 years, but possibly even more integral to Hubbardton Forge’s success is its foundation. “The Forge itself has not changed much over the years, except in size,” Kitts says. “As a result, we still hand-forge and sculpt steel as we did with earlier designs. You’ll see tapers and texturing throughout new and old designs. These botanical elements may be more abstract than they were years ago, but the craftsmanship has not changed.”

As such, that craftsmanship, along with the reliable customer service and creativity that have served Hubbardton Forge for the past five decades has the company positioned to continue to innovate ahead of the pack in the decades to come as well. 

The Industry Voices blog captures the thoughts, insights and challenges of the lighting and home decor industry from those who know it best. We want to hear from showroom managers, interior designers, trend forecasters, manufacturers and other professionals who have a unique take on the industry.

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