Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Inspired by the Past: Wildwood Lamps Takes on Biltmore Estate

Tall and slender and in multiple finishes, I xoxo the antler lamp.

I fell in XOXO with Biltmore when I took the tour a few years back. So when I found out that Wildwood Lamps was creating a Biltmore Collection, I wanted to learn how Wildwood's creative director,  John Cunningham, had translated the legendary 120-year old estate into a collection of lighting and decor. He kindly took a few minutes off from High Point market showroom set up to fill me in.
John in Dongguan City, China

Q: Had you visited Biltmore prior to going there for Wildwood?

A: I grew up in Knoxville so I remember going as a child. It was a totally different experience -- a phenomenal one working with the Biltmore team.

Q: Biltmore is so extensive where do you start building a collection, mentally and physically?

A: We spent 3 full days at Biltmore, working with the curators at the Estate. We went behind the ropes and spent a lot of time in the archives. We took 300 photos of garden statuary, iron gates, balusters, doors, crown moldings etc. We looked literally everywhere, inside and out, at decorative ceiling patterns, furniture legs, and century-old wisteria vine, at the amazing copper patina gutters. We also went to the museum at Biltmore and got ideas from the Vanderbilt's travels and lifestyle. We were not permitted to reproduce anything in the house; this is a collection simply inspired by Biltmore.
Motif borrowed from a cinnabar box.

Q: Your eye must be trained to look and focus in on what texture, color, or detail is adaptable as an accessory, lamp, or piece of art, yes?

A: Yes, I see things, not always the whole piece but a part. For example my eyes went to a wreath of peonies on an angel statue and that wreath is now a decorative objet that comes in two finishes. The carving on a cinnabar box became the motif around the Edith Lamp.

Q: Favorite pieces in the collection? 

A: I love the whole collection. There are 70-80 skus including 50 lamps, decorative accessories, and artwork. People will hear "Biltmore" and think "Victorian", but nothing could be farther from the truth. Harriet Cook and I took our Biltmore inspirations and brought them into present day and made pieces that were modern and appropriate for today. We executed the Olmstead Lamp - a very natural design that can work in different environments -- in three finishes. The white-washed finish is beautiful for a beach house. Florida will love it!
Detail of Olmstead in white.

In metallic... the Olmstead lamp.

John and Harriet return to China and India in November and start working on Biltmore again!
John and Harriet perfecting a bronze finish.

Authors note: About 4 years ago, after my visit to Biltmore, I wrote a blog some of my favorite details for Bob Vila. Here it is.
One of my shots from my visit a few years back.

The Wildwood Lamps showroom is at 200 North Hamilton, High Point, NC.