Dernier & Hamlyn has been a major player in the decorative lighting industry since the company was founded by Louis Dernier in 1888, starting in a modest way by importing fine silks from France and China to make high quality hand decorated lampshades. Hospitality Interiors’ John Legg paid the company a visit to find out more.
As business grew, vases and figurines were bought in to make up complete lamps and expand the range. In 1912 an association that was to last for many years was forged with another small manufacturer, Kerswell Faulkner & Hamlyn and a subsidiary company, Hunter Electric Candle Lamp Company was set up to make shade carriers and to retail domestic electrical appliances.
By 1913 customers included Liberty and Maples and the company’s catalogue had 120 pages illustrating more than 700 different lampshades and fittings, which was remarkable for the time. When the war broke out the following year demand for light fittings fell dramatically and all but one of the partners in the company, Mr Hamlyn, left. However, during the war, David Lloyd-George’s Government placed orders with small companies across the UK to utilise their skills in news ways. In the case of Dernier & Hamlyn, their expertise was put to good use in the manufacture of aircraft parts.
“Dernier & Hamlyn’s doors are often opened to some of the UK’s leading designers from the luxury hospitality world who, it seems, are attracted by its unique mix of skills and expertise, passion and heritage”
Following the end of the war demand for light fittings continued to decline, a situation that was to continue until around 1922. Although changes still happened during this lean period and in 1919 Louis Dernier was formally merged with Kerswell Faulkner & Hamlyn to form Louis Dernier & Hamlyn Ltd. Its directors at the time were William Last, Ernest Durand and Sidney Hamlyn. The company continued to grow throughout the 1920s and changed its name to Dernier & Hamlyn in 1931.
In 1988 the company was acquired by the Denman’s Group, who moved the factory to South Bank Business Centre in the early nineties. There it remained until the present managers were given the opportunity of a management buyout in 2000. In the same year Dernier & Hamlyn was awarded the Royal Warrant for work to Her Majesty The Queen, which it still holds with pride. In 2001 the factory was moved to Croydon where it remains. And it is now one of the few UK companies actually producing chandeliers, wall lights, lanterns, table lamps and other unique lighting products in its own premises.
The company is run by joint managing directors Jeremy Quantrill and Brian Spiking who have been at Dernier and Hamlyn working on bespoke chandeliers and other lighting for a total of more than 66 years. These impressive tenures are by no means unique though. Several of the skilled craftsmen on the factory floor having been with them for over a quarter of a century. There are many reasons that they stay including the fact that most days they are involved in unique lighting that will be installed in iconic buildings around the world.
Installation manager Brian Field has been producing bespoke lighting for D&H clients for more than 30 years. He says: “I’m proud of what I do and I’m fortunate that my work has taken me around the world to places including New York, Moscow, The Philippines, Singapore and Tokyo.”
The vast majority of the projects that Dernier & Hamlyn undertakes are with interior designers. Indeed, their doors are often opened to some of the UK’s leading designers from the luxury hospitality world who, it seems, are attracted by its unique mix of skills and expertise, passion and heritage.
1508 London is an example of a leading design studio that calls on Dernier & Hamlyn again and again. Their creative director and partner Louise Wicksteed says: “We like working with Dernier & Hamlyn because of the quality and service they offer. Their workmanship is second to none and their team really understands what we need. We work closely with their experienced designers and skilled craftsmen to create beautiful bespoke lighting that is always on brief, on time and on budget.”
“Whenever we want the best quality bespoke lighting for high end hospitality and residential clients Dernier & Hamlyn is the natural choice” Martin Brudnizki Design Studio
While other designers repeatedly call on D&H throughout their careers. Dennis Irvine, owner of leisure and hospitality design specialists, Dennis Irvine Design, was previously a director at Fox Linton Associates. He commissioned Dernier & Hamlyn on many occasions during his 16 years at Fox Linton including lighting across all public areas and bedrooms at the beautiful Art Deco five star hotel, The Wellesley on Hyde Park.
Now, his current team often chooses Dernier & Hamlyn for bespoke lighting for its prestigious hotel projects, with one of the latest being in the Caribbean. He says: “We have worked with Dernier & Hamlyn on a number of luxury hospitality and residential projects in the UK and internationally. The combination of their knowledge, attention to detail and solutions-driven approach means that they are always able to achieve our design concepts within the budget available.”
While designers like Louise and Dennis have firm ideas about what they are looking to achieve by the time they get to Croydon, others are not sure at all. In cases like this D&H’s design team listens to what they have to say so that they can get under the skin of the project, and then use their skill and experience to create designs, schemes and solutions that meet every aesthetic, technical and cost requirement.
“There are production techniques that go on day in, day out in our factory that are virtually impossible, to find anywhere else in the UK”
Producing bespoke lighting relies on a whole host of skills. Some have changed little since the company was established and some have been introduced very recently. Take design proposals and sample making. Back in the early days, design ideas would be presented using hand-painted watercolours, which can still be seen in the extensive lighting archive. They are beautiful, but took hours to produce and had to be recreated from scratch if clients wanted changes made before the lighting was produced.
Some design work is still produced by hand using 20th century drafting skills. However, CAD is more commonly used these days both to produce technical drawings and render images for a more realistic illustration of what will be manufactured.
Production of prototypes is changing too. The traditional method has been to produce wooden samples and cast them in brass. This is not only expensive but is also time consuming, which is at odds with the tight timescales and cost restrictions that designers are increasingly working under. The advent of affordable 3D printing has changed much of what D&H does in this area. Now a CAD drawing can be used to produce 3D replicas of what metal finials and other design details will look like at a fraction of the time and cost, benefiting D&H and its clients.
Managing director Brian Spiking, who oversees the factory and leads on the technical side of the business, says: “There are production techniques that go on day in, day out in our factory that are virtually impossible, to find anywhere else in the UK. Take antique finishing. It’s something that our clients often ask for, but it takes years of practice to be able to identify the appropriate mix of dips, hand-finishing and acids required for the desired results. I can’t see something like this ever becoming an automated process, it will always need the combination of man and chemistry to get it right.”
When The Ivy re-opened its doors after extensive refurbishment. The interiors by Martin Brudnizki Design Studio (MBDS) achieved numerous accolades. They were designed to retain elements of the previous colour palette, but with contemporary additions. The much-loved features including the wood panelling, harlequin stained glass windows and work by British artists remain and were incorporated into the new design to establish the restaurant firmly in the 21st century.
A particularly noteworthy aspect of the new design, and one that the media frequently highlighted, is the restaurant’s fantastic central dining bar. The stone topped bar boasts beautiful lamps made by the Dernier & Hamlyn team in its London factory working closely with MBDS.
The brief was to achieve a luxurious appearance and decorative feature combined with subtle lighting. The lamp bases were cast in solid brass using hand-crafted wooden moulds and the glass shades were hand cut to accomplish the desired faceted look and their internal facings sandblasted to provide a soft spread of light.
Jeremy Quantrill says: “These bar lamps look fantastic in The Ivy. Our team’s attention to detail throughout the project has enabled us to help MBDS create such a beautiful space.”
Nicholas Jeanes, director at Martin Brudnizki Design Studio says: “Whenever we want the best quality bespoke lighting for high end hospitality and residential clients Dernier & Hamlyn is the natural choice. Their reputation is second to none and it is why we call on them again and again for some of our most prestigious projects.”
Founded by Charles Dickens in 1863, The Arts Club moved to its present location in the heart of Mayfair in 1896. Its central purpose has always been to facilitate social intercourse between people interested in art literature or science.
“The bespoke lighting specialist’s team was also commissioned to handcraft table lamps, bar lamps and floor lamps, all of which were hand bronzed and included the same high quality design, manufacture and finishing”
Above the Club is one of London’s finest luxury boutique hotels offering a discreet escape via its 16 elegant rooms and suites. The hotel opened in October 2015 and offers Club members and their guests the ultimate luxury experience where every detail has been carefully considered.
To meet these exacting demands, Dernier & Hamlyn was asked to produce lighting for the bathrooms that met somewhat competing needs. It had to be subtle and complement the Art Deco styling, while achieving technical requirements and also satisfying budgetary constraints.
Working closely with the hotel’s design team and interior fit-out specialists, Becks, Dernier & Hamlyn produced cornice lighting with a hand-cast bronze frame that looks delicate but is actually sufficiently robust to provide the required strength to uphold the concave opal shade diffusers producing illumination that is both effective and restrained.
The Arts Club’s executive director Alice Chadwyck-Healey says: “Our aim with our new hotel was to provide a haven of for guests to relax in a high-quality, glamorous and discreet suite in central London. The lighting is key to realising the appropriate ambience and we are delighted with this unique solution produced by Dernier & Hamlyn.”
As part of the extensive refurbishment of the Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire, Scotland, Dernier & Hamlyn has manufactured bespoke lighting for the main bar, which re-launched in May and is the central focus for the hotel’s public areas.
Realising the David Collins Studio design, Dernier & Hamlyn produced stunning octagonal feature pendants that were formed and finished by hand in its London factory. They incorporate LED technology and have also been configured to discreetly accommodate emergency lighting without detracting from the visual effect and maintaining an incandescent lighting effect. Each of the pendants features 24 opaque panes through which the light is subtly diffused.
The bespoke lighting specialist’s team was also commissioned to handcraft table lamps, bar lamps and floor lamps, all of which were hand bronzed and included the same high quality design, manufacture and finishing.
Jeremy Quantrill says: “Our team has really enjoyed being involved in this project for such a beautiful venue with an illustrious past and exciting future. It has had testing elements such as settling on materials that achieved the right aesthetic feel while satisfying strict weight restrictions. However, it’s these sorts of challenges that our team relishes and ultimately we have stunning, statement fittings that we are sure will enhance the guest experience in the bar.”