IN THE LIMELIGHT
Renowned designer and producer of contemporary lighting for high-end domestic and hospitality markets, Astro Lighting invited Features Editor Sophie Harper to take a tour of the company’s headquarters with Co-Founder, James Bassant.
Founders John Fearon and James Bassant came together in 1997 with an idea of creating a lighting company using their experience and expertise; “I’m a lighting nerd!” Says James by way of explanation during my tour of Astro HQ in Harlow. From humble beginnings with just the two of them exchanging ideas around a kitchen table, a partnership of commercial acumen and eye for design was formed and so Astro Lighting was founded officially in 1997. Today, they employ around 160 people, 85 of whom work in the spectacular space that was built to accommodate the growing company just two years ago – a testament to Astro’s continuing success.
With a shared commitment to British lighting design and a passion for quality and precision, the brand’s creative ethos has remained consistent throughout – that good design demands simplicity, which is exactly what Astro products are known for. “Minimalist design is one of the most complicated concepts to master,” says James as he shows me prototypes in various forms on the design table that takes pride of place among the various departments on the first floor.
“We take a collaborative approach with the team and the factories that produce Astro products,” he adds, explaining that everyone from the sales team to customer service staff and, of course, the design team have a large input when considering the design of different products. “We keep a commercial rationality when designing products and work that into good design. There’s that sweet spot where both come together,” he says, smiling.
I’m shown examples of the design process in each department as we walk through the building, stopping to look at 3D printing machines producing all manner of different lighting components. Every detail is thought through here and tested rigorously before being rolled out to factories to make up the finished products. “We have an acute focus on the finer details. It’s important to us, because we’re proud of what we do,” James tells me.
We look at quality testing areas and the huge warehouse space during our walk around, we even take a peek at the photography studio and a space storing various packaging solutions – of which are also designed here by Astro’s in-house cardboard engineer, making sure any need for single-use plastic is eliminated wherever possible. We round off the tour in the showroom, where some of Astro’s latest products illuminate the space in the most ambient fashion. “We take artificial light for granted,” James states, “if you look around, it’s everywhere. We take that tool and make it as attractive as possible.” A point that’s proven as we walk between displays of various Astro collections.
Senior Designer Riley Sanders shows me the Telegraph range – he beams proudly whilst doing so. Riley joined Astro about 18 months ago, his first design was this range, which will be launching at Euroluce in Milan in April. The Telegraph collection began as a table lamp and floor lamp and now includes a full range. It took around a year from initial concept to bring the product to fruition. The design is reminiscent of mid-century design, it’s robust for the hospitality market but elegant and timeless in appearance.
It’s evident that both James and Riley are hopelessly enthused by what they do (lighting nerds for certain!). They explain their constant joy in discovering new technology, manufacturing processes, and generating new ideas, “it’s the best part of my job,” says Riley, and describes how inspiration often strikes at the unlikeliest moments, but it’s fittingly what James says to me at the end of our tour that really sums up what he and the rest of the team at Astro are about: “I love the feeling of having created a product that someone else gets excited about. Having that is commendation enough for me.” And with their products being sold in over 90 countries, it’s clear there are a lot of people in the world getting excited about Astro lights – no wonder they’re so happy!
The Astro Lighting team will be at Euroluce from 9th-14th April 2019 on stand G22/26 in Hall 13, where you’ll be able to take a look at the new Telegraph range. Keep an eye out for more Astro products being unveiled later this year.