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Lighting Should Be a Tactile Experience Too, Says Workstead’s Co-Founder

Words by Kate McGregor
a living room filled with furniture and a large window

Photo courtesy of Workstead

Crafting warm, glitzy interiors for the hottest new restaurants in town isn’t the only thing Workstead has time for. 

Though the recent openings of Le Rock and Jupiter in midtown NYC have surely kept their plates full, lighting is a huge component of the multi-disciplinary design firm run by Robert Highsmith, Ryan Mahoney, and Stefanie Brechbuehler. 

In 2009, the three Rhode Island School of Design Architecture graduate students banded together with the goal of making quality synonymous with style and taste. Workstead was born. 14 years later, business is thriving and split between the buildings and interiors division in Brooklyn, and the lighting studio in Hudson, New York. 

With a self-described, human-centered approach, Workstead aims for each of their endeavors to possess an empathy and functionality that stands the test of time. Robert, who heads up the lighting studio explains, “it’s the emotional relationship between a light fixture and its user that distinguishes an heirloom from a mere commodity.” The designs are rooted in longevity and quality, so they can instantly become classics in your own home.

Our Inspiration:

My eyes are always open. I constantly draw on forms found in the natural landscape, but also platonic geometry and architectural history, generally in search of forms and materials that I see as essential. Recently, we purchased an 18th-century home in New England that has brought to light the fascinating and dynamic tension that can occur between rusticity and modernity, a type of hand-made folk modernism, which is something that I am currently exploring while designing our 2023-24 collections.

The Era We Always Return To:

This is a moving target, but I’m most often inspired by the early Dutch and English houses in America. I have a deep, long-running interest in early American homes—the honesty of materials (wood, stone, plaster) and purity of architectural forms. The dialogue between elemental forms and tactile materials creates a notion of architecture-as-object, or object-as-architecture, which speaks to me deeply.

a white wall light with a beige shade on it
WorksteadBole SconceSHOP NOW
a white lamp hanging from a wooden pole
WorksteadHouse Cord PendantSHOP NOW
a table with two bowls and a lamp on it

Photo courtesy of Workstead featuring a Bole Sconce

Our Valued Philosophy:

We are dedicated to breaking new creative ground with meticulous execution. Our architects, engineers, and craftspeople are trusted collaborators, and we welcome inquiries from new clients who believe that a project may also be a contribution to culture.

a chandelier with five lights hanging from the ceiling
WorksteadIndustrial ChandelierSHOP NOW
a wooden toy with white balls on it
WorksteadHeiroglyph SconceSHOP NOW
a dining room table with chairs and a lamp

Photo courtesy of Workstead featuring House Cord Pendant

Our Biggest “Pinch Me” Moment:

I think some of my proudest moments for our brand have actually been the quiet moments where we’ve connected with our clients in a meaningful way—knowing that we’ve made an imprint on their lifestyle, or enriched their lives. Our most recent public accomplishment was definitely the publishing of our first book, with RIZZOLI, entitled WORKSTEAD : Interiors of Beauty and Necessity.

Our Hero Products:

Our Lodge Collection offers a wide range of fixture types, all incorporating tactile applications of oak and ash hardwoods. The chandeliers in this collection explore the concept of structure and network, featuring turned wooden forms offset against delicate frameworks of metal tubing. A cousin to this collection, our Hieroglyph Sconce and Pendant, makes a striking luminous statement, referencing essential abstract forms of the De Stijl movement, as well as the figurative language from which it takes its name.

a wooden chandelier hanging from a ceiling
WorksteadLodge Chandelier VSHOP NOW
a wooden door handle with a white background
WorksteadLodge Linear SconceSHOP NOW
a lamp that is sitting on a table
a white lamp sitting on top of a table next to a painting

Photo courtesy of Workstead featuring a House Sconce

Photo courtesy of Workstead featuring a House Sconce

Why We Partnered With the Expert:

Workstead’s lighting is sourced by direct consumers and interior designers worldwide. We appreciate and value The Expert’s ability to connect top design talent with seekers of home renovation and sourcing inspiration. Our lighting works for projects of all kinds and we are excited for The Expert’s Showroom to usher in engagement with a new network of future Workstead brand enthusiasts. Showroom and The Expert are making design and design knowledge more broadly accessible, and we value and appreciate the opportunity to expand our base.

What’s Next:

We are uniquely positioned as a multi-disciplinary studio, designing every detail of our residential, hospitality, and commercial projects, as well as our product collections. For our products division, we are focused on the lighting category in the near term as a means to share the design language of our studio with other designers and the public at-large. We currently have a wide range of new product launches planned for 2023 and beyond, are working on our second monograph with RIZZOLI, and are in the design phase of numerous private residential and hospitality projects. Stay tuned for new fixture types that feature woven materials and sculptural glass elements, as well as additions to existing collections.

a white lamp hanging from a white wall
WorksteadShaded BlockSHOP NOW
a wall light with a white shade on it
WorksteadHouse SconceSHOP NOW
a white cabinet with a plant in it

Photo courtesy of Workstead featuring a House Sconce

Shop Workstead now on Showroom.