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Adding a Modern Twist

Adding a Modern Twist to a Historic Building in Northern Ireland

The challenge was to create a lighting centrepiece for the £3.5m refurbishment of a historic building in Northern Ireland.


The Custom House, was built in 1874 to collect tax from ships arriving at the port of Londonderry.

It survived a number of bombings during the height of “The Troubles” in the 1970s and when refurbishments began in March 2010, it was little more than a shell. Plans had been drawn up for an elegant restaurant and wine bar, and it needed an imposing light feature that would dominate the entire height of the four-storey entrance hall.

Interior designer Audrey Gaffney, from Be Design, turned to lighting specialists Inspired By Design because she needed a bespoke solution, she needed it quickly, and she needed it within budget. She approached them with outline plans for a pendant chandelier that would cascade down in four tiers, to match the balustrades of the imposing new staircase. That was in August 2010 and the restaurant was planning to open in time for Christmas, so there wasn’t much of a lead-in time. And because of the building’s history it had been “listed” to prevent developers altering its character. Inspired By Design, based in Manchester, England, represents lighting manufacturers worldwide and was able to quickly select and finalise the right design from its
huge portfolio.

The 7.5 metre high chandelier was made to their specifications in Italy, from tens of thousands of octagon-shaped glass crystals, hooked together by hand. The whole painstaking job took four weeks. The parts were then palletised and sent by road and ferry to Northern Ireland. Local workmen were contracted to strengthen the ceiling, so it would take the 150kg weight, and they pieced it together over three days. Inspired By Design also provided smaller custom-made pendants in a copper finish to hang in the bar and restaurant areas.

The chandelier itself was illuminated by 30 colour-changing LEDs. “It was a complex job to fit, but we overcame the problems and the end result was breathtaking,” said Simon Shuck, managing director of Inspired By Design. “We were able to provide bespoke solution both in the design and manufacture, and ensure we met the budget. And we gave it the personal touch. We project-managed it personally from start to finish.

That means making sure any problems are ironed out, at whatever stage in the process. “So our clients know that they’ll find what they’re looking for. And if what they’re after isn’t available off the shelf, then we can create a bespoke solution for them. Not only that, but we’ll do it on budget and we’ll do it quickly. “We provided a number of bespoke light shades for an hotel that was opening in Abu Dhabi. They were in a desperate rush after they’d been let down. Design discussions were completed on the Monday, we got the shades manufactured and they were despatched by air on the Friday. That gives you some idea of how we can speed things along. “Part of our project management includes visiting the site where the lights are to be installed and visiting the factory during manufacture to oversee the work. We also make sure that when goods arrive they are ready for installation. And we have the experience of having worked with hundreds of designers and architects. “We’re based in England, but a good proportion of our work is overseas.

We’ve done work for hotels in Saudi Arabia, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, private residences in the USA, India
and Tanzania as well as private yachts and a casino in Michigan.”

Custom House

Location
Derry, Northern Ireland

Year
2011