The 100-year-old industrial building in Long Island City that’s now home to lighting studio Bone Simple Design has a serendipitous pedigree. It was formerly the place where luxury fabric house Scalamandré dyed its textiles. “It’s bizarre but amazing that we’re doing the same thing in the space today,” says Chad Jacobs, Bone Simple’s founder and designer.
Dip-dyeing and painting large rope pendants and using shibori-inspired methods to spice up plain linen shades is a fairly new venture for Jacobs, who began producing his line of custom lighting in 1993. This winter, before shutting down work for a month due to COVID-19, he completed 15 five-foot-tall string fixtures for a hotel in the Bahamas by MR Architecture. The cord was plunged into a vat of golden yellow dye before completion. “For me, lighting is obviously about light, but it’s also about texture,” says Jacobs. “I’m not a big fan of the bare bulb look.” Ahead, the designer gives us a peek behind the scenes and reveals how he’s been making a splash this year with color.
In the 5,000-square-foot, first-floor space, Jacobs is joined by seven employees, most of whom come from art backgrounds. Together they work on everything by hand, with the exception of the metal plating and powder-coated frames. When Jacobs originally moved into the studio, he specified to the building where to place the junction boxes so he could suspend the fixtures all over the place. Most are operable so that the team has a bright spot to work; others, like the massive hanging white cage pendant lamp (pictured above), are on display for visiting clients.
In this scenario, the dramatic piece hangs extra low to the ground so you can really get a sense of its impressive dome shape. But in reality Jacobs suggests leaving 30 to 36 inches of space between the rim and a tabletop. Another hot tip from the pro: Round out your lighting arrangement with wall sconces and floor and table lamps, as well as ceiling fixtures. “Every day is different,” says Jacobs. “This way you can control the level of light in your space.”
Jacobs’s mood board is clad in posters from art shows, sketches by friends, and photos of design greats, including a black and white image of Ruth Asawa posing with her wire sculptures. “She’s a big inspiration,” says Jacobs. Also in the mix is a necklace from a South African artist featuring a punchy combination of cobalt blue, violet, orange, and green cord—a piece that’s been fueling the designer’s bright palette and experimental nature of late.
How His Wonderland Works
For the most color options, Jacobs relies on commercial-grade Rit Dyes, which can be used on everything from cotton and wool to synthetics like nylon and rayon. You can even mix colors together to make your own custom hue (the liquids are best blended in a sink or bucket). You can test as you go by dipping a paper towel into the dye bath. If it’s too light, add more dye. If it’s too dark, add more water.
With paint, the possibilities for lighting are truly endless, says Jacobs, who often gets requests from designers and clients about matching a fixture to a specific wall color. When his team paints their rope and string pieces, they use wide, flat brushes so they can get quick coverage—inside and out.
Linen shades are your best friends when it comes to dyeing (the natural fiber absorbs the tint extremely well). “We’ve never tried silk, but I understand it also works easily,” he says.
Out of sheer desire to not waste any dye, one day Jacobs began rolling and folding the excess liquid into linen fabric. The process is loosely based on old Japanese shibori methods, except Jacobs simplifies the number of creases and even allows the dye to bleed, often yielding several colors in the process. “We put our own modern spin on them,” he says. “Sometimes those experiments are not so great; other times they’re happy accidents.” Go ahead, give it a whirl yourself or shop one of Bone Simple’s bold picks below.
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