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Behind the Design: Martyn Lawrence Bullard

Bough Double by Stickbulb

A Q&A with Stickbulb

From their studio-showroom in New York City, Stickbulb is hard at work "making the most
with the least." Learn more about this innovative line's sustainability mission.

"Making the most with the least"—it sounds like a Great Depression-era maxim, but it resonates today in a world that looks increasingly toward conservation and sustainability. And it's the ethos behind Stickbulb, founded in 2012 by RUX design studio founder Russel Greenberg and managing partner Christopher Beardsley.

The two were Yale-educated architects entertaining a dream to build with light. With the Stickbulb line they're all but living that dream every day, finding new ways to make more with less; to add to the landscape of design without taking away from the landscape outside their door. The studio originally set out to manufacture only what they could within 5 miles of their New York City office; and it also had to be affordable. Today, their reach is a bit broader, having moved fabrication and a showroom into a repurposed old factory in western Queens. The team is still tight, though, and the workplace functions collaboratively. And the old dedication to the original idea remains: building with light, using sustainable materials and deceptively simple designs.

The original Stickbulb mission, which persists today, was to create a modular system that functions as both innovation upon and homage for its materials. First inspired by a pile of scrap wood, Stickbulb's founders set out to see what they could do with the wood nobody else seemed to want. Stickbulb has a unique perspective on waste, using reclaimed redwood from dismantled 19th-century water towers, heart pine rescued from demolished buildings in and around New York City and even old boardwalk planks from Atlantic City to create some of their ambitious installations. And there are no veneers, here—the studio uses solid wood beams from fallen trees and sustainably forested walnut, oak and maple from nearby regional forests.

Components in Stickbulb's New York City workshop.

Components in Stickbulb's New York City workshop.

The components of each light fixture are simple: wood and metal, with LED diffusers inlaid into the wood beams to provide the illumination. Each beam fits into a metal connector piece, allowing them to be customized and scaled in almost infinite arrangements. They're also easy to disassemble for cleaning or repurposing. The designs are decidedly modern and geometrically inspired, but with a warmth imparted by the naturally finished woods that transcends a purely avant-garde aesthetic.

The brand has been lauded at ICFF, nominated for the NYCX Design Awards and World Architecture Award and won the Red Dot Lighting Design Award in 2018 for its Boom collection. In 2019 Stickbulb was one of just two companies chosen to represent the United States at the XXII Triennale di Milano exhibition, showcasing leaders in the design world's efforts to combat the global environmental crises.

We caught up with Stickbulb to find out more:

Tell us—how did Stickbulb come to be?

Founders Greenberg and Beardsley were inspired to start Stickbulb while designing a house in Miami. Surrounded by piles of long linear wooden off-cuts in their workshop, the two became obsessed with finding creative ways to use, preserve and elevate reclaimed wood. The result was a modular system of sleek, wooden, beams inlaid with LED lights that are designed to interchangeably fit within various steel hardware connectors without tools. To this day Stickbulb is made from wood reclaimed from demolished buildings, dismantled water towers, fallen trees and sustainably managed forests.

Stickbulb founders Russel Greenberg and Christopher Beardsley.

Stickbulb founders Russel Greenberg and Christopher Beardsley.

What's the one design you are most proud of and why?

The Sky Bang chandelier. It embodies the playful modular spirit of Stickbulb and has grown to become one of our most iconic designs. The Sky Bang collection is composed of 6 linear wooden bulbs that friction-fit into a central welded steel knuckle. The same central hardware piece accepts different length bulbs to create different sized chandeliers, as well as our portable Bang collection. The versatility of the design makes it possible to create larger assemblages of Sky Bang fixtures by interconnecting the sticks, which we did in collaboration with Rene Gonzales in a beautiful restaurant called Plant in Miami's design district. Like most Stickbulb fixtures, Sky Bang chandeliers are shipped flat-packed which saves on shipping cost and lessens our carbon footprint, a major priority for our studio.

Custom Stickbulb Sky Bang installation in collaboration with Architect, Rene Gonzalez.

Custom Stickbulb Sky Bang installation in collaboration with Architect, Rene Gonzalez.

Ethical, responsible practices are an important philosophy for the brand. Why is that?

We are ethical and responsible people, and that makes us ethical and responsible designers. It is less a philosophy and more an act of common sense for us to prioritize the health and wellness of our team, our community and our world. Whereas we have relied on our intuition to drive our sustainable mission in the past, we are now taking a data-driven approach to managing our carbon footprint. We are in the process of analyzing the energy and resource consumption of our entire operation so that we can quantifiably reduce our negative and increase our positive impacts.

Stickbulb's five material options: maple, walnut, reclaimed heart pine, ebonized oak and reclaimed water tower redwood.

Stickbulb's five material options: maple, walnut, reclaimed heart pine, ebonized oak and reclaimed water tower redwood.

What's next for Stickbulb?

We are planning for an exciting Act II. Something unexpected. But it is too soon to share. Our studio in NYC is one 10,000 square-foot space separated by drapes. One half is a showroom. The other half is a design lab and fabrication space. If you visit you might get a peek of what we are tinkering with through the curtains.

Stickbulb's design team in their New York City studio.

Stickbulb's design team in their New York City studio.