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The Francesco Series
Designer Thomas O’Brien forges the familiar into something modern and new.
Synonymous with American-modern and antique-inspired designs, Thomas O’Brien’s design process requires persistence to focus on the essential details until it feels right. Through this persistence, O’Brien has elevated lighting design standards. To see his lighting designs fully realized, O’Brien partnered with Visual Comfort. “Visual Comfort lets me discover the right way to make each light, says O’Brien. “I really believe that Visual Comfort makes a truly unique product. And my job is to design and imagine new and unique things that support their innovation”

The Francesco family of lights is a testament to O’Brien’s ongoing commitment to innovative designs and impactful style. This sculptural series reveals a distinct passion for the honest character found within iron and showcases traces of how the material is hand-forged into shape, lending texture and interest to its natural surface. This age-old technique gives the overall design a unique, modern yet antique quality leading O’Brien on the path to create a visual experience that feels as if it could be from the past or from the future. In his own words, “I want this group to feel like it’s always been there. I love that it has integrity and feels like it has a history to it, that they feel of this era and potentially another era because its essence is coming from a place that has reference.”
Watch our video with designer Thomas O’Brien as he takes us on a journey behind the design of his Francesco family of lights through materials, inspiration, design, and craftsmanship.
The Appeal of Francesco
Aside from Francesco’s dark tones, historical materials, and rich textures, the stand-out element of its design is the offset base of the lamps and the smooth angles throughout the series. The chandelier, in particular, is constructed using two asymmetrical halves that, when put together, create a surprisingly symmetrical shape. According to O’Brien, this innovative pairing is sometimes how an original light can become something else. “A slim, simple modernist lamp and hammered, fine wrought iron turns into this idea of a chandelier whose tapering form lends a beautiful softness to it as much as something crisp, graphic, and bold.”

Adding intrigue to the design is the unseen wiring cleverly encased within every piece. “Each individual element is forged by hand and carefully joined with other components,” states O’Brien. “The wiring is smartly concealed inside grooves in the metal for a clean look. Table and floor lamps have matching blackened steel mesh diffusers.” It’s quite ingenious. Channels down the back of the stems and armatures are manipulated from the bar stock using a new way to electrify their shapes to hide the wiring. This technique allows the silhouette to continue carving through the space uninterrupted.

Topping off the rustic and angled elements within this series are the oval shades, a shape O’Brien is drawn towards, and in actuality, this aspect of the series’ look was one of the first points of inspiration. “I love ovals and look at ovals everywhere—in furniture and everything. That was sort of the first step in all of this - the oval form of the shade and the fact that there is no center to the lamp. There is no center to the chandelier either, really. It’s something that’s surprising. It’s unique. It’s very sculptural.”

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