Meet the Makers: Rich Brilliant Willing
Friends and graduates of Rhode Island School of Design, Theo Richardson, Charles Brill, and Alexander Williams founded Rich Brilliant Willing in 2007, quickly gaining a reputation for simple, design-driven fixtures. The Brooklyn, New York based company’s collection has grown over the years to include minimalist staple lights to bold sculptural pieces that most definitely fall into the “art” category. Over a decade later, RBW continues to unveil lighting that’s both surprising and covetable. Here, we talk to the three about their collaboration process, design ethos and how they’ve refocused their efforts to help those on the front lines of the latest health pandemic.
Even down to the name, RBW seems to have been built with a strong collaborative spirit between the three founders. How do you work together? Do each of you bring something different to the table?
From the start, we felt it was important to focus our collaborative efforts on areas that we felt we could make the greatest contribution. We have all played a role in the design and development of our products and the momentum of that eventually afforded us the ability to specialize in those areas of expertise—Design Development for Theo, Operational excellence for Charles, and Segmented Sales strategy for Alex. This enabled us to really grow into the organization we are today.
What is the mission of RBW?
We believe in the power of light to create atmosphere. Light plays a huge role wherever it is. When it comes to hospitality, a warm, welcoming light is what sets us at ease and makes us feel at home. In the workplace, light sets the tone of an employees day, lifting moods, inspiring productivity, and motivating the best of us. At home, light enlivens the little things—our morning routines, or the moments we spend with friends. Rich Brilliant Willing believes that nothing is more important in shaping our sense of well-being than quality of light.
You are a Brooklyn-based studio. Did you choose Brooklyn or did Brooklyn choose you?
Our first studio was a basement-level lease on Chrystie Street in the East Village where visitors had to enter through the metal sidewalk cellar doors. But in 2013, we made the move to Gowanus in Brooklyn. Not only was it a new home and new room for growth, Brooklyn was inherently romantic, and the creative energy that it embodied was what attracted us to make the move. As the company has grown, it’s been important for us to continue to dial in to the creative energy Brooklyn has to offer. We’re now in Industry City which is a bustling 6-million square foot creative campus of industrial, office, and retail spaces. So in a way, it’s a little bit of both.
Any new releases you’d like to tell us about?
We’re working on a few collections with the focus of higher performance; improving efficiency and increasing sustainability are tasks that take priority, as there is always room to improve what we already have. That’s all we can tell you for now but we’re really excited to bridge the gap between performance and decorative.
And what does the future hold for RBW?
We are constantly looking to push ourselves and find problems to solve. This year we plan to put more of an emphasis on public space and how to better improve the atmosphere of these environments people spend their entire days in. Furthermore, we want to apply that ethos to our products, making them more lean and sustainable in the long-run. More recently, in response to COVID-19, we teamed up with Budmen Industries to produce 3D printed face shields for local hospitals. Together, we were able to enhance the design to reduce material by 48%, doubling production quantity capability. Anything helps!
That is encouraging to hear, we appreciate our makers who are making a difference. Thank you! Now let’s take a look at some of our favorite RBW pieces and why:
Simple yet edgy, the flush mount Crisp Wall/Ceiling Light works in just about any space as an accent light that you can mount on either the wall or ceiling. The molded glass diffuser has a ridged surface, much like that of a potato chip.
The Mori Wall Sconce – Pod (from the Mori Collection) is minimalist in design with an organic-shaped shade that covers a simple cross-wire frame and LED light source inside. A unique process creates the cocoon-like shade that gets sprayed with a matte lacquer finish. The light emitted feels warm, much like a lantern-like, ambient glow.
Like the rest of the Delta family, the Delta I Pendant Light features a shade that is reminiscent of traditional box pleating techniques. The shade’s form recalls a mix of Japanese lanterns, metal rooftop vents, turbines, and classical columns. The pendant is available in either a opaque black shade with a gold foil lining or a white shade with a translucent liner.
Mimicking branches on a tree, the Branch Triple Chandelier is made of three bent plywood “branches” covered with perforated metal shell shades that cascade from the metal structure.
Is it a piece of art or a functional object? Well, the Palindrome 4 Light LED Chandelier is both, as it’s a functioning lighting fixture, as well as a work of sculptural art. The modern chandelier is made from a steel frame that can be put together into various configurations. This fixture holds four sand-blasted glass shades that can be adjusted to your liking, much like its frame.
Have a larger space with a bigger table? You can go with the Palindrome 8 Light LED Chandelier for double the light.
Whether your style is more minimalist or you’re looking for a statement piece, you’ll definitely be able to find something by Rich Brilliant Willing that fits the bill.
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