As Varaluz proudly celebrates their 10 Year Anniversary in October 2016, we had the opportunity to catch up with founder, owner, president, and lead designer Ron Henderson. With a background in aeronautical engineering, a chance encounter at an airport led Ron to find his passion in lighting, but that’s only the beginning of his story…
Q. The Varaluz “voice” tends to be witty, sarcastic, and sometimes dry. Is this a direct reflection of your persona?
Ron Henderson (RH). Clearly, lol. Dry wit and sarcasm can be easily traced genetically back to my grandfather at least. That man could deliver a joke in a monotone like nobody’s business – and rake in the laughs. I balance that out with an unnatural love of bad puns. The louder the groan, the better the pun. Now that I think about it, this dichotomy in forms of humor probably reinforces my desire to mix design ideas and forms that at first to do not seem complementary.
Q. Varaluz utilizes a number of unique materials in your products. When you begin a design brief, does the material influence the form or vice versa?
RH. Each design sort of has its own story. It starts from an idea or marriage of ideas that then go through a process of play. And I really do mean play. Some people probably just ask questions and discuss what might happen in the design process. We go out and play – we literally try it by making it (or by trying to make it) to see what would happen. Obviously there are a great many more “bad” results than good. But the sense of play makes it worthwhile. More specifically to your question, I am often changing up materials to something we have on hand or something I have come across in life. There isn’t much sense or joy in remaking something that already exists or previously existed. But if you take a popular look or form like an empire crystal chandelier and then make it out of beech wood panels you end up with something unexpected, modern feeling, and smile-inducing, to me and hopefully lots of other folks. You “may” see that exact fixture in a few months ;).
Q. With a factory in the Philippines, distribution in Las Vegas, and a residence in Atlanta, you are quite the globe trekker. What’s your favorite place to visit?
RH. My favorite place on the planet has to be the Big Island of Hawaii. There is a laid back quality to that tropical paradise, but there also is a sense of great spirituality there that is hard to describe. Atlanta grounds me (essentially it counts as my childhood home) and is a beautiful cross-section of Americana (hills, trees, southern hospitality, true neighborhoods, and lots of traffic). Las Vegas is certainly quirky but my attachment to it is not the obvious fun or gambling. It is situated close to and has its own amazing and diverse geological sites. The Philippines is another beautiful island paradise that we are lucky enough to manufacture in. They are amazing people who value quality and natural materials in ways I wish more of us here in North America would.
Q. What is your favorite Varaluz fixture?
RH. That is an evil question J. My standard answer to that is “the one you haven’t seen yet.” And there are a LOT you haven’t seen yet. The true answer is it kind of depends on the application: I have favorites for each room: Lofty for certain rooms; the new Fascination pendant; Wooda Coulda Shoulda; Iconic. Pretty much our more obvious mid-century modern collections it would seem.
Q. With such a diverse, evolving range of aesthetics, what lies ahead for Varaluz?
RH. Design seems to be shifting to more regionality. As a country, I think our culture is shifting away from the open-road model (most everyone has a car, lives in the suburbs, and can go and see the whole country and have a larger design world view) to the live-work-and-play model where you may not own a car and seldom leave your general neighborhood since you can live, work, and play in the same building or neighborhood. From that there are more clearly defined interior design tastes by region. For example, the Pacific coast embraces woods and grays which are reflective of the coastal rocks and hills. So I am paying a lot of attention to the materials, textures and colors of the main regions we cater to in the Americas. It also seems to me that people have embraced design consistency in their homes. The days of having one tropical themed room, a glam room, a brown room etc. are gone. This doesn’t mean every room in a house has the exact same look and feel – far from it. It just is more refined with attention to how they all interact and connect.
Specifically in terms of what is coming from us, we are continuing to play with expected forms (chandeliers that look like chandeliers for example) but done in unconventional ways. That may mean it is made of an unexpected material or is married with an unexpected accessory or finish. And then there are a couple of fixture ideas in the works that really push the bounds of today’s interior design trends. Hopefully we are pushing forward into where it is going. But that too is fun – you just do not know. Repetition and redundancy are so not my thing. Anecdotally I know many of our customers and partners enjoy seeing these designs, too. It makes us a destination company for some. People want to join in the fun.
Jocelyn's passion for all things design stems from her love of architecture. Having grown up in Peru and spending time in London for graduate school, she has an affinity for travel and is constantly inspired by it. Aside from being an internet dweller on her free time, Jocelyn also enjoys photography and eating all the tasty noms.