A day with Porta Romana

I’m ashamed to say that until very recently I assumed that Porta Romana was an Italian brand. So I was delighted to be invited to spend a day at their HQ in Farnham, to see British craftsmanship at its best

Porta Romana regularly runs Discovery Days, aimed at giving interior designers a behind the scenes look at their business operation. The company produces beautiful lighting and furniture in hand cast metal, blown glass and ceramic using British craftsmen. In fact 85% of their makers work within 45miles of their Surrey HQ. The company also produces the bulk of its lampshades on site.

It takes three glass blowers working together to produce the Blob lamp base

This local, hands-on expertise gives the company true flexibility. Each piece is made to order and can be altered to meet your preferences. Porta Romana also offer a bespoke service allowing interior designers to create pieces from scratch.

Founded in 1988 by Andrew and Sarah Hills, Porta Romana has continuously grown and evolved. From humble beginnings in a tiny London workshop to creating a lighting installation for the Royal Academy of Art.

Porta Romana hand painted lights
Pieces are hand painted at the Farnham HQ

As well as an introduction to the company, the Discovery Day included the opportunity to trim our own lampshade and try our hand at creating a metal finish including applying gold leaf. Porta Romana is rightly proud of its painting studio where it has developed its own, extensive library of finishes. From gilded rust and scratched silver to verdigris and decayed gold, each finish is hand painted – it’s a fascinating process to watch.

The striking Urchin chandelier, inspired by a seed pod

Inspiration for new collections comes from collaborations with eminent names such as Gareth Devonald-Smith and Kit Kemp as well as from intriguing finds. I particularly liked the anecdote that Andrew, returning from a dog walk, presented the design team with a Turkish Chestnut seed pod and challenged them to create a light based on its spiky shape. The result – the extraordinary Urchin chandelier.

One final observation. Porta Romana’s Upcycling Club allows customers to part exchange an existing piece for something completely new, or send in a favourite piece to be updated and refurbished from changing a flex and fixing a lampshade to completely repainting.

And if you’re still wondering about that Italian name. Andrew and Sarah were living in the Porta Romana area of Florence when they first came up with the idea for the company.

If you enjoyed this read, you may also like my interview with lighting designer Andra Munro

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