One of the first designers to capture the appeal of industrial styling, Original BTC founder Peter Bowles’ relaxed, familiar lighting is inspired by a family history steeped in retail, manufacturing and design.
A carpenter by trade, Bowles’ grandfather was chairman of Minty Furniture of Oxford, later bought out by Parker Knoll. After learning the ropes at Minty, Bowles’ father launched iconic 1960s lighting retailer Cosmo Designs, employing 13-year-old Peter on his stand at the Harrogate Lighting Fair.
Childhood visits to his father’s manufacturing facilities opened Bowles’ eyes to the clean lines of traditional factory fittings and the versatility of mid-century style, while a stint working the machines at a French cutlery manufacturer ignited his passion in the “crash, bang, whallop of production.” Returning to England, Bowles opened a Sheffield factory producing a million pieces of own-designed cookware a year. Challenged by the design limitations of cutlery, in 1990 Bowles went back to his roots with an Oxford-based lighting factory. “My goal was to design and produce lights that you are instantly at home with, that will fit easily and comfortably for many years to come”, he explains.
While inspiration is drawn from all quarters - an antique lamp used to keep chicks warm or the searchlight on the back of a toy lorry - authenticity and attention to detail remain at the heart of the collection. When a visit to the Stoke-on-Trent shade manufacturer revealed the factory was under threat of closure, Bowles promptly took on the business, including all staff. Later, unsatisfied with the finish of commonly-used plastic lighting flex, he replaced it with woven cotton braid snipped off the family iron, soon becoming one of Original BTC’s best-loved design features.
Today, Peter works with his son Charlie who became a director in 2012. Over 50% of Original BTC’s lights are exported worldwide, with their simple elegance recognised internationally by design luminaries including Andree Putman, John Pawson and Terence Conran.