New Horizons: Hubbardton Forge

Hubbardton Forge

Hubbardton Forge has won design awards for its signature  hand-forged styles, but next month at Lightovation the domestic manufacturer will unveil two new brands that defy all preconceived notions of what to expect.

[dropcap style=”letter” size=”52″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#c6b22d”]T[/dropcap]he motto “Don’t mess with success” does not apply to the design team at Castleton, Vt.-based lighting manufacturer Hubbardton Forge. While the sudden emergence of two completely new “from scratch” divisions might seem out of the blue to customers, their development was far from impulsive. 

“For the past 10 years, Hubbardton Forge’s product line has been evolving as we brought in different materials and a more contemporary aesthetic, but we still kept true to the brand,” explains David Kitts, the company’s long-time Design Director. For the last 18 months, the design team has been mulling over ideas and formulating prototypes for what would become two distinct style departures.  With all the secrecy of a political cover-up, the company managed to keep any inkling of big news from industry guests to the factory — even going as far as to literally hide the models in progress under wraps from anyone not intrinsically involved. 

Hubb Forge Hubbardton Forge Vermont Modern
This fixture is part of the new Vermont Modern brand, which utilizes waterjet cutting for precise, three-dimensional angles.

“It took us a couple of years for the designers to go in the [style] directions that we knew we wanted to go into,” Kitts notes. Aware that many consumers often outfitted their entire homes in Hubbardton Forge, the design team did not want to dampen that enthusiasm for the signature line. Instead, they envisioned expanding that fan base even more.

[mks_pullquote align=”left” width=”665″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#dd9933″]”It’s more quirky and yet more trendy. At the same time, we’d like the products to visually and physically last a lifetime.”

— David Kitts, Design Director[/mks_pullquote]

“The clean contemporary look has always been here and there in Hubbardton Forge,” Kitts affirms. However, the new brands up the ante. “They are meant to be significant departures for the [company],” he says. The resulting divisions – Vermont Modern and Synchronicity – are supported by their own logos, catalogs, Web sites, and merchandising materials separate from Hubbardton Forge. Vermont Modern and Synchronicity products will be sold through the same market channels as their parent company and are designed by the same individuals who create the Hubbardton Forge signature line. 

“Vermont Modern was the easier of the two routes to accomplish using a different perspective,” Kitts recounts. For Synchronicity, the idea of integrating crystal into the company’s hallmark sculptural look was trickier. “Crystal is a big category that we hadn’t represented before. How do you do that without looking me-too or competing on price? There is a sea of crystal fixtures everywhere, but we saw a gap in the market. There are plenty of choices for fixtures dripping with crystals, and there are plenty of companies competing on price. We wanted to do the next evolution of crystal by treating it like a jewel.”

The Hubbardton Forge design team were delighted to discover these unusually shaped (and rarely used in lighting) crystals available from Swarovski.

Coincidentally Swarovski® was looking to expand its technology. The renowned crystal manufacturer had recently developed a unique Wave-Cut crystal and was searching for a manufacturer that could stylishly incorporate it into fixtures.

“They came to us because they knew we don’t do ‘standard’ anything. They wanted a partner who could highlight what was unique about this crystal. They were not looking for volume,” Kitts says. That unusual characteristic was a chunk of crystal that was both convex and concave — truly not a piece that could be easily or inexpensively adapted to traditional chandeliers.

The fixture that captured what Swarovski was looking for happens to feature an organic motif that Hubbardton Forge is known for. “There are definite clear links to our heritage [with the new line], but we also wanted to create a fixture that would boil down the essence of the crystal,” Kitts notes.  The resulting chandelier boasts delicate vine tendrils that cradle the Wave-Cut crystal as individual jewels. “We wanted to achieve the harmony between a sculptural feel and crystal,” he adds.

Interestingly enough, the only company that will display Swarovski’s new Wave-Cut crystal at Lightovation is Hubbardton Forge. It will not even be shown in Swarovski’s own showroom.

Additional pieces in the Synchronicity brand include an obscure Swarovski crystal that had rarely been used in lighting and was earmarked to be discontinued. Called the Boomerang crystal, its distinctive deep curve didn’t easily lend itself to traditional fixture design, however, Kitts was instantly smitten. He sought a way to meld the company’s hand-made metalwork into thin brackets that would suspend each crystal in place.

The Synchronicity brand, with its head-turning use of crystal pieces, is priced a little higher than the company’s Hubbardton Forge line, but then again it is targeted toward a certain customer. Similarly, the Vermont Modern brand is aimed at a different audience than the signature Hubbardton Forge collection.

“Vermont Modern was created to have an edgy feel to it, according to Kitts. “It’s more quirky and yet more trendy. At the same time, we’d like the products to visually and physically last a lifetime.”

The products in the Vermont Modern division are noticeably lighter in scale than the fixtures Hubbardton Forge has been known for in the past. “They also are rather kinetic in that they move a little bit. Each pipe can be rotated to be more radial or linear and have a different height,” Kitts says. “They are aimed at the Millennial generation and capture a lot of the qualities that they value such as sustainability, domestically made, hand-crafted, and social responsibility.”

Vermont Modern fixtures’ sharp lines are made through waterjet cutting machinery that is accomplished on-site in the factory, along with the other new designs. In addition, bold colors such as Gold, Red, Blue, Silver, White, and Black distinguish the Vermont Modern aesthetic. The simpler, cleaner styles also carry a lower price point than the other two brands, which aligns with the target customers’ budgets.

The creation of two new brands that incorporate different manufacturing processes than in the past has driven the company to rearrange the facility to increase the factory floor by roughly 8,000 square feet. The larger space also better accommodates the larger influx of custom work that the company handles for hospitality projects.

“Before we could broaden our aesthetic, we had to transform ourselves internally,” Kitts states. The long preparation between when the new divisions were conceived through their eventual fruition gave the company time to adapt to the changes with minimal disruptions. The two brands may have been a long time coming, but the company is banking on the debut being more than worth it to customers. 

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