When Hilary Nagler wasn’t happy with the lighting options she found on the market, she did what most people don’t even dare to dream about: She started her own company, Flea Market Rx. Now, she’s hand crafting vintage-inspired lighting, cabinet hardware, and storage accessories, all from her enviably-located studio in downtown Santa Barbara, California (not bad, right?). We caught up with the busy artisan to find out how she does it, and how we can step up our lighting game.
What prompted you to start Flea Market Rx?
I was rummaging through drawers of unloved lamp parts at local salvage shop and stumbled upon a gorgeously patinated vintage brass socket, set out to make a light from it and inadvertently found my calling. I had been in the design business for almost 20 years but had never made anything with my own hands, never crafty, never tinkered. I have no idea where it came from but the process spoke to me. Before I knew it I was making lights out of anything I could drill a hole into and Flea Market Rx was born.
At the same time I was very disgruntled with the “vintage-inspired” fixtures I saw in the market … inexpensive materials, cheap painted or sprayed faux patina finishes. Dull. Boring. Lifeless. The vintage style fixtures I was producing had soul; the patinas were visceral and emotive. I knew there must be a way to recreate the authentic vintage feel in quantity. So I set out to develop styles, techniques and patinas that could be replicated and yet each one still feel like a special one-of-a-kind vintage find.
Do you have a favorite piece?
I am really very excited about every piece in our newly launched Flea Market Rx for Becker Studios Collection–the line presents an exciting aesthetic departure and new direction for Flea Market Rx. But if I had to choose, it would be the Bespoke Mini Sconce–it’s just so James Bond AND so cute at the same time!
What’s the best part about your job?
The actual designing of a new fixture is one of the most cathartic and fulfilling experiences I know. My process is very organic. I start with an idea and get in the studio and just start playing. The initial idea never works, but I keep at it and I try a thousand different variations until I almost give up … and then, BOOM! I somehow arrive at a design that looks nothing like what I had in mind, but it’s fresh and inventive and I am filled with an intoxicating wave of total gratification.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
People don’t always realize that I am a one-woman shop and actually make everything we sell with my own two hands. The designs are complex, the techniques arduous, the patinas time consuming and messy (but so worth the result!). Add that to the actual running and growing of the business and, well, let’s just say it’s not all as fun as it looks on Instagram!
What inspires you creatively?
Growing up, the names Charles and Ray Eames were batted around my house so much I thought they were friends of the family! From a very early age I was taught a deep appreciation of historically significant designs–I am most creatively inspired by the innovations, benchmarks, and design philosophies that changed the course of design in the 20th century.
What are some common mistakes people make with lighting?
I think most often people think of lighting a necessity rather than an opportunity. There is such an enormous range of designs in the market for every aesthetic and every budget. Lighting is an opportunity introduce shapes, and play with scale and personal expression–it is one of the few aspects of the design of a room that can be both functional and beautiful at the same time.
Do you have any tips for updating a room with lighting?
I’m intrigued by programmable LED light bulbs; the huge advancements in LED bulb light quality and design make saving the planet much more fun! What can I say, I’m a technology nerd living in Southern California–if there’s an app for it, I’m all about it!