Regina Connell

Regina Connell

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David D'Imperio: Functional Artistry

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If you’re in the market for quiet, restrained lighting, the kind that just glows politely, adding ambiance and functionality, stop reading. Because David D’imperio does not make that kind of lighting. He designs and creates limited edition sculptural, stand-up-and-be-noticed lighting, build-a-room-around-it lighting, the kind of bravura work that many lighting designers I know secretly dream about designing. 

The notable thing about his work is that while it’s instantly noticeable, it doesn’t go over the top, doesn’t shout too loudly. And while he’s often touted as a “modern” lighting designer, I can see his linear chandeliers and circular suspension lamps fitting marvelously into a classical decor, adding that necessary bit of edge. This lighting is the equivalent of really good jewelry on that LBD. That being said, the first time I saw his work at ICFF, it stopped me dead in my tracks. It seemed to just hover there, and I got the feeling that my unconscious mind was waiting for it to move, to do something. 

D’Imperio’s designs are a lovely fusion of craft and design, artisanship and artistry. They’re ornate, voluptuous, sensual but thoroughly modern. The lightness and aliveness of the lights comes from their intricacy: hundreds of pieces that are painstakingly cut, carved, polished, lacquered, engraved and formed, brought together to create what D’Imperio calls “functional sculpture”. He works in stainless steel and aluminum, wood, polycarbonate, and glass. And of course, he works in light, that other beautiful “material”, shaping it to create flattering, sexy glows. 

All this gets created in his studio, which is based in a 1880s post office building in Stony Run, Pennsylvania. The shop there also brings together the full range of craft skills, from metalwork to woodwork, and incorporates both traditional machinery to more advanced equipment like CNC machinery, that brings technology into the mix. All assembly is done by hand, and each limited edition piece is hand signed. Like other lighting designers, he’s living in a good time: LED technology has freed up the range of materials and techniques at their disposal, enabling a much greater range of expression. 

Like a surprising number of successful designers, D’Imperio got his start in advertising as a graphic designer. He became an Art Director before he turned his attention to 3D design. Perhaps this should be more understandable: advertising is at heart about storytelling, and delving into and connecting with the psyche. And D’Imperio’s designs certainly fit that bill, tapping into an unseen world that gets under your skin.That world is also influenced by a fascination with the sea, and in particular, coral reefs. In fact, his first design, in 1984, was for an aquarium system for which he received a patent.

D’imperio’s gained respect in both the worlds of serious craft and design, exhibiting at juried shows such as the Washington Craft, American Craft Council and Philadelphia Furniture Shows, as well as with ICFF and more. Style and substance coming together perfectly. D’imperio deserves all that respect and more. 

All images courtesy of David D’imperio by Caren Dissinger.