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Q&A: Hoi P’loy

HL chatted to Ploy Phiromnam, co-designer and owner of Hoi P’loy about lighting design and how to incorporate vintage lighting in your home. How did you get into lighting design? We love to travel, and first became inspired back in 2006 after spotting some old fashioned bulbs in Asia de Cuba, a London restaurant designed by Philippe Starck. Then after years on the lookout for those elusive vintage bulbs, in 2010 we stumbled across a similar concept in an underground bar in Bangkok called The Iron Fairies. We instantly fell in love with the warm amber glow and wanted to bring some home. After learning about the production process we realised that along with idea of this historic aesthetic we could also return to traditional production processes, materials and values. Thus began our quest for a style and quality of goods the way "they used to make them". What was it about cable lighting that appealed to you? While exploring this revival of gems from the past we also came across the idea of the fabric covered electrical cable. As creatives we were seduced by the endless possibilities of colour and texture. It's amazing to think that at some point in history, as materials such as PVC developed, the world occasionally lost sight of what was beautiful. Today, the woven cable cords in our range incorporate modern and traditional materials to ensure safety, without sacrificing visual appeal. For designers, simply adding a particular colour of cord to a lamp or pendant can really bring it to life. We love the classic squirrel cage light bulb. How is this crafted? Our light bulbs are created through a combination of machine and handcrafting processes. The Squirrel Cage light bulb in particular is unique in that its filament is over 1.3m long. To construct it, 19 tiny wire ‘anchors’ are inserted into a heated glass rod (by hand) so that they form two ‘wheels of spokes.’ Then an extremely fine filament is delicately hand threaded in place along the anchors between each wheel creating a zigzag cage-like lattice. The structure is then carefully inserted into the bulb casing. The result of the long filament is a weak glow that creates a nostalgic atmosphere and allows one to marvel directly at its pattern. Would you suggest using different bulbs in different areas of the home? If so, which areas would you choose for which bulbs? We have 10 different bulb styles, which means that one really can build specific atmospheres around each style. The vintage style Squirrel Cage bulbs emit the warmest light, and are certainly the best for atmosphere and mood. These are very popular for restaurant or bar settings, but some of our customers have become creative by choosing to hang then in our Bakelite pendant lamp fittings with the built-in switches next to their beds. This offers a warm romantic atmosphere in the bedroom that also doesn't disturb one’s partner if it's switched on in the middle of the night. On the other hand, the vertical spiral filament of the large globes is a more contemporary look, and with a slightly brighter light, is great in a living room or as a focus point above a dining room table. Where can readers buy your designs? Our vintage lighting products are available via our website with next day delivery in South Africa, as well as through our showroom in Woodstock, Cape Town, as well as from a few boutique stores such as MØDERNIST in Parkhurst, Johannesburg. We're able to customise orders with endless combinations, so we encourage people to tell us about the colours and styles that excite them. We're constantly busy designing new products and expanding on our range, so interested readers should sign up for our newsletter to be the first to know about special new designs. For more information about Hoi P’loy lighting, visit Interviewed by Lindi Brownell Meiring