ISSUE 4  |  House Envy

The Master of Plaster: Stephen Antonson’s Sculptural Lighting

January 30, 2015 12:00 PM

BY Margot Guralnick

Plaster artisan Stephen Antonson makes chandeliers and sconces of the sort that Gertrude Stein might have hung in her Paris salon to illuminate her Picassos. Fittingly, he has a Brooklyn studio that looks like a classic atelier. 

Antonson studied painting and sculpture at Carnegie Mellon University and applies both skills to his plaster designs. Working in the great (and painstaking) tradition of Giacometti, Jean Michel Frank, and Serge Roche, he creates his lighting by hand, building an armature of steel, adding wiring, applying a primer, and then brushing on layer upon layer of plaster–and sanding and sculpting each step along the way. 

Above: Each Earle Chandelier, like all of his large-scale designs, takes weeks to complete. 

Above: Antonson at work on a Hilary Chandelier in his Gowanus, Brooklyn, studio. 

Above: A finished Hilary Chandelier. Unless otherwise requested, his lighting is electrified.

Above: All of Antonson’s designs are worked out on paprer–”the more elaborate pieces get rendered on a computer, but only after hand drawings are done,” he says. Antonson also makes tables, which begin with a handmade wooden substrate that’s primed, plastered over many weeks, and sealed with shellac.

Above: Antonson frequently collaborates with architects and designers on commissions and most of his pieces are customizable.

Above: The Tabowl has a 42-inch wide tabletop and is 27 inches tall.

Antonson’s work is represented by four showrooms: Dessin Fournir in New York and Chicago, Therien in LA, and Ainsworth-Noah in Atlanta. It’s available to the trade only, but the showrooms can help retail customers place orders via a professional. Be prepared for sticker shock: Prices reflect all the labor involved and start at $800 for a candlestick; inquire with one of the showrooms for more details.

Above: Each of the many layers of plaster brushed on the designs gets hand sanded. “As you can see, texture becomes extremely important in the final object,” says Antonson. Shown here, his Gourd Lamps in progress.

Above: Antonson’s plaster Zigzag Candlesticks are cast and then finished with several layers of hand-painted plaster.

Above: The Morandi Single Sconce is also available as a double sconce.

Above: The Hilary Sconce, a companion piece to the Hilary Chandelier (shown above).

Above: Works in progress. Antonson has recently started casting in bronze, but mostly he focuses on plasterwork–and almost always sticks with white: “White shows form and texture the best. One notices shadows. White also plays well with others.”

Above: The Finn Lantern. Go to Stephen Antonson to see more and to contact him directly.

For dramatic plasterwork walls, see Hollywood Tale: An Uncommon Spec House and Remodeling 101: Limewash Paint.

Browse our Lighting posts for more of our discoveries, including: