Ten years at sea would have a profound impact on anyone’s life. For New Zealand-based designer David Trubridge, it inspired him to create furniture and lighting that expresses his close connection to the sea, to nature in general, and to his deep commitment to environmental stewardship.
Trubridge graduated from Newcastle University in England in 1972 with a degree in naval architecture. He taught himself to make furniture while he worked as a forester in rural Northumberland.
Then in 1981, Trubridge, his wife Linda, and their two small sons set out on a yacht named “Homepipe” determined to navigate their way through the Caribbean and the Pacific. They’d sold everything they had to buy the boat that would be their home for a decade.
When the family ultimately settled in Whakatu, New Zealand, Trubridge began to work on furniture designs that would be the basis for his small business. When he introduced “The Coral” pendant light in 2004, that small business gained the attention of the international media and, in turn, the international market. His small business wasn’t so small any longer.
“The Coral” wasn’t originally intended as a light. It was just a form Trubridge created out of plywood by repeating a geometric polyhedral 60 times. Trying to find a use for this fascinating form, he stuck a light bulb in it one day. And so began a series of “sculptural luminaries, inspired by nature,” such as…
- “Navicula,” which recalls the microscopic diatoms that float in the ocean
- "Kina,” which references the inner shell of the sea urchin that wash ashore on New Zealand beaches
- “Flax,” inspired by the long leaves of the indigenous flax plant
- “Snowflake,” which Trubridge designed after a trip to Antarctica
- “Ulu,” based on the leaf of a certain Tahitian tree
A Problem and Its Ingenious Solution
Most of David Trubridge’s lighting pendants are quite large – one of many reasons why they work so well in open, clean-lined modernist interiors. “Navicula,” for example, is 22 x 8 x 57” (56 x 20 x 145 cm). “Snowflake” is 31 x 16 x 31” (79 x 41 x 79 cm). The “Sola” pendant is a 31” x 31” x 31” (79 x 79 cm) globe.
Made of plywood and other lightweight materials, the large pendants aren’t heavy. But imagine the shipping charge for pieces of that size, which would have to be passed along to the buyer, thereby dramatically raising the price. Beyond the cost, Trubridge was also concerned about the carbon footprint such shipping would entail.
So he devised a clever solution: He would ship his giant designs as kits of parts that buyers would assemble when they arrived. That way, the lights could be shipped economically in flat boxes. And the environmental impact? Trubridge now holds Life Cycle Assessments (LCA’s) and Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs).
According to the website (davidtrubridge.com), Trubridge and his company are also dedicated to sourcing sustainable materials.
“Wherever possible, all timber is from sustainably managed plantations in New Zealand or the United States. Wood is left natural where appropriate, with natural non-toxic oils being used in place of harmful solvents. From a design point of view, the products use only the minimal amount of materials and are generated with a focus on longevity.”
Trubridge’s work has been featured in numerous international publications. In 2008, Express magazine named him one of the top 15 designers in the world. In 2012 the Pompidou Centre in Paris acquired his “Icarus” installation for its permanent collection.
Where are they?
David Trubridge collections are available through retail stores, some of which will assemble the pendants for you for a small fee. The website davidtrubridge.com lists three Florida cities with Trubridge retailers: Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Pensacola. Go to the Where To Buy page to find those and all other retail sources.