by M. Diane McCormick
Phil Wells: Shining Light on Repurposing
Phil Wells has always been fascinated with lighting, furniture design and art. Somewhere along the line, the 10-year construction-industry veteran started imagining the possibilities of combining disparate pieces found in flea markets, scrap yards and demolished spaces – “wherever people throw stuff away.”
“A lot of this comes from houses that would be in a landfill or otherwise trash,” he says, referring to the upcycled furniture and lighting he produces for his business, WLX Lighting & Furnishings (wlxdesign.com).
Like any repurposer, Wells revives old materials, but the results aren’t cottage chic. His works have an industrial, midcentury, modern vibe. He especially loves working with metals, reshaping and combining it with other elements.
Consider the lamp fashioned from an old screw-bin holder, the kind of organizer seen in every workshop. The blue rectangle with punched-out hooks “sat around for a very long time.” The idea for a new piece finally emerged when Wells acquired the bolt-concealing metal skirts that slide over partition legs in commercial rest rooms.
He knew then what to do. He hung the skirts horizontally on the hooks, functioning like lamp shades. Inside the organizer body, he installed a remote-controlled, multi-colored LED light string. Changing colors gleaming through the holes make the work “a lot more interactive,” says Wells. “It gives someone a more personal connection with it. It’s not just a light. You can play with it.”
Another light was created by attaching a parts-organizer to a music stand. A small bench, fun for a child’s room or as a footstool, materialized from an old skateboard adhered to a base of reclaimed construction-site wood.
Wells focuses on energy-efficiency and sustainability. His tenet is “form follows function.”
“I’m constantly trying to make things better and predict the future, in a way,” he says. “What’s the next thing? I’m always thinking ahead, trying to follow the trends but also trusting my instinct of what people could be into.”
Wells offers these tips for making repurposed items work in a home: Use a color pallet, preferably a simple one. “I work in three,” he says. Decide on the mood or atmosphere to set. Find inspiration in the room’s key elements – maybe a favorite chair or a distinctive color accent. Play with lighting to reconfigure the interior landscape. Lighting, says Wells, can “reinvent the living space.”