Life changed in 1879 when Edison brought the first viable incandescent light bulb to the world. Melissa Sutton and Peyton Avrett had a quieter, but just as visually significant, change in mind when they bid farewell to the light bulb and founded Riloh, a custom lighting studio in Charleston. Riloh’s striking, bulb-free fixtures marry modern LED technology with old-world craftsmanship.

“We wanted to create a design language all our own,” explains Sutton, a Furman graduate. Sutton and Avrett arrived at their collaboration after years of individually pursuing their passions. Sutton, an interior designer, brings experience that spans from working with designers like Michael Smith in Los Angeles, owning a vintage furniture store, and managing her own interior design consultancy, Plum Collective. Avrett, a second-generation metalsmith, built a business of his own in Charleston crafting custom fine furniture and lighting. When Avrett approached Sutton with an idea for LED-integrated lighting, the two combined his product-manufacturing experience with her design experience.

Riloh launched in June of 2019 with an inaugural collection of LED-integrated ceiling and wall fixtures that is familiar and accessible, yet fresh. A long way from the cold LED bulbs that first came on the market years ago, Riloh’s LED components are beautifully radiant, designed to last more than 25 years under normal use. Each fixture is made to order in Charleston, with lead times of 5–7 weeks—a speed Riloh can achieve thanks to their commitment to designing and manufacturing their fixtures in Charleston.

The absence of a light bulb forces the eye to consider the actual light source in a different way. In Riloh’s first collection, solid glass orb shapes, and the geometry of metal interact with each other. The airy sense of illumination can feel almost ethereal, but the traditional forms of the fixtures give them presence and weight. This tension between modern and traditional is intentional. “We wanted it to be familiar and approachable since we were introducing this new technology,” says Sutton. Even as Riloh prepares to introduce their second collection this spring, which they describe as more “art-like,” that thread of visual familiarity is important, one Sutton predicts will run throughout all of Riloh’s future work.

“Whenever you do something different, you always wonder if people will understand it,” Sutton says. The momentum Riloh has gained in just a few months seems to offer some reassurance: people are getting it.

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