Debuting for the first time at the High Point Market, Bungalow Belt specializes in uniquely crafted lamps
Inspired by their 1920 bungalow on the periphery of Chicago’s famous Bungalow Belt area, Wanying and Tom Wilkins – who are known to tool around town in their 1929 Chevrolet affectionately named Louie – knew they wanted to create something different and memorable in home décor.
Raised on a small farm north of Beijing, Wanying lived with her grandparents in a two-room home with heated day beds. Although electricity was available in China at the time, it wasn’t until she attended high school that Wanying saw her first table lamp. However, she grew up with an appreciation for art, thanks to her father’s career as a painter. “Art is in my blood; it has always been a part of my life,” she states. In fact, both she and her brother, Hui, worked for furniture companies after they graduated from the university.
Wanying’s facile command of the English language (she majored in English Lit) put her in demand at the furniture company’s headquarters in China as well as its Chicago office. It was in the Windy City that Wanying met Tom Wilkins, the next door neighbor of one of her good friends from Beijing who had relocated. When the two later married, they gave each other table lamps as wedding gifts.
Tired of seeing the same type of lighting designs everywhere she went in the home furnishings industry, Wanying vowed to develop something different and start up her own company. “I am inspired by a lot of things,” she admits. “I was doing some gardening and I noticed some butterflies flying around. That led to one of my lamp designs. I’m also inspired by architecture, textiles, jewelry, and [art] books,” she comments. Her brother soon joined her in the endeavor; he manufactures Bungalow Belt’s lamps overseas. Then her husband Tom, a software developer by day, also became interested in his wife’s company and now dabbles in the design process on nights and weekends. “Making these lamps has become a passion for Tom and me,” Wanying remarks.
Bungalow Belt – named after the charming architectural community they live in – made its official debut last year at the Chicago Gift Show. In spring 2012, the company exhibited at the spring High Point Market in the Suites at Market Square and will return there in fall.
“People would stop by our booth and say ‘I’m so happy to see your lamps’ and tell us how much they liked our designs,” Wanying says. “We like to think of each lamp as a little piece of artwork. We pay attention to the smallest details.”
Bungalow Belt is steadily growing in popularity among small retailers who are seeking unusual lighting. “I really wanted to offer something different in lighting,” Wanying remarks. According to word of mouth, she has done just that.