Inside the loft of Lisa Bowles exists an ecosystem of influences living in harmony. Take her new series of monochrome lamps in plaster and marble resin, which can be found sitting atop beloved antique pieces. Bowles is inspired by unusual pairings, having refined the art of a well-conceived tableau over her 18 years as a dealer of European midcentury furniture, art and lighting. Now, with designs from her first proprietary collection living amongst her sunlit SoHo apartment, “full circle” seems the right turn of phrase.
Sculpture is a first love for Bowles, who studied the discipline as an undergraduate at Virginia Commonwealth University in her hometown of Richmond before pivoting to interior design. After working as an interior designer in Manhattan for eight years, Bowles headed east for Sag Harbor, where she opened her first shop (and later, a larger space in East Hampton). She named her business Roark for the modernist architect Howard Roark from The Fountainhead, whose uncompromising approach to innovation she’s long admired.
Eventually, Bowles returned to Manhattan, expanding Roark to the Upper East Side. Designing custom pieces for that showroom floor reignited an old flame, and soon, she began getting her hands dirty in a shared studio space in Long Island City. The result is Roark Modern by Lisa Bowles: an expressive line of lighting, tables and accessories, all hand-formed and -carved, and inspired by abstract artists and sculptors. Stars of the collection include the Jouve lamp, whose dove-like silhouette marries Paul Jouve’s affinity for depicting wildlife with Bowles’ own adoration of birds, and the Moore lamp, a “whimsical inchworm” of a fixture, whose low-profile (“perfect atop a stack of books,” she adds) nods to Henry Moore’s low-slung, contemplative forms.
Spurred by the many stylish shades that have graced lamps in her shops and homes, Bowles’ next pursuit is partnering with a seamstress on a series of couture lampshades, as well as introducing specialty finishes. She compares an artful base with a boring shade to a great outfit with bad shoes, insisting every facet of design should be considered. “That,” she explains, “is my idea of living the full art process.”