We recently spoke with Patrick Dolat, owner of specialty shop Newport Lamp & Shade Company, based in Newport, Rhode Island. Under his design direction, the shop, which offers a curated selection of gifts, decorations and lighting, has flourished into a destination for clients across the country seeking charming, practical and unusual items for the home, including fine, hand-made lampshades. We chatted about Newport, his shop, lamps, and, of course, writing!
Patrick’s style blended seamlessly with our motto of “making traditions modern” when designing our newest collection together. “Bright Ideas” features a wall lamp motif engraved in metallic gold ink, and is paired with hand-lined envelopes in five different brightly-colored marbled patterns.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself! And what’s it like to live in beautiful Newport, RI?
For many different reasons and in many different ways Newport is a very special and rather unusual place – and is one that collects people – and I suppose after almost 10 years living here now I can confidently say it has collected me….I grew up in New England, always near the ocean, and so it feels like home. Something else I value about living here is the quality of life – I live, work and play in a half mile radius essentially, punctuated by a few trips to New York and beyond. Some might find that boring but I find it convenient and easy. Mind you some months are easier than others – February and March can be trying.
2. When entertaining in Newport, where are your favorite spots to take friends and family? Any local spots you recommend?
All the usual suspects: museums such as the Newport Art Museum, special places like the Norman Bird Sanctuary and restaurants, the Clarke Cooke House is of course a favorite – but honestly there is nothing I love more than squeezing ten friends around a table in the garden at home.
3. What made you want to open your own shop? And why lamps and shades?
The store was opened in 2008 by my good friend and successful designer John Peixinho – and it all started with lamps and shades, as the name implies. They are hard to find, especially good ones, and always in need for decorating jobs….About eight years ago, after spending most every weekend in Newport, I moved here full time and took over the operation. What started as lamps and shades has naturally evolved into a little bit of everything – including stationery. A client would come in for a lampshade and mention that they needed a little present, or a chair, or something to write a note on. Eight years later and here we are.
4. What is your favorite piece in the shop right now?
One of my favorite and first “big” purchases as a shopkeeper was an 18th century mahogany secretary. It is big and brown and lends so much presence and soul to the shop. It is also terribly easy and fun to merchandise – a pair of lamps, some colorful picture frames and a few boxes of good stationery go a long way.
5. Describe your personal design aesthetic. How does it work its way into your everyday?
Traditional with a youthful twist. Sounds contrived and uninventive but is accurate and (I hope) evident at the shop and at home. I love mixing antiques with a shot of something new and fresh, such as contemporary art or a colorful lampshade. A balance of old and new can be very dynamic and appealing – and also comfortable. I try to create spaces that look and feel approachable, cultured and not brand new. Traveling, or going on a vacation and spending a few days in a clean, white box at a hotel or somewhere with square lampshades and no soul can be totally refreshing and restorative – but at home I find comfort in tradition.
6. How do you use stationery in your life? Business? Personal? Both?
Both. And often.
At college I majored in architecture with a focus on graphic design, and I was not a big fan of computer aided drafting, so it was basically a six figure investment in my hand writing. I keep a pen and paper in every room of the house. I write everything down. Thank you notes, to-do lists, ideas, letters. The act of writing is a pleasure and a tool. It forces you to reflect – to think about what you are going to say and how you are going to say it. It also helps you remember – a beautiful invitation that you keep and look at ten years later, or a thoughtful note someone sent to you, both spark a memory. A handwritten note is also the best piece of mail one can receive…other than maybe a check.
7. Maybe you set aside time to write each week or month? On a certain day? What is your writing style?
I write something to someone almost every week and I am a big believer in doing it now. Get it done. Write the note. The minute I owe someone a thank you I sit down and do it. I love doing it – but also the experience is fresh, the thoughts are genuine and it is polite and timely. I write in the style as if I was speaking to the person face to face. A good friend and client of mine is one of the best thank you note writers I have ever met. I will send a gift, do a small favor, or perhaps deliver a purchase from the shop with a little extra present or something, and the next thing I know a note appears at my door, by hand, with a sweet and honest thank you jotted down on her paper. It is always a delight and it inspires me to be as courteous.
8. Do you have a favorite place to write?
Most often I write in the morning at my desk before the phone starts ringing and the shop door swings open. On quiet days I really enjoy writing at my desk at home – a long and narrow 18th century refectory table with my computer, pen and paper, and a view into the garden.
9. Can you share some of your inspiration behind this collaboration?
Well I love to write and I love interesting and comfortable spaces – and I hope that this collaboration conveys that. The act of writing is a valuable, traditional practice that in the age of cell phones is more important and impactful than ever before, in my opinion. I think including elements of classic design remind us of this. For example, the marbleized envelope liners might remind someone of venetian papers – but when rendered in bright, cheerful colors impart a youthful energy. The engraved swing-arm wall light is charming, fun and practical, figuratively speaking, and owning a lamp & shade shop naturally I wanted to incorporate lighting into the design right from the start. Above all I hope that people will reach for this notecard for most any occasion and often.