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Casa Interview: Tyler Velten


Tyler Velten, a student at the Yale School of Architecture, was recently featured in the New York Times article Lighting Changes Everything. However, Tyler wasn't interviewed for his architectural projects. Instead, his artistic re-use of found objects and repurposing of Craigslist furniture and even the hated plastic bag were featured in the article. Tyler recently found some time between his busy school schedule to answer some questions for CasaSugar about his home design experiments.

CasaSugar: What was the first object you found that inspired you to start augmenting your apartment?

Tyler: We moved into the apartment knowing I was going to play with the space. It is a gorgeous apartment with great natural daylight. When it was empty, it felt more like a studio than an apartment. The first task was to somehow distract attention from the white walls. We found a kitschy brass table lamp complete with a tattered latex shade on the street. Instead of placing it on an end table or dresser (which we didn't have), I hung it from the wall. Lizzie [Tyler's wife] has teased me for years about taking it down. As a relic from our first days in the apartment, the lamp simply cannot be replaced.

For the rest of my questions, and to find out how Tyler's wife feels about his experiments, read more.

CasaSugar: How do you feel your architecture training has changed your ideas about interior design, if at all?

Tyler: I have been making art for many years now, whereas architecture is a fairly new adventure for me. Although I do think that my first year in architecture school has helped inform some of my newer pieces, like the woven light shade beside the bed, I believe most of my ideas regarding space were born a while ago. The real benefits of the program are the community of designers. I am surrounded by creative people thinking about culture and objects at all different scales.

CasaSugar: How does your wife feel about your lighting and décor experiments? Is she a part of the creative process?

Tyler: Absolutely she is part of the process. There are pieces she adores, and others, she could do without. Most of the pieces use non-traditional switches or are situated in awkward ways. My desire as an artist is to challenge our interactions and perceptions of functionality with everyday objects. In doing so this often inhibits their purpose. Lizzie is always helping me refine and focus my pieces, to make them intuitive without sacrificing their idea. She is my voice of reason.

CasaSugar: What projects do you have in the works?

Tyler: The real task in our apartment, and consequently the real derivation for most of my non-lighting projects, is to create more storage for our tiny apartment. We only have one closet in the apartment and the kitchen has one tiny counter top with a few small cupboards. I am constantly trying to find more storage space for our things. Although I would love to make a new bed and headboard, the real pressing projects are coming up with creative storage systems.

CasaSugar: When do you have time to work on this? Do you find these projects relaxing/therapeutic? What motivates you to work on them?

Tyler: I do not have much time because of school. Most of these projects manifest themselves over Winter or Spring breaks. Nonetheless, they do not take much time. Most of these projects take an hour or less. Aside from the grocery bag chandelier, every other project was quite simple. Adding doors to bookcases requires a bit of measuring, but the assembly is very quick, a few saw-cuts and a few screws. Although I love to design unique objects, I feel the most satisfying design is to re-purpose/recycle waste into useful things. By filling up wine bottles with water, then burrowing them upside-down in the soil of a large potted plant, one can make a great slow drip-irrigation well for indoor plants.

It is tremendously therapeutic to think of ways to use the waste that we create in unique ways. We throw away so much stuff, stuff that is really beautiful. It is very satisfying to make an object like a grocery bag transcend its original purpose by becoming an elegant light filter for a chandelier.

CasaSugar: What are some of your dream projects?

Tyler: I would like to have more specific big ideas, but that usually gets me into trouble. I can only hope to continue to experiment and play.

Phil Mansfield for The New York Times

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