From Vatican City to Ypsilanti, Look in the Attic grows in niche antique reproduction market
Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com
Last year, Ypsilanti’s Look in the Attic received a request from the Vatican City.
A new client wanted to know if the company could reproduce a 7-foot tall antique lamp. The piece, which was once a candelabra, is coated in French-style ormolu - a type of coating produced by mixing mercury with ground gold.
John Coleman, Look in the Attic’s president, said the piece was first shipped to the company's Romulus headquarters before his 15-member team “waded into the water very carefully” and began disassembling the antique.
Survival of the original piece wasn’t guaranteed, but Look in the Attic can reproduce broken pieces. The lamp was taken apart into 17 pieces and molds created for the replica.
After the new pieces are created, the lamp will be assembled, polished, its electric components will be installed and a simple Rust-Oleum finish will be applied that Coleman says is nearly identical to the French-style ormolu.
Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com
Coleman declined to name the client due to a confidentiality agreement, but said Look in the Attic will keep the mold and will sell the style of lamp for between $3,000 and $5,000 to banks, hotels or another business that could use a historic fixture.
Pieces for antique furniture or door fixtures can go for under $10 and Look in the Attic is rolling out new lines of vintage pieces that are reasonably priced for homeowners looking for a historic piece.
The company, which launched in Iowa in 1997 before moving to Ypsilanti in 2000, continues growing in a niche market of customized, vintage hardware reproduction. Among other specialties are lighting fixtures, door hardware, cabinets, bathroom hardware and window hardware.
Look in the Attic also established private labels that supplies similar hardware to “big box” retailers.
Last year, the formula led to $1.6 million in revenues and more than 120,000 pieces manufactured. Coleman said 2013 is only shaping up to be better.
“Business has been very good every year,” he said. “We’ve never seen a down year. Last year was our best ever and this year looks like it will be another best.”
Look in the Attic moved to its new 15,000-square-foot facility in 2011 to increase its storage and manufacturing capability. Its old Ypsilanti location at 110 W. Michigan Ave.in downtown remains open as an appointment-only showroom.
Coleman said he envisions establishing a design center in the downtown Ypsilanti location that would provide architects, designers, engineers and other customers with the chance to see Look in the Attic’s pieces ahead of time. Because their business mostly comes from outside of Michigan, previewing and inspecting pieces is a rarity.
Coleman said the company does some business with homeowners, but most of their patronage comes from those involved in renovating spaces ranging from libraries to old theaters to governors’ mansions. He said many of their pieces land on buildings in New York, California, Texas and Washington, D.C.
But Coleman said that isn’t the case at all and he isn’t aware of any of their businesses being used in Detroit.
Instead, almost all of their business remains out of state.
“It just happens to be the power of Google that we’re really well known in a lot of other states,” he said, adding that the company has established a solid reputation in the trade.
Look in the Attic specializes in art deco French empire, art noveau and Edwardian styles and produces everything up to post-modern pieces.
Tom Perkins is a freelance reporter for AnnArbor.com.