Empel Collections



Ron Van Empel is the debonair owner of Empel Collections, a custom lighting fixture company based out of the Netherlands.  After a long career as an interior designer, Ron found himself drawn to making custom lamps and decided to turn a hobby into a full-time endeavor.  I'm pleased to present an interview with the man who is just as happy in a pair of American cowboy boots, driving a vintage Lincoln as he is in his native country, the home of tulips and clogs! 




Classic bouillotte lamp from Empel Collections.


1.  First things first - I always wonder this of people who own successful businesses - how old are you?


2.  Where did you grow up and tell me a little about your childhood, your parents, your schooling?

I was born in The Hague (where the government is seated). Had a pretty normal childhood. One older sister and a younger brother. Parents got divorced. As a child I was already very occupied by the interior and lighting of my parents houses. The mood and atmosphere of a room had an affect on me ( it could make me happy or feel depressed.)  I would not want to go to peoples homes where it was 'uncozy.'   I would even be putting a dimmer on the lights in our Christmas tree!!  I must have developed a talent to pick up on what does make a room feel good. Later, I learned all about proportions, a factor so very important in anything of good design.

Read many interior magazines at an early age. Experimented alot on my parents home and my own room.   Flew thru school. Went to the University of Leiden. After that I had to go in the army (last years of mandatory listing....bummer for me!!)

I worked two summer seasons as a counselor in American summer camps in the States.   At an early age I read books on and was interested in:

Albert Hadley

Billy Baldwin....Very very good.

Dorothy Draper......Big influence in her time and now. Love her work. Real pioneer. Different in alot of ways.

Elsie de Wolf......

Also I would never miss any issue of Architectural Digest. Now I also devour VERANDA.  I have a big pile of books on American Architecture and interior design.



Sconce from the New Elegance Collection:  This is a new design that Empel is very excited about.  Isn't it gorgeous?


3.  How did you get into the lighting/lamp business? 

I very decidedly choose a career in interior design. When working for a high end design firm, I designed my first lamp for one of my clients' projects. A visiting representative at our office (of all kinds of products) saw my lamp and wanted to have it in his portfolio and sell it for me. "Sure" I said, with no big commercial plans in mind. Clients would be asking for other versions and colors/finishes.   That is how a small collection started to grow bigger and bigger.  I would always be trying to make lamps  more luxurious, not just the visual part but also the lampholders and cords/switches, etc.  Soon I was making the collection and many custom pieces world wide to the 'discerning client,' consulting and making lamps for the most prestigious clients/projects. I also designed a lamp for Brunschwig & Fils.

At this point, the lamp business was still combined with the full time job.  Only 7 years ago, I quit my full time job.....the collection grew even further and there was finally time for research, to explore the possibilities of all the designs I had sketched in a little book.



Rock crystal lamp for the New Elegance Collection.


4.  How is your business doing these days?  Are you satisfied with things?

I think because I am a relatively small company, I will always have enough business. The personal attention and the fact that everything can be custom made, keeps my clients wanting more.  Every year my business is on the up.  I am very happy where  I stand now with my company and the wonderful clients I have. Every project is exciting, but I also love to help clients who are looking for one perfect lamp.



Custom made bouillotte lamp with painted tole shade:  shades can be painted any color, of course!


5.  What do you see for the future of Empel?  Where do you want to take your business?

Well, for the near future/this year,  I cannot wait to move into the new showroom and workroom. I cannot wait to receive clients in that new space. The new showroom for me is a relative big step (and expensive) so I think I will be very happy there for the next couple of years. We'll see what the future brings. But definitely stay small, so quality and attention to detail will be high!!!

When dreaming........because I have many American designers and clients, I wish I could have my own showroom in the States. Wish I could spend 50% of time in the States and the rest here in Europe.

Ron, we wish that too!



The very handsome Mr. van Empel.  I promised him I wouldn't show the pictures  he sent me of him in his playclothes, or in his American cowboy boots!  I even have a picture of him with a tea-cozy on his head!  Those, I will bribe him with.



The house and showroom are located at the same place.  Here, is Ron's wonderful garden room.  I love the clock!



The other side of the garden room, looking out towards the swimming pool and onto the Empel Collections showroom.  When clients come to Empel Collections, they first sit down to tea and cakes with Ron - he wants the atmosphere to be casual and not high pressure.  After small talk, he then takes his clients to the showroom - where he designs the custom lighting fixtures to his client's specifications.  This low-key approach to selling is very dignified.  Hard to imagine this happening in the states!



Hanging bouillotte lamp with rich green shade.



Bouillotte lamp with pink shade!  Besides custom colored shades, the client can also pick out the finials and the type of silk wrapped cord. 



Bronze soldiers waiting to be made into lamps.



And another one waiting - won't this make the most gorgeous lamp?  Send me the picture when you're done, Ron!



This is my favorite lamp in the collection - except it has sold!!!



From the New Elegance Collection:   A crystal lamp with a square shade.  Note how the finial matches the crystal.



Another crystal lamp from the Yellowstone collection.



My favorite!  I love these dusty blue shades with the crystal bases.



Amsterdam:  The Museum of Bags and Purses (now that's SOME museum!) Empel Collections designed the lamps and sconces.



I love this combination of terra cotta and sage green.


Ceiling lamp, LA CHASSE. Shade + finial. Close up.

New design:  hanging fixture.


Chandelier, BEL AIR. Shown with shades. Photo 3 Lights on.

The Bel-Air chandelier with shades.



A more traditional chandelier, extra large.


Chandelier, Monaco.

And finally, the beautiful Monaco chandelier with large rock crystal.


Be sure to visit Empel Collections website for more pictures.  And to read  The Peak of Chic's blog on Empel Collections, go here.   Ron van Empel plans to be in the United States later this year.  If you would like to meet with him person, email him at info@empelcollections.com to arrange it!

1st Dibs Comes to Houston!


1st Dibs just keeps getting better and better.  What started out as small online shopping site with links to a few antique shops around the United States and Europe, has grown into a one-stop web site for everything a decor fanatic could want.  Besides showcasing the best antiques available, every Wednesday 1st Dibs presents a collection of wonderful stories and interviews with interior designers, furniture creators, bloggers, authors, and all sorts of other must-reads.  The list of cities now represented are the cream de le cream of shopping destinations:  Among these are San Francisco, Atlanta, New York, The Hamptons. Paris, New Orleans, and now, my favorite city of all - Houston!  Some of the antique stores in Houston have been featured on Cote de Texas, such as Chateau Domingue, and some have been featured on other Houston blogs, such as Found, but all chosen to be on 1st Dibs, bar none, are personal favorites of mine. I'm so excited to finally have my town on 1st Dibs.  It sure is going to make sho pping for clients a lot easier.  Oh, and that other big city in Texas is now on 1st Dibs too:  Dallas.    Here are some of my picks from 1st Dibs Houston this week:




Readers of Veranda may recognize these pictures - taken of Kay O'Toole's former highrise apartment.  Kay O'Toole's antique store specializes in French, Swedish and Italian wares.  Housed in a crumbling, brick building on Westheimer, expect to see the finest here.  O'Toole is a gracious host - and if you're very lucky, she may even take you to see her new chateaux, located right behind the store.

In choosing my favorites from the Houston 1st Dibs stores, I will be furnishing an imaginary salon in a beautiful, old home located in River Oaks, Houston's toniest neighborhood - right down the street from Kay O'Toole's.  Here, a painted French commode will be placed between two French windows, which are draped in the most gorgeous ice blue silk taffeta (imagine, people!)


Atop the commode, this beautiful Venetian mirror, from Italy, 19th century.

And at each side of the commode, in front of the windows, will be these Northern Italian bergeres.




Store View

Next, Found, a unique store - selling both fine antiques and old industrial wares.  Somewhat new to Houston, Found is located in an old refurbished factory.  Above the stores are offices where some of the best of Houston's interior designers have leased space.

This Italian settee will be floating in the salon.  Fabric, to be determined!




Store View

Bill Gardner sells his fine European antiques from a home on a charming street filled with other antique shops interspersed between townhouses.


This French upholstered bench will do double duty as a coffee table and extra seating.


These large, French, zinc roof finials will be placed on either side of the fireplace, maybe.




Store View

Cindy Neal, proprietress of Neal &  Co. located her store on Bissonnet at Greenbriar - a busy corner for upscale antiques in Houston.  Besides selling fine antiques, she also sells French candles and soaps.

This boiserie mirror will go above the fireplace mantel.


And Neal & Co's beautiful Swedish chaise will take center stage in the salon.




Store View'

Right across the street from Neal & Co., Babs Watkins and her daughter sell exquisite European antiques.  Watkins and Culver are known as much for their interior design projects, which are regularly featured in Veranda and Southern Accents, as they are known for their antique store.  Be sure to remember to step out back - half the store is located across the parking lot!


This French painted sideboard will be placed on the back wall across from the fireplace.


And this Venetian mirror will be atop it.




Store View

Chateau Domingue, featured in Cote de Texas last year, specializes in European architectural antiques.  It's THE place to go if you are building a home and want some authentic materials such as old tile floors or roofs, limestone fireplace mantels, or door surrounds.

These early 19th century Dutch painted panels will flank the fireplace.

This late 18th century "Garde Manger" from France will be placed on the wall behind the settee - inside a large collection of creamware will be showcased here.




Store View

brown, owned by Jill Brown, started as a lighting fixture store, but Jill quickly increased her inventory to include just about everything unique.  Specializing in Belgian antiques (she once lived there), her hand-picked antique lighting fixtures are beyond comparison to anyone else's in town.


This Empire bronze and glass chandelier will hang from the center of the salon.  This particular fixture may be too small, but Jill will be able to place the exact sized chandelier I need.


OK - is there anyone interested in this Salon for their house?  Email me, I"ll be glad to help!