Locally Made Lights to Last a Lifetime

Northeast Lantern builds them tough



A piece from Northeast Lantern's barn lantern collection

Courtesy photo

To many in New Hampshire, February feels like the longest month of the year. The holidays are a distant memory, and the fresh green shoots of spring are at least six weeks away. Meanwhile, darkness still falls by 5 p.m.

Outdoor lighting, such as door sconces and post lanterns, is crucial to keeping a home looking cheerful and winter-weary spirits raised. Though some may balk at investing in a product that is likely to corrode under our harsh winter conditions within a few years, there is one outdoor lighting company that offers a solution, and it’s located right here in New Hampshire.

Exeter-based Northeast Lantern was founded in 1987 by Skip Heal. As a 15-year-old boy, he could often be found fooling around the fire station in Hampton Falls, where his father was the fire chief. Golden Eagle, a copper weathervane and lighting shop, was next door, and he began to work there during afternoons and summers. That continued after college until, at age 33, he decided to set off on his own, focusing on brass fixtures instead of copper so as to not directly compete with his former employer.

Fast forward more than 25 years, and Northeast Lantern has grown into a completely made-to-order and custom lighting company with more than 50 individually trained craftspeople and 16,000 square feet (and growing) of shop space. It is now co-owned by Skip’s son Chris.

The orderly work space, filled with patterns and tools,  looks like the dream of anyone who loves fabricating with metal. “We’re basically a high school machine shop on steroids,” says Chris.

All fixtures come with the customer’s choice of seven different hand-applied finishes — no lacquer, powder coat or paint is used. This ensures the fixtures will patina naturally if kept in the same environment with no flaking, peeling or rusting. Glass is mouth-blown.

Moreover, each of Northeast Lantern’s fixtures comes with a lifetime warranty against any defects in workmanship under normal use — including installation near the ocean. “You don’t need a receipt,” Skip says. “We know our lights. Just send it back if something breaks, and we’ll fix it.”

This sort of philosophy harks back to the days when a handshake was all you needed for a guarantee, which seems appropriate for such vintage designs. In fact, when asked who serves as Northeast Lantern’s principal designer, Skip quips, “Paul Revere!” He’s not far off. Most of the fixtures wouldn’t look out of place 200 years ago.

However, many fixtures are modern riffs on traditional designs, and 30 percent of Northeast Lantern’s sales are custom orders. “If you can draw it on a napkin, I can probably make it for you,” Chris says.

The staff at Northeast Lantern is particularly proud of the onion lanterns, which also happen to be the company’s best-sellers. In particular, the optic glass option is gorgeous.

Every fixture is customizable, and most are already available in post, wall and hanging options. Although especially durable, brass fixtures are not only for the outdoors; wall and ceiling options (including flush mounts) look beautiful inside.

Lastly, Northeast Lantern has an array of solid brass chandeliers as well, so you can add a little handcrafted lighting to cheer up just about any spot inside or outside your home.

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