British Style: Porta Romana

Porta Romana champions the hand of the artisan in the creation of its aspirational, crafted lighting and furniture designs with beautiful patinated finishes

Selection of lighting from Porta Romana
(Image credit: Porta Romana)

From hand forged metals and hand-formed ceramics to mouthblown glass and hand gilded finishes, the touch of the artisan is pivotal to the design and creation of every piece of lighting and furniture from Porta Romana. 

Set up in 1988 by Andrew (below) and Sarah Hills, the British brand was ignited by a desire to honor the skills of specialist makers, and was named to commemorate the moment when inspiration struck.

During travels to Florence the founders became enraptured by the plethora of proudly preserved Italian ateliers they had discovered there and determined to champion a similar movement to nurture and extol heritage skills of artisans in the UK. It was, in effect, their portal to this mission and the name – which translates as Roman gateway – was born.

Andrew Hills

Andrew Hills

(Image credit: Porta Romana)

Porta Romana is available to US buyers, though its base remains in the UK. Today Porta Romana employs over 100 staff across its head office and showroom in the Design Centre at Chelsea Harbour in London. It creates 75% of its lighting and furniture in British studios and – impressively – three quarters of the full collection is sourced, made and produced within 50 miles of its base in Farnham, supporting metalsmiths in Hampshire and London and glass blowers and ceramicists in Surrey. 

Indigenous specialisms, including Bohemian glass which is created specifically in the Czech Republic, form the remainder of the collection.


The mouth-blown Blob lamp is one of Porta Romana’s best-selling table lamps – here in Denim colorway

(Image credit: Porta Romana)

Capturing organic forms in lustrous materials is at the core of the design process and this extends also to pieces created in collaboration with respected names in the interiors industry including Kit Kemp, creative director of Firmdale Hotels; Viola Lanari, a London based sculptor known for her textured plaster art; for And Objects from the studio of interior designer Martin Brudnizi and Nick Jeanes; and Tord Boontje, an industrial product designer.

Painting gold leaf for lamp at Porta Romana

The hand of the artisan is visible in every piece in the collection. Specialist gilding and paint finishes applied in the in-house artists studio magnify the lustrous, organic details of lighting and furniture designs

(Image credit: Porta Romana)

Heritage skills & modern innovation

Mushroom lamp

The tactile mushroom wall light is 3D printed in an organic plastic produced from fermented corn starch, which is biodegradable at end of life

(Image credit: Porta Romana)

Whilst craftsmanship is core to the ethos of the business, there is nothing niche about the business’ ambition or its embrace of technology. During 2020 the company set up its own in-house bespoke lampshade-making department and launched its Upcycling Club by which owners of lighting can have items restored, refurbished or even part-exchanged.

Porta Romana also adopted the 3D printing of prototypes as a neat way to design and refine new pieces on site before putting them into production; the prototypes are printed to scale in biodegradable corn starch. Indeed, the mesmerizingly tactile Mushroom Lights (above) which form part of the finished collections are also printed using a process known as FDM (Fused Deposition Modelling). 

A spokesperson at Porta Romana explains that 'PLA or Polylactic Acid is an organic plastic which is produced from fermented corn starch. Being made from natural raw materials the material has a huge advantage over petroleum based plastics and is biodegradable with the ability to compost naturally within a human life cycle or alternatively far quicker within an industrial composting facility.'

Gilding a light

(Image credit: Porta Romana)

When founder Andrew Hills is asked what achievements in the Porta Romana journey have made him most proud so far, he reveals 

'To mark our three decade history we embarked on cultural collaborations with two quintessentially British Institutions: the first was a donation to the Royal Academy of Art, which was celebrating its 250th Anniversary – we donated five of our Urchin Chandeliers to the Academy and feel honored that these Porta Romana chandeliers will be enjoyed by visitors for years to come.'

Porta Romana craftsman making lampbase on potter's wheel

Porta Romana works with metalsmiths in Hampshire and London and glass blowers and ceramicists in Surrey, all less than 50 miles from its head office in Farnham

(Image credit: Porta Romana)

'The second was a collaboration with Grange Park Opera, a new woodland opera house, in the grounds of West Horsley Place, close by to our Head Quarters in Surrey. Our Beatrice Wall Lights fill the auditorium, providing a beautiful glow to this magical and enchanting space.'

And when it comes to his most pressing aspiration for the next chapter? 

'For our furniture line (below) to become as recognizable as our lighting collection.


Although best known for its lighting collection, Porta Romana also has a fine furniture range and offers a fabulous bespoke service, creating these pieces to bespoke scale and finishes. This is one of the best-selling furniture designs – the Giacometti Sofa Side Table

(Image credit: Porta Romana)
Kerryn Harper-Cuss
Contributing Editor

Interiors editor and brand consultant, Kerryn Harper-Cuss has worked on four interior magazines and edited three of these, most recently The English Home, where she was Editor-in-Chief of both its UK and US editions for almost 12 years. She now writes for a number of high caliber publications, moderates design seminars and is particularly delighted to pen profile features on world-class interior designers for a regular slot on the Homes & Gardens website.