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Miami student’s iceberg-inspired light fixture wins contest

Nelson Figueroa, 26, stands next to “Ghiaccio,” his award-winning lighting fixture, on display at Farrey’s Lighting & Bath in North Miami.
Nelson Figueroa, 26, stands next to “Ghiaccio,” his award-winning lighting fixture, on display at Farrey’s Lighting & Bath in North Miami. Miami Herald staff

The concept seems simple enough: A light bulb and something to hold it and you’ve got a lamp. But not quite.

Interior designers step in and make art out of our basic necessity to light our surroundings. Lamps can then become essential accents in the home, beacons of style and personality.

Although South Florida has several design schools, Farrey’s Lighting & Bath noticed not too many local designers were going into lighting design. The company decided to do something about it. It staged a contest.

Nelson Figueroa, an interior design student at Miami International University of Art and Design, is the winner of Farrey’s lighting contest. He won a $1,500 scholarship, and his fixture will be produced for sale by Diamond Lighting.

“When they said my name, I couldn’t believe it,” said Figueroa, who said he spent two sleepless nights getting his fixture ready for the selection on Aug. 12.

Figueroa, 26, was enrolled in a lighting class, part of his interior design program, when he learned about the contest. All students in the class had to submit a fixture and would show sketches and report their progress to their professor.

“When they told us we had to do it, I didn’t think I would have the time,” said Figueroa, who has a full-time job as a waiter and also goes to school full-time.

Figueroa, a Honduran immigrant, started out thinking he would create something quickly, but soon realized he was a perfectionist. After scrapping several initial efforts, he put the finishing touches on his award-winning fixture only hours before the judging.

This was the first time Farrey’s sponsored a lighting contest. The results were so great, the company — which has showrooms in North Miami and Coconut Grove — is looking to make it a regular occurrence.

“We were impressed [with the students],” said Bruna Indalecio, communications coordinator at Farrey’s. “It was a great experience and we felt the students were happy to participate.”

One of the reasons Figueroa’s fixture was chosen was for its potential to become a collection, said Indalecio, who was not one of the judges but spoke for the company.

“We can picture it in in so many different ways, three in a row or hanging — there’s no limits,” she said.

That was exactly what Figueroa had in mind when he started designing the fixture, which he named “Ghiaccio,” an Italian word for ice. He was inspired by icebergs and the way the light shines through the bottom of the submerged part.

“I wanted to do something modern and multifaceted,” he said. “Icebergs have a lot of shapes, they’re not a square.”

Figueroa will work with Mark Gale, president of Diamond Lighting, a company that manufactures lights, to bring his fixture to life and eventually into lighting showrooms. The company will cover the costs of manufacturing.

“[Figueroa’s] design was unique in a lot of the angles he used and it was conducive to today’s market,” said Gale, who was one of the contest judges.

“We’ll take his concept and enhance it, make some minor changes to it, that will make it more conducive to the market,” he said.

For now, Figueroa will focus on the production of his fixture and on finishing his degree.

“I think this will open a lot of doors, people will probably know about me and that will be a good thing,” he said.

“Someday someone is gonna buy something and they’re gonna say ‘who’s the designer,’ and they’re gonna say ‘the designer is Nelson.’”

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