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Q: I often drive past a store in River North called Tiffany Stained Glass, Ltd. Is that the same Tiffany as the famous designer Louis Comfort, who created the domes at the Chicago Cultural Center? What do they do in that shop, anyway?


A. We’ve been curious, too, so we visited Tiffany Stained Glass (216 W. Ohio St., 312-642-0680; tiffanystainedglass.com) and talked to Bob Nugent, president and owner. He told us that more than three-quarters of his business is the design and manufacture of domed skylights, doors, windows, and light fixtures. But his artists also make luscious, intricate, Tiffany-style lamps.

“The lamps are the touchstone for what we do,” he says. “Tiffany lamps are high on everyone’s wish list. Everyone remembers one from their childhood, the one their grandma had, and everyone wants one of their own.”

Nugent, whose background is in architectural design and drafting, started in the lighting and art-glass business doing custom work for architects and designers. He bought his own business in 1975, when stained glass was popular in restaurant, hotel, and nightclub decor. He had so many orders coming in for Tiffany-style lamps and glass, he says, that it became his specialty. The original Tiffany Studios in New York had gone out of business in the 1930s and the name was in generic use, so Tiffany Stained Glass, Ltd. was born.

Over the years, as the public’s appreciation of the original Tiffany designs has become more sophisticated, Nugent’s product has become more refined. Because one of the services the shop provides is repair and restoration of antique fixtures, Nugent and his staff have painstakingly learned exactly how to make a Tiffany-style lamp or piece of art glass. While there are a number of skilled glass artists in and around the city—Hoosin Lampworks (hoosinlampworks.com), Drehobl Art Glass Co. (773-286-2566), and Larry Zgoda (larryzgodastudio.com) among them—Nugent’s shop is the only one that designs and creates lamp bases as well as shades.

“Pieces in our reproduction series of Tiffany lighting are virtual clones of the originals,” he says. “The detail, methods, glass, and cast-bronze bases are identical to the originals.” Each piece is bench-made, meaning one craftsperson or team works on a piece from beginning to end. To distinguish these reproductions from the originals, every piece bears an engraved brass tag that reads, “Tiffany Stained Glass, Ltd., Chicago.”

You can buy a lamp in the shop for as little as $1,200 or as much as $18,000 (most fall between $1,200 and $10,000), or design a lamp with Nugent and he will produce it in about 12 weeks. He can make you a stained-glass shower door or a stained-glass panel mounted on a light box that you can pretend is a window in about the same time. Or you can simply go in the store and enjoy the sights.
 

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