KC-based Barbara Cosgrove shines a light on her high-end lamp and home accessories business.
Barbara Cosgrove studied ceramics at San Jose State University and worked as an artist in that medium while raising her children in Kansas City. Once they’d grown up, Cosgrove wanted to enter the workforce—but on her own terms. She did just that, launching her own collection of high-end lamps at age 47. Her designs are now carried in more than 2,000 boutiques and by more than 1,000 interior designers and are regularly featured in luxury shelter magazines, including Elle Décor and Architectural Digest. We caught up with her at Barbara Cosgrove Lighting and Lifestyle’s headquarters in North Kansas City.
Q. You started Barbara Cosgrove Lighting and Lifestyle fairly late in your career. What were you doing before, and what prompted you to take the leap?
A. I was raising my kids, and working as an artist on the side. When they’d grown up, I wanted to get into the workforce, but I knew I didn’t want to work for anyone else. For some going into business is a studied, planned thing. I didn’t really think about it. I just did it.
Q. Why lamps?
A. They’re prominent sculptures in every home. Form with great scale, lines and proportion really holds my attention. I went to the Atlanta market with a friend and saw the opportunity there to use my ceramics experience in a practical way. Some of my first designs had clay bases. I couldn’t give those away, but the others sold like crazy.
Q. What was the biggest difference you noticed when transitioning from an artist to launching your own business?
A. Everyone was willing to look at my product when I started designing lamps. This is not true when selling art.
Q. Over the years, we’ve spotted your designs in countless shelter magazines and even on the sets of some TV shows. What are some of the features you’ve been most excited about?
A. The first time one of my lamps was featured in a magazine, I spotted it while in line at the grocery store. I was so thrilled I showed it to the teenage boy working at the checkout. He wasn’t impressed, but the girl bagging thought it was “really cool,” though. So did I. These days, we’re just frustrated when we aren’t in a shelter mag. I was pretty excited when I found out that [French designer and architect] Philippe Starck has some of our lamps in one of his homes though.
Q. How would you describe the Barbara Cosgrove style, and what are some of your favorite pieces?
A. Transitional, confident design that’s not easily categorized as any period and can add a strong statement to any style of room.
I do have a strictly sentimental favorite: Alicia. It was one of a handful of lamps in the first collection. Mary Caroll [Garrity of Nell Hill’s] ordered several when I showed it to her out of the trunk of my car. Like many other customers of ours, she still uses it in her designs today. We list our lamps alphabetically except for Alicia, which always comes first.
Q. What’s next for you and your company?
A. People are asking for more accessories. It’s too fun to work on them. I don’t like little trinkets around the house, so I tend toward larger statement pieces. I try to keep in mind that ours are primarily lighting buyers and design to complement our line.
You can see Cosgrove’s full collection online at barbaracosgrovelamps.com. Her designs are available to order through interior designers and local retailers, including Nell Hill’s in Briarcliff Village and The Coveted Home in Prairie Village.