Interview on The Home Show with Sinead Ryan on Newstalk

On this episode of The Home Show, Sinead interviews Jack Harte of Harte Outdoor Lighting on the background to the family run business and all things outdoor lighting. 

Jack Harte is co-owner of Harte Outdoor lighting and also a Landscape Architect by trade, he has grown up with the business from an early age since its foundation in 1983 by his father Willie. Today the business is run by Jack and his mother Liz. In this episode you can hear all about the business and how balancing roles while maintaining a mother and son relationship is crucial to the success of the family run enterprise.

Jack also gives his top tips for lighting your garden along with some practical steps anyone can take to get started, ‘it’s important to think of your garden at night and not just the daytime’  Jack argues. Harte Outdoor Lighting are very proud of the list of prestigious customers they’ve worked with in the past, which include: Adare manor, Áras an Uactharáin, Leinster House, Trinity College Dublin and many more. 

Our family business

Harte Outdoor Lighting is a family run business which has been making the best quality outdoor products in New Ross, Ireland for almost 40 years. We are dedicated to quality products and great design, we use cast iron for the majority of our lights as it is strong, durable and long lasting. We pride ourselves on our customer service record and the legacy of our products over the past 40 years. 

If you need some help or advice on lighting your home or outdoor space please get in touch;

As the days are getting longer and a little bit warmer our attention is turning more to the garden and making it of course that place in the home where you can escape to. Now one thing you want to do is introduce a bit of style and design and some decent outdoor lighting. So I’m delighted to say that I am joined by an expert whose work is in Áras an Uachtaráin, Adare Manor and the K Club, Jack Harte from Harte Outdoor Lighting. Good morning and very welcome to the Home Show. That’s an illustrious lineup of clients.

Good morning, Sinead. I’ll tell you I feel like a Rockstar when you mention those names.

But you are a little bit of a lighting rockstar. Tell us how you got, where you based and how you got involved in lighting?

Yes sure,so we are a  family run business, Sinead, here in New Ross, in Wexford and I suppose we are famous for outdoor lighting as an intro kind of said. And how we got involved really? So my father set up the business in 1983, almost 40 years ago. His family were very much involved in casting and metalwork.  Sadly he’s no longer with us but myself and my mum run the team here today so: mother and son team. So we have some moments but we get on very well. 

I’m always fascinated by family businesses because I wonder to what extent that dynamic is different than in maybe more corporate structure, where you don’t have any relationship with each other except for work.
How has it been who’s in charge Jack?

It’s funny because I’m actually my previous background is a landscape architect but I’ve worked with some multinationals in my past so I’m very familiar with the corporate culture, and climbing the ladder and all that. And my mum is really she’s been, she’s coming into the business and it’s evolved around her so he is still the boss unfortunately but eventually, I’ll have to figure out a way of weeding her out.

Well, I hope you won’t need to do that. How do you split the roles between yourself and your mum?

Yes so very much I’m very much hands-on with all the team here, and production and I’m focusing on sales sort of internationally and trying to go our business abroad. Whereas Liz is, she’s very much hands-on here with with the kind of customers in Ireland and customers we’ve built a very good relationships with, She’s an amazing relationship builder and a great great teammate as well, I suppose.

Good! That sounds like a great split up of duties there. Now, when it comes to pieces you make. I mentioned, you know, some of your illustrious clients there but do you find it’s mainly bespoke pieces? And what kind of items  is it, that you make?

Yes, so I think well first of all, all our products that we make are handcrafted here in our workshop in New Ross. in terms of bespoke you know it really depends on the customer, you know, we because we make everything here we can tailor to customers needs where where relevant you know the majority of materials that we use a cast iron and galvanized steel which which we know from from our previous 40 years experience you know they last forever and will last for lifetimes but you know everything that we have this they’re all our own designs and you know when you talk about and Leinster House there you know there’s you can see our lighting outside and they would have been bespoke pieces replicating an old lantern that hung many many moons ago.

How does that process work then, Jack, in designing with a client a piece that’s just right for the building that it’s in?

Yes, so it’s really down to the client. So, a lot of time we would have maybe a piece of an existing or an old light or part of the lantern head. Or in some cases we would work off pictures and we’re trying to replicate as close as we can. 

We’ve recently completed another project there, for dunfanaghy in Donegal there’s a tidy towns committee up there and it was a light in the centre of the town, very bespoke very unique to the town and unfortunately was lost and through the years and we were able to replicate on an old photograph so although, you know, it’s impossible to get it exactly right we were able to get it pretty much bang on to the photograph and it’s still standing proud in there today and shining into the square.

It Must give you a sense of pride going past a piece that you have created yourself and just kind of giving it a nod and saying ‘I’ve made that!’ – ‘that’s there because of me’. Do you still get that thrill?

I kind of take it for granted,Sinead, it’s funny when used to go on holidays when we were younger myself and my brother would sit in the back of the car and we’d often head towards Kerry and my dad used to give a 50p for every light we’ve spotted that was our own, so by the time we got to Kerry we were…

You were rich!

Yeah, nearly.

That’s a great story. Do you find that you are… How has lighting changed over the years that you were working there, Jack. Is it more kind of a contemporary design now or do people still favour that old traditional say Edwardian or Victorian look when it comes to those outdoor pieces?

Yeah it’s sort of our best seller, Sinead,  would be sort of the Victorian style lantern, our Harte 7. But, you know, I think one thing that we’ve definitely noticed over the years is that the Irish consumer has become much more design aware, so they know what they like a lot more and are not afraid to spend on something that’s a little bit more quality. in terms of sort of lighting and technology there you know, we’ve heard a lot about LED bulbs and that sort of energy efficiency, its a real buzz word, and has been for many many years but the developments in LED technology are phenomenal you know in layman’s terms the old 70 watts bulb now is now is a 7 watt LED in really you know you’re really cutting down on your lighting and electrical spend.

Now, can you give us some of our listeners lighting design advice for outdoor spaces because I know it again or entering into another summer now, where we’re going to be in a back garden mainly for entertaining and all that kind of thing. in terms of creating spaces for the domestic in terms of creating lighting for the domestic market what tips would you give to people?

Yeah, so I think we we take it from you know you’re starting point really Sinead is , you need to think about your garden … many people think about their garden in the daylight and the nice flowers and shrubbery that are there but I think we encourage people think about her garden area patio area looks at night-time because you know we’re spending a lot more time in our home so you know we need you’ll really have to think about where what areas they want to light so you’re starting point really is you know your power so where do you know you’re getting your power source from and you know electrician will will help with the feasibility of that whether you’re lighting your driveway or you want to light your entrance piers or just over your doorway and put some wall lights on.

So, then you can think about the different types of light that are that are available to you so if its a driveway for instance you can look at a lamp post and then the height of the lamppost will be dependent on style of your house or the amount of light you’re looking to spread so the higher the light source is from the ground basically, the greater lighting spread you’re going to get and as I mentioned with the LED bulbs you know you can get some lovely warm white LEDs that give a nice glow really kind of the yellow hue that’ll make it feel really atmospheric.

Yeah, that’s kind of more traditional look light that we’re used to in rather than that white bright halogen.
I know that lots of people, me included, love the idea of uplighters in the back garden, something that you can either bury that kind of, maybe light up a tree or a back wall or a piece of art. How easy are those to fit, Jack?

Yeah, so again, they are very easy to fit once you have the power source there Sinead so you know we get a lot of people asking us actually about solar. And solar is great in the daylight because that’s when the sun is but unfortunately the battery sources and capacities are not developed far enough now for solar to last through the night and particularly in the Irish harsh climate but those uplighters are sort of spot LEDs they’re very easy to install but I suppose we encourage people to think about you know the actual function of them, you know, so they you don’t, those sort of lightings aren’t bought for you know to, as a kind of like a jewellery piece they’re more just to highlight something as you’ve mentioned but it’s important to get the right level of lighting on them because when they are too bright they can really dominate a wall or make almost it seem light daylight.

And tell me in terms of a maybe the future for your business, Harte Outdoor Lighting,  give us an idea of what you have planned for the future,  I know you you were saying it to be in there that you’re interested in the global market you’re kind of moving abroad with that you had a program with Enterprise Ireland called ‘Enter the Eurozone’ – tell me a little bit about how you found that process?

Yes we’ve, I suppose, always been involved with the local Enterprise office in Wexford and over the last year we’ve been gotten very involved with the Enterprise Ireland team and ‘Enter the Eurozone’ kind of it happened by chance in away because we were approached by a large retailer in France over sourcing some lighting and it was a bit of a ‘oh feck’ moment when we realised that we weren’t able, probably didn’t have the capacity to work with them but they didn’t make us do was sort of look take a step back and try to plan a route for selling to France in particular. So, ‘Enter the Eurozone’ with Enterprise Ireland then was all about putting the structures in place so that your business is set up for success really to the Future and you know France we see  as a stepping stone and into greater Europe.

Why France, Jack?

Couple of reasons,  so one is climate and so we were actually targeting the Northwest France at the moment and it’s very similar climate to our own and those great Celtic links and sort of Irish links with the area, in Brittany, and these sort of provinces and and also we’ve had a because of location, hear in New Ross, we had a couple of French customers pass through on the way to rosslare and buy a few lights from us you like they’re already over there.

Oh i see of course, it’s because you’ve the ferry route down the road and people going back and forth on a holiday so yeah that makes a lot of sense OK now listen if anybody wants to have a look at your designs maybe thinking about outdoor lighting for the summer where can they find out more about you?

Yes, I suppose the first place is our website we also have we work with a number of lighting stores around Ireland and that would have displays, so it’s worth checking out your local electrical wholesaler or lighting store for our display and we’re  also on Instagram and Facebook.

All right, listen: the Very best of luck with your ongoing expansion and to you and your mum and the rest of the business Jack Harte from Harte Outdoor Lighting thanks a million for joining us this morning on the Home Show.

Thank you so much!