October 3, 2015

The Heathridge Story: Making a Masterpiece



The look of seasoned wood that has endured the elements over time and, rather than being forgotten, has become cherished.
temp images

No Casablanca ceiling fan better exemplifies the perfect synergy of innovation, artistry and craftsmanship than the Heathridge. Quite simply, it is a masterpiece among the exceptional. This is the story of how it came to be, from inception to completion.

Conceived by Christophe Badarello, Casablanca’s lead designer, the Heathridge began with an idea for fan housing that—initially, at least—seemed almost basic: a housing made of wood. Real wood that, according to Christophe, “would celebrate the rustic, but still be versatile enough to go with a range of decors.”

But the logistics of using real wood for a fan housing proved challenging indeed. Christophe ordered various types of wood. He cut and carved this way and that. He cross-sectioned large chunks and explored how a fan motor might fit inside them. And of course, he consulted with his design team, with Casablanca engineers and with people outside the world of ceiling fans. After a time, however, the jury was in: “A wood housing just wasn’t going to work,” said Christophe. But that didn’t mean giving up. When Casablanca designers have an artistic vision, they find a way to bring that idea to life.

The best way to imitate nature is not to copy it, but to use nature itself.

Christophe Badarello
Lead Designer

The most important aspect of his vision was to create a particular look with the wood grain itself, so Christophe made certain decisions based around that objective. Inspired in part by the long-weathered condition of wooden fences—the kind you can still find out in the rural West—Christophe knew that such a look simply couldn’t be imitated by drawing it. “The best way to imitate nature is not to copy it,” said Christophe, “but to use nature itself.” He would have to carve the wood, create a weathered look somehow—and then make a cast of it.

The first step was to sculpt the wood into the shape of the housing. He did so by hand-turning it on a lathe, then wire-brushing the wood to create deeper grooves. The next step required true innovation: How to weather the wood in a way that replicated decades of exposure to sun, wind, ice and rain? The solution involved “opening” the grain, eroding the inherently softer aspects of the wood (as would occur in a natural weathering process) while retaining the harder elements to accentuate the grain’s peaks and valleys. He then used different finishes to make that contrast and depth even more pronounced. With the faux finish perfected, the wood housing could be cast and molded out of a more resilient composite.

Christophe’s vision for the Heathridge was far from complete, however. What about the blades? Here again, Christophe wanted to use solid wood—not a laminate overlay. He did just that, hand carving the planks and opening the grain as he had with the housing. The ultimate challenge, though, was figuring out how to make the housing match the blades. They were, after all, made of different materials. After months of experimentation with different finishes, Christophe was satisfied. And the Heathridge was born.

Today, the Heathridge speaks to people as it spoke to Christophe from the beginning. There is a quality you can feel in the weight of the carved blades alone, but there is something else. Perhaps it is the fan’s nod to a more pastoral past while stepping exultantly into the present. The look of seasoned wood that has endured the elements over time and, rather than being forgotten, has become cherished.