Calling Jim Lehman a lighting designer is a bit of an understatement. He’s a CLC (certified lighting consultant), who belongs to the American Lighting Association and the Illuminating Engineers Society of North America.
Step into Accent Lighting Designs, his downtown San Marcos showroom, and you quickly realize you are in the workshop of a genius inventor with a funky spirit.
Lehman has tinkering in his blood. He is, after all, a descendant of Conrad Bering, the Houston hardware store magnate. Lehman moved to San Marcos 35 years ago when he married Shirley Rogers, who is also from a well-known local family: her father, Paul Rogers, founded the Aquarena Springs Amusement Park, whose water shows were once the town’s most famous tourist draw.
The store, which is packed literally to the rafters, contains objects that seem to be one part antique electronics and the other part mad scientist collectibles.
During our recent visit, it was hard to miss a lamp with a “base” made of a vintage television signal generator from the seriously analog days, with as many knobs and gauges as a cockpit and a jaunty pair of rabbit ears connected by a coil. Housed in a glass display case, another item resembled a pop-up toaster with all of its innards exposed, maybe World War I vintage—except of course, it couldn’t have been.
“It does bagels on one side, toast on the other,” Lehman said.
Lehman is most excited right now about the Steampunk Lamp Factory, his new line of steampunk-style lights. The look is sometimes called industrial chic or urban chic. Lehman describes steampunk as “a fantasy world that takes place between 1880 and 1939, when steam was the dominant energy form.”
He has reconfigured an entire wall of the store with Steampunk Lamp Factory fixtures and commissioned local artists to paint an outdoor mural on the store’s back facade to celebrate the new line.
“We’re the largest builder of steampunk lighting worldwide,” he said. “It’s a movement. But it’s been a one-off built in the garage. We’ve taken it to the next step up where we can mass-produce steampunk lights.”
Lehman is an artist at heart, with a mind that never stops. “I can meet with my design team at 9, and at 10:30 see a built object,” he said.
The signs on the store’s façade sum up the spirit of the business—“The Biggest Little Lighting Co. in Texas” and “We Don’t Just Improve the Atmosphere. We Create It.” If you’re in need of some creative lighting—be it a chandelier, a sconce, a pendant light, a tabletop lamp or inventive outdoor illumination—Accent has a crazy-fun array of options.