Before talking about designer lamps, we will briefly review the history of lamps and their use.
What is a lamp?
At the moment, lamps are the most frequently used and popular element when it comes to lighting up a space or room in our homes.
The way lamps or light fixtures work is simple, they receive electric energy and transform it into light energy. Thanks to the fact that electricity today reaches practically every inch of the planet, lamps are used as the main source of light.
Electric light sources have not always existed. It wasn’t until the end of the 19th century that Thomas Edison began to sell the electric bulb.
History of Lamps
Throughout history, there have been different types of lamps used by our ancestors.
The first lamps began with the discovery of the wick, in the Neolithic era. These were mud or stone recipients that contained an oily liquid that was lit by a wick.
These primitive lamps contained a handle away from the flame, which allowed the lamp to be held in the hand without getting burned, and an opening for the wick made of moss.
Each town used a different technique and materials to create its primitive lamps; for example, the Mediterranean people ended up using seashells. The Greek and Roman lamps decorated with stripes, palmettes and other similar drawings originated from Egypt. They had a deep, rounded shape and incorporated a handle.
They were filled with oil or grease and a cork perforated by a wick that produced light floated on its surface.
In the Middle Ages, the use of a new type of lamp became more widespread. It consisted of filling a glass container with water, to which oil was added over the spilled water, and finally a fibre wick that “swam” over the oil. Initially its use was limited to churches and religious places.
When the incandescent bulb was invented and marketed, electricity became the go-to source of lighting all over the world. It has become the standard way of lighting homes.
Advances in new technologies have led to the commercialisation of new LED bulbs and energy-saving light bulbs. These light bulbs help to reduce the electrical consumption in homes.
One interesting thing to mention is that, up until the 19th century, coinciding with the invention of the electric bulb, the most frequently used fuels varied according to the different geographical areas. The easiest fuels to find in each region were used, such as benzene, lard or olive oil in the Mediterranean area, among others.
When lamps are used for interior and exterior lighting and decoration, they become design accessories, namely designer lamps.
In today’s society, there is a widespread belief that designer lamps, and everything related to interior design, are prohibitively expensive products.
That couldn’t be farther from the truth, we could compare designer lamps with artwork. There is a selection of very important artwork whose authors and relevance makes them accessible to only a very small group of people; but there is also a lot of other artwork for all budgets.
And that’s why this belief (that designer lamps are very expensive) is totally false. There are models of designer lamps whose price is very high due to their importance not only as lamps but as a piece of art and a collector’s item, but there are also those that are accessible to all types of people.
Now we’re going to talk about some of the most important and recognisable designer lamps in history that have become design icons over the years.
Most important lamps
ARCO de Flos
The Arco lamp by the Italian lighting brand Flos was designed by the Castiglioni brothers in 1958. Both brothers gathered inspiration from the street lamps at that time to make the first design of this light fixture. Although the design was updated the following year, it was not until 1962 that Flos began producing it.
Achille Catiglioni (main designer at Arco) is known as one of the precursors of Italian design in the 20th century.
Born in Milan, he became a revolutionary in the process of industrial experimentation. He analysed and researched new techniques and materials, something completely new for his time, which earned him international acclaim.
The Arco lamp is one of his fourteen works that are permanently exhibited in the Museum of Modern Art in New York (MOMA).
One of the main features of this designer floor lamp is its rectangular Carrara marble base. This marble block has a hole where a bar can be inserted to make it more comfortable to be carried by two people. It is the same type of marble that Michelangelo used for his sculptures.
The Arco is made of several U-shaped sections of stainless steel hidden telescopically inside of each other to achieve greater amplitude. The maximum distance that the Arco lamp can reach horizontally from the foot of the lamp is 2 metres.
The screen consists of two pieces, a perforated dome to facilitate ventilation and a rotating ring to direct the light.
The Arco lamp has kept its original design virtually intact. The only change applied to the light fixture since 1962 has been to adapt it to new lighting regulations, including a mechanism for regulating the intensity.
This designer floor lamp is made to offer direct light as if it were a pendant lamp, without the need to be suspended from the ceiling. Its design has helped it carve out a space for itself on cinema and television screens. It has made different appearances in several films such as Iron Man, Men in Black or Tron Legacy; and in TV series like Mad Men.
NESSO by Artemide
The Nesso table lamp is a creation by Giancarlo Mattioli for the Artemide brand. From 1967 up until today, Artemide has continued to produce this design icon.
Mattioli was a well-known designer during the 50s and 60s and the Nesso lamp was his most famous work. Today, Artemide continues to produce the same design from that time and it is part of the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (MOMA).
This designer table lamp is very easily recognisable by its peculiar “mushroom” shape and its orange colour, although it is also comes in a very elegant white version. It is said that its author was inspired by “the belly button of a beautiful woman” when making the design. An element that lengthens the shadow of this light fixture, which has managed to stay relevant over time, until the point of becoming immortal.
The material with which the Nesso is made is ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene). A plastic material that offers very good durability and also has four hidden bulbs just under the diffuser. Previously, an intensity regulator was included that has ultimately been replaced by the switch on the base.
In the world of television, we can see Artemide’s Nesso lamp decorating Roger Sterling’s office in the famous Mad Men series.
TOLOMEO by Artemide
The Tolomeo lamp by the Artemide brand is a work by two of the great Italian designers, Michele De Lucchi and Giancarlo Fassina, in 1987. Both designers tried to reinterpret the style of the lamps that were used in the factories in the age of industrialisation, seeking to direct the light in a more precise way.
This designer lamp has become the flexo par excellence and an easily recognisable icon among table lamps. The Tolomeo is characterised by its ability to move and adapt, which makes it so comfortable.
The design of this lamp is focused on comfort. Due to its different tension cables and joints, the Tolomeo is able to face all directions thanks to its mobile arm in polished aluminium and its anodised aluminium diffuser. From its characteristic base to its diffuser, the entire lamp is the essence of flexibility.
Since its release, this designer lamp has managed to catch everyone’s attention. Proof of which is that in just a little over one year after its creation, it won the prestigious Compasso d’Oro award in 1989.
The Tolomeo can be considered the best seller of designer lamps and interior design since it has literally become the world’s best-selling contemporary design. Artemide has created a whole range of products around this design, meaning we can find everything from the mini and micro, floor, wall and ceiling versions, to the great Tolomeo XXL.
We have been able to find the Tolomeo by Artemide in multiple films and TV series. Its different models have made an appearance in series like House and Dexter or in films like 007 Skyfall or Good Will Hunting.
Ktribe by Flos
French designer Philippe Starck designed the Ktribe collection between 2005 and 2007 for the Italian lighting brand Flos; creating a set of lamps that gives a clean, modern and discreet look to any space.
Philippe Starck is a French industrial designer born in Paris in January, 1949. Today he is one of the most important and influential designers because his designs are known for evoking emotional responses in people. His prestige comes from the originality and functionality that he infuses into his creations, and because he is one of the pioneers of what is known as emotional design.
The Ktribe series by lighting brand Flos may be the most representative of Philippe Stark’s work with this Italian company, although it is not the only one.
There are many versions of this light fixture, but all maintain the collection’s unique design; we’re talking about the designer Ktribe floor lamp, the Ktribe table lamp, the Ktribe wall lamp and the Ktribe suspension lamp that combine elegance, tradition, modernity and functionality in a way that grabs everyone’s attention. The materials and finishes make this series a true gem of interior design and lighting.
It would be practically impossible to not be able to find what we’re looking for in this range of luminaries, when it comes to decorating our home with style and elegance. Any lamp from the Ktribe lighting range can be adapted to any interior design, and is sure to be a safe and timeless bet.
We can find this lamp in the hit series “The Killing” as well as in films like “The Avengers”, “Age of Ultron”; or “Quantum of Solace”.
Next, we’ve presented a series of affordable designer lamps that offer elegant solutions at a reduced price that are accessible to a greater number of people.
The Bourgie table lamp is a light fixture designed by the Italian designer Ferruccio Laviani for the company Kartell, which is also Italian.
The Bourgie has an unmistakable look that combines a classic and innovative style.
It is designed in transparent polycarbonate with a Baroque-style base, consisting of three interconnected legs that form a cross, and a large screen with a pleated effect.
Its screen creates a set of reflections once it’s turned on and the Bourgie model has its own, unique attachment system that allows its height to be modified according to our preferences and how we want to use it. Thanks to this system, it comes in three different sizes; 68cm, 73cm and 78cm.
The Bourgie can be used as a table and/or desk lamp, or even as an ambient light on our bedside table.
Its incredible versatility makes it very flexible to use, so flexible that it can be placed as a sculptural object directly on the ground or as our reading buddy.
It is very common to find the Bourgie lamp in hotels, restaurants or even in TV series and movies.
We can find Kartell’s Bourgie model in the movie “The Devil Wears Prada” .
Selection of affordable designer lamps
BALLOON by Estiluz
The BALLOON A-3050 wall lamp and the BALLOON T-3052 ceiling lamp with a matt white finish and light switch. Design by Francesc Crous and Alessandro Calogero.
KTRIBE by Flos
The KTRIBE S1 pendant lamp made of polycarbonate and PMMA, providing diffused light. Single suspension/electric cable. Internal diffuser in polycarbonate with a matt white finish. Designed by Philippe Starck, 2005.
WAN by Flos
WAN S pendant lamp made of aluminium, providing direct lighting. Low glare shield. Aluminium body. Comes with two rings with green and black finishes to protect the safety tempered glass. Designed by Johanna Grawunder, 2006.
JOIN by Vibia
JOIN 5066 table lamp made of borosilicate glass. It consists of a single piece, one light within another. The bulb is hidden inside the inner vessel and the cable comes out of it like a thread. Borosilicate glass screen. Designed by Jordi Vilardell.
PUCK by Vibia
PUCK 5400 wall or ceiling lamp made of blown glass with a white finish. Top-quality triplex matte opal glass. It produces warm light, without shadows or glare. Blown-glass diffuser. Designed by Jordi Vilardell.
TOLOMEO by Artemide
TOLOMEO MICRO table lamp designed by Michele De Lucchi and Giancarlo Fassina. Model especially recommended for installation in work areas.
ECLISSE by Artemide
ECLISSE table lamp designed by Vico Magistretti.
NESSINO by Artemide
NESSINO table lamp designed by Giancarlo Mattioli. Smaller than the Nesso.
PERSEO by Leds C4
The PERSEO wall lamp is a rustic wall fixture with a body made of injected aluminium with a brown oxide finish and a bevelled glass diffuser.