Whether chandeliers, lights or lamps, the design of light fixtures is a favourite exercise in style for designers. Pipistrello de Gae Aulenti’s Arco d’Achille Castiglioni lamp holder and Poul Henningsen’s Artichok hanging lamp, are just two of the many easily identifiable cult objects that have become part of our design history.
Today, everyone can have stylish lighting without spending a fortune. Among the vast range of products available, a few main trends can be seen that can be mixed and matched at will.
Masculine-looking fifties lighting, in the tradition of Jean Prouve’s Potence line and Serge Mouille’s wall lamps are very popularl . In rough-finished metal, they correspond to the current taste for industrial design. To meet the demand, secondhand dealers are on the prowl in factories and workshops ! Dressmarker’s lamps with adjustable arms and machine tool lamps are given a second life in contemporary interiors. In just a few years, prices have exploded. Bargains are becoming increasingly rare so it’s better to look for modern copies, such as desk lamps by Bernard-Albin Gras and Jean-Louis Domecq with their ever-contemporary lines.
Mass marketing has followed the trend. You can find spotlights on stands and maxi stainless steel spotlights that look like they came off a film set. Giant lamp holders are also gaining popularity. Arco has a large number of more or less legitimate but flourishing descendants. Above a dining room table or next to a sofa, these graciously curved lamps lend a certain grandeur to the decor. Enormous architects lamps are an amusing and stylish alternative.
But metal isn’t the only material to inspire designers. Paper, feathers and driftwood are also great favourites. Céline Wright has a wonderful way with paper. Her Dodo, Tamago and ô lighting fixtures with their ethereal, feminine shapes give off a soft gentle light. She is true to the tradition of Isamu Nogushi, the undisputed master of paper lamps . His Akari light sculptures (Japanese for “light and lightness) made out of washi paper in Japan in the nine-fifties soon spread to the rest of the world. Typographer Ingo Maurer, another absolute reference in the field, uses Japanese paper in a different way. His Zettel Z chandelier is made of white printed sheets of paper suspended from a light steel structure. The chandelier comes with additional blank sheets so that people can personalise their hanging lamp.
To have a well-lit house, beautiful light fixtures are not enough. The right light source and type of light bulb must be chosen for each room and its occupants. The first rule to follow is that several lights are better than one. You can balance the overpowering light of a ceiling light with ambiance lighting in each corner. And don’t forget to light candles at night. Electricity has never managed to replace the atmosphere of this early source of light.
And when it comes to light bulbs, there is a revolution in the making. We are gradually saying goodbye to the incandescent bulbs invented by Edison in 1879. By 2012’, they will have been replaced by low-consumption compact fluorescent bulbs. They may be more expensive to buy but they reduce power consumption by a factor of 5 and last 6 to 8 times longer. Their somewhat pale light is gradually being improved. As of September 2010, the temperature of the light diffused will be indicated in Kelvin (k) degrees, ranging from 2100 k for yellow light to 6500 k for white light.
If we are to keep on lighting our planet , the game is worth the candle.
1For the exact dates, see: http://www.developpement-durable.gouv.fr/article.php3?id_article=5303