Vintage View: Current lighting trends winking back to Scandinavian and Italian classics

Vintage View: Current lighting trends winking back to Scandinavian and Italian classics

Kya deLongchamps says current lighting trends wink back to Scandinavian and Italian classics.

Mid-century light-work, both original and inspired, is shining on for 2020. Exploring the mid 1950s to 1970s, there are dazzling choices for collectors weary of obvious buys from the over-exposed Arco floor lamp and heavily reproduced Louis Poulsen stacked glass dishes. Be braver.

Short on funds but longing for bespoke — examine the iconic authentic work and then search out the look in the vibrant middle tiers of the lighting market. Concentrate on the quality of the materials and fittings if you are turned on a by a lighting piece and avoid outright reproduction if possible. Don’t let art blot out functionality if the light is to be anything but purely ornamental and think about multiples of one lamp.

Panthella with its hemispherical shade was designed by the Verner Panton (1926-1998) for Louis Poulsen in 1971 and it remains (deservedly) one of their greatest successes since the lighting manufacturer’s launch in 1874. The lamp is instantly recognisable with its vivid almost mathematic grace, calming and elegant as a stretch of lava lamp wax, the foot and shade both acting as high shine reflectors.

We’re most familiar with the bold architectural Opal White lamp for floor and tables, but last year, celebrating 60 years of the lighting work of Poul Henningsen (PH) and his contemporaries at Poulsen, a MINI Panthella (250mm diameter rather than 400mm) was released in a sensational chrome edition.

“He originally wanted to have Panthella launched with a metal shade,” says Rasmus Markholt, design manager at Louis Poulsen, “but this was not technologically possible at that time — the Panthella MINI is a world first, based on Verner Panton’s original drawings.”

There are a number of colours to choose from in the MINI, again all to Panton’s taste, from €340, ambientedirect.com. For something upward gazing dinner guests will point at in fascination — the Taraxacum could be your leading light. The restless spirit of the 1960s seems to be straining for release in the highly sculptural pendant by Italian architect and designer brothers Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni (d 2002/d 1968).

The material of this softly diffusing futuristic design for the Italian house of Flos, is sprayed polymer fibres built up onto the frame to create the expressive body of the shade — it’s not simply a piece of taut everyday material, but a membrane unique to the range dubbed Cocoon by the Castiglioni brothers. Expect to pay in the area of €800-€1,000 for a good vintage example with new wiring, and around €1,748 new, lights.ie.

For a take on the traditional chandelier in this same shroud of resinous Cocoon material, look at Marcel Wanders’ fabulous Zeppelin pendant, also for Flos, from €3,141, ambientedirect.com. This season oversized clouds and bubbles in singles and airy groups gleaned from the 1960s and 1970s are all over the high street.

Tom Dixon’s much copied Melt lights have taken to the floor now, in mesmerising iridescent clusters of collapsing globe shades in distorted polycarbonate — future collectables in my book. Tom has added a new LED light ring inside the housing, from €650, tomdixon.net. George Nelson was playing with the Castiglionis’ polymer spray (developed in the second world war by the US Navy) back in the early 1950s, and Hay still make his much beloved and timeless Bubble lights with their fine origami like fins — from €507, finnishdesignshop.com.

With the 50th anniversary of the moon landing in 1969, space, geometry and science fiction are being re-examined in décor circles. Born in the heritage glass city of Venice, Gino Sarfatti (1912-1985) was training in aeronautical engineering when the fascist persecution of his Jewish father’s business interests led him out of college and to the launch of the legendary lighting firm of Arteluce in Milan in 1939.

During his years in his “rational lighting workshop” Sarfatti would create more than 700 light fittings.Unimpeded by a formal degree in design, he brought both an unimpeded aesthetic freedom and daring to the forms, together with an engineer’s eye to the vital functionality of the pieces.

The range he is most clearly identified for are the Sputnik styles (actually launched long before the artificial satellite, around 1950). Sarfatti had something of an obsession with directional spotlighting that could be moved or scattered to best effect. Exploding the formal chandelier shape, the copper tube arms of a classic Sputnik style lights or “atomic”-style housing are often fitted with industrial “Edison” bulbs or slim LEDs today.

Genuine Sarfatti lighting identified by its number (not name), go for interstellar prices. Flos now own Arteluce and their current catalogue owes a lot to perfectly engineered Sarfatti look of the ’50s, ’60s and especially the 1970s, flos.com.

Try modern classics for some late 20th century Italian flash — abstract art scribble style with Massimo Zazzeron’s extraordinary asymmetric Scarabocchio Chandelier €3,440, or something from the jaw dropping range by MM Lampadari, williedugganlighting.ie. Panton’s VP Globe, c 1969, is another exciting contender for the space age vibe, with a later mid-century edge, and an iconic choice for its abstract interior inclusions in a sphere of chrome, lacquer and acrylic, €1,676, ambientedirect.com.

Glass, metal and enamel finished straight sided cylinders and conjoined polished pipes are my choice in supports and shades for next year. Ribbed and Holophane glass is showing in kitchens and on retro pendants and shades — see the work of Fritz Fryer for inspiration and colourful refractions, fritzfryer.co.uk.

The Spanish house of Delightfull make investment lighting for clients across the world — trawl their current highly urbane Atomic line in black enamel, belted in brass — it hints at vintage couture without slavish adherence to the retro classic song book. To totally lose your mind (and credit card rating) their Janis floor light is a huge, handsome, psychedelic dream of a candelabra in hand-made brass dedicated to the great Janis Joplin.

The Botti range of surreal trumpet lights seems to wail progressive jazz from pendant and table lamp choices, POA, delightfull.eu.

Less than €200? Defy gravity with the Saturn pendant at Debenhams, a globe with three belts of brass, €180, debenhams.ie. Meadows & Byrne has retro-inspired pieces that go further up the 1900s this autumn, including a beautiful Italian-informed collection of white glass globe and marble lighting on brass stems (Soleil from €149 meadowsandbyrne.com). Theme to similar ceiling tubes and globes in Shera and Lucky and Queen, from the Brilliant Lighting company, €35-€105, Harvey Norman.

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