The golden age of vintage lighting

In recent years, there has been a resurgence of “retro” or “vintage” design objects, and vintage lighting is noexception. Whether it’s a desk lamp, a suspension lamp or a floor lamp, many manufacturers are no longer hesitating to reissue great classics, or to revisit certain pieces. Why do they do this? Because the greatest names in 20th century design have happily and often successfully taken on the task of designing a luminaire. From the 1950s to the end of the 1970s, the golden age of vintage design, designers used light to fully express their creative potential.

Lampe de Marseille Le Corbusier

Since 2010, Nemo, a subsidiary of Cassina, has not escaped the trend of the return in force of vintage lighting.Since 2010 it has been reissuing the Lampe de Marseille wall lamp, a 1954 creation by Le Corbusier. Copyright : Pinterest

It must be said that in this period, the most talented and inventive were the Italian and Scandinavian designers. In full development in the post-war period, Italian furniture manufacturers made a speciality of lighting. Publishers specialising in this field were even created and continue to perpetuate their know-how today. Here is an overview of some of the most creative vintage lighting designs of the period.

Among the various design styles of the 20th century, many designers wanted to infuse their lighting designs with an “industrial spirit”. The Jieldé lamp, for example, is a classic of industrial design. Created in 1950 by the Lyon-based inventor Jean-Louis Domecq, this lamp, originally designed for industrial environments, has made a remarkable comeback since the 1990s.

Lampe Jieldé

Jielde industrial desk lamp model Loft D4040. Design Jean-Louis Domecq, 1950.

Is lighting an Italian speciality? One is tempted to answer in the affirmative. Founded in 1962 in Merano, the Italian company Flos, specialising in lighting systems, quickly called on the great designers of its time. It thus began a fruitful collaboration with the Castiglioni brothers (Achille: 1918-2002 & Pier Giacomo: 1913-1968). Among the Castiglioni’s emblematic creations for Flos are the Toio floor lamp (1962), and the Taccia (1962) and Snoopy (1967) table lamps.

Lampadaire Toio rouge Castiglioni

Red Toio floor lamp, design Achille & Pier Giacomo Castiglioni for Flos, 1962. Inspired by a 300-watt car headlight, the Toio floor lamp consists of a cut and bent steel base. The telescopic rod with a hexagonal cross-section is made of nickel-plated brass and is adjustable in height. Flos continues to produce this classic design luminaire.

Lampe Taccia

Taccia table lamp, designed by Achille & Pier Giacomo Castiglioni for Flos. 1962. Resembling a large spotlight, the Taccia has an inimitable style with its ribbed aluminium base on which is articulated a deep bell made of transparent hand-blown glass.

Lampe Snoopy

Snoopy lamp, designed by Achille & Pier Giacomo Castiglioni for Flos, 1967. Inspired by the comic book character, the Snoopy combines a painted metal reflector with a white marble base, original and timeless!

These three lamps bear witness to the creative genius of the Castiglioni brothers, who designed both useful lights such as the Toio with its adjustable height, and objects with a singular aestheticism such as the Taccia and the Snoopy. 1962 was a key year for Flos, which brought out an emblematic piece of vintage design: the famous Arco lamp, still signed by the Castiglioni brothers. A lamp with a unique style, with its characteristic arched shape and Carrara marble base that gives it a certain elegance.

Lampe Arco Castiglioni

Arco lamp by the Castiglioni brothers, 1962. Flos continues to produce this exceptional lamp.

Other ambassadors of Italian lighting genius, Artemide, Oluce and Martinelli Luce, were also to make their mark. The Milanese designer Vico Magistretti (1920-2006) designed the Eclisse lamp for Artemide in 1967. A small desk lamp in the shape of a sphere, its design allows the light to be directed and modulated. Another master stroke, this time for the publisher Oluce in 1977, Vico Magistretti designed the Atollo lamp for which he received a Compasso d’Oro. In 1965, the publisher Martinelli Luce brought out an iconic model that is still highly prized by collectors: the Pipistrello lamp. Designed by the interior designer Gae Aulenti (1927-2012), the lamp takes its name from the silhouette of a pipistrelle (bat), “pipistrello” in Italian.

Lampes Eclisse Vico Magistretti Artemide

Eclisselamps, design by Vico Magistretti for Artemide, 1967. Composed of a fixed spherical structure inside which a half-sphere rotates, which, depending on its orientation, can evoke an eclipse, the Eclisse has lost none of its charm.

Lampe Atollo Oluce

Atollo table lamp, designed by Vico Magistretti for Oluce, 1977. The result of an incredible exercise in style, the dome of the Atollo lamp seems to float in space. A true work of art!

Lampe Pipistrello Gae Aulenti Martinelli

Pipistrello lamps, design by Gae Aulenti for Martinelli Luce, 1965. Published by Martinelli Luce since its creation, the lamp has never been revisited since and continues, more than 50 years after its creation, to be produced identically.

Scandinavian designers, who favoured organic design and natural forms, also left their mark on the lighting of the time. In 1958, the Danish writer and architect Poul Henningsen (1894-1967) designed the famous PH Artichoke suspension lamp (literally the “artichoke lamp”), named for its resemblance to the plant. Designed with 72 copper “leaves” in 12 circular rows and in an alternating fashion for the publisher Louis Poulsen, this luminaire with its recognisable look is still considered a “must” in vintage design. In addition to being original, this luminaire is designed to never give off blinding light. So, no matter what angle of the room you are in, the “artichoke” never gives off direct light.

Suspension PH Artichoke Poul Henningsen

PH Artichoke suspension lamp, design by Poul Henningsen for Louis Poulsen, 1958.

Also for the Danish lighting company Louis Poulsen, designer Arne Jacobsen designed the AJ table lamp for the SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen in 1960. The shade, wall box and arm of this lamp are made of steel. Here again, the designer favours a soft, comfortable light, due in part to the white-painted interior of the shade.

Lampe AJ Arne Jacobsen

AJ vintage desk lamp by Arne Jacobsen for Louis Poulsen, 1960.

Organic design is not the exclusive preserve of the Scandinavians. Bruno Munari (1907-1998) demonstrated this brilliantly in 1964 when he designed the Falkland lamp for the publisher Danese. Its tubular shape, inspired by Munari’s research into natural organisms, remains timeless and still fits in well with contemporary interiors. The designer has also thought about easy assembly. In addition, the fabric texture of the object ensures the diffusion of a soft light.

Suspension Falkland Bruno Munari

Falkland suspension lamp, design by Bruno Munari for Danese, 1964.

Finally, one cannot mention the most famous lighting fixtures of 20th century design without mentioning the creations of the German designer Ingo Maurer (1932). Like Gaetano Pesce for furniture, Maurer, who has devoted his career to the design of light ensembles, designs poetic lighting devices. Take, for example, the Lucellino desk lamp designed in 1992 and also available as a wall lamp. Two handmade wings made of white goose feathers adorn the base of the incandescent lamp, diffusing the light directly. A graceful and poetic work of art..

Lampe Lucellino Ingo Maurer

Lucellino table lamp, design by Ingo Maurer for Ingo Maurer GmbH, 1992.

Applique Lucellino Ingo Maurer

Lucellino NT wall lamp, design Ingo Maurer for Ingo Maurer GmbH, 1992.

Written by François Boutard.