Design Pr0n: Let There Be Light!

After a huge whittling down of my possessions, including the donation of about 80% of my books to the local library–a move that months before would’ve hurt my heart, but today I wouldn’t think twice about–there few things I still covet like pens, telephones, records and lamps. Trust me, I’ll lust over the first two in later posts and maybe if you’re lucky talk about the years I’ve dedicated to collecting every piece of wax Minnie Riperton ever lended her voice to, but today, I really want to gush over workspace lighting in the form of the lamps we use to light those spaces when natural light is not enough or isn’t available.

The lamp you use on your desk, if you use one at all, isn’t always there to give us better light to work by. I think that lamps also serve as a further expression of who we are through what seems like a practical means. I mean, the two lamps I have on my desk, the Script lamp in Mandarin from CB2 and a $14 white metal lamp I picked up from a nearby Targét when all the dorm stuff was on sale this summer, are practical, stylish and match the design aesthetic that I was going for. It never occurred to me to think about how much light each would provide. I just so happened to luck out in that respect.

I think lamps also give us a certain sense of comfort as may be the case with the lamp in White House Deputy Chief of Staff Mona Sutphen’s office (see below). Even I picked up my white Targét lamp because it reminded me of an old school reading lamp I spotted sitting on a child’s bedside table in the movie Doubt. I’m pretty sure that on the nights that that little boy was most afraid of a storm raging outside his window or of one raging between his parents, turning on that white lamp made him feel a little less frightened.

I also think that a lot of our office furnishings and supplies give people glimpses into who we are, even if you don’t consciously intend them to. For instance, take the paper clips you use everyday. Either you’re practical and use the regular silver metal paper clips or you prefer your paper clips with more zhuzh and go out of your way to purchase the colorful striped kind or the bourgie gold-plated ones. Then again, it could be that you just don’t care what kind of paper clip adorns the stack of memos on your desk, but you do care enough about what pens you use and drive 20 minutes out of your way to purchase a fresh box of Pilot Varsity fountain pens every six months. See, there’s always something.

But we’re here to talk about lamps, not paper binding or disposable fountain pens. That said, here’s a list of the top 5 lamps I lust over. N.B.: I have no clue how much light each produces, but they look great. Damn my vanity!

Nesso, $356 by Artimede
Nesso, $353 by Artemide

1. Nesso, $353 by Artemide ( I’ve been coveting this mushroom-inspired lamp for a few years now, and it’s been featured everywhere from the pages of dwell to Mode magazine editor Daniel Meade’s office on Ugly Betty. The Thermoplastic beaut comes in orange and white.

Twiggy XL, $1,347.00 by Foscarini
Twiggy XL, $1,347.00 by Foscarini

2. Twiggy XL, $1,347.00 by Foscarini. Available in four shades Bianco (white), Nero (black), Giallo (yellow), and Rosso (red), this lamp is the most expensive of the bunch. Hey, my mom always said I had champagne taste on a Kool-Aid budget. The Twiggy XL is made of composite lacquered material on a fiber glass base. Other than that, I don’t know much about this lamp and never see it in designs probably because of its price point. It looks good, though.

Script, sale, $29.95 by CB2– It's the big, tall orange thing on the left.
Script, sale, $29.95 by CB2– It’s the big, tall orange thing on the left.

3. Script, sale, $29.95 by CB2 ( I guess CB2 keeps it’s products so exclusive by discontinuing them, but the Script is now only available in white. At least it’s on sale. Earlier this summer, I bought this lamp in mandarin and thought it too tall, but I soon got used to the height since it spreads more light over the desk top. The only downfall is that the switch is on the cord, but I’m always reaching down to turn off the surge protector under my desk, so turning it off an on is not always an aggravating task.

Bourgie, $365 by Kartell
Bourgie, $365 by Kartell

4. Bourgie, $365 by Kartell ( I know, $365 for what amounts to a plastic lamp, but come on, this thing is so shiny and weirdly baroque, I couldn’t dare pass it up. When it was first released, it was available in clear and black polycarbonate, but now there are gold and white versions. The lamps can be assembled at three different heights–68, 73, and 78 centimeters (in inches: H 26.5”, 28.5”, or 30.4” x W 14.4”). While the Bourgie might be too pretty for a desk, it’s just right for some extra sparkle on a landing strip.

Mona Sutphen's lamp
Mona Sutphen’s lamp: It’s trying to hide, but I caught it!

5. The lamp on White House Deputy Chief of Staff Mona Sutphen’s desk, unknown. I have no idea who makes it, how much it costs, or what it’s made out of (it’s possibly ceramic), but I really like this lamp. I don’t always think that putting the type of lighting that looks best suited for your grandmother’s end table is a great idea, but it injects some sort of personality into Ms. Sutphen’s otherwise boring West Wing office. It also seems like it’d be a great conversation piece as I’m sure a lot of folks ask her why she stole it from a relative’s living room. J/k.


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