Photo-Illustration: Bordered; Photos: Retailers
In the new “Curbed Catalog” series, we’ll be highlighting particularly excellent and well-designed products across a variety of price points – from a rose-colored lamp discovered at Target to raw silk pillows made by a pair of architects.
In my work as a director at Atelier Cho Thompson, a bi-coastal design firm working in the fields of architecture, interiors and graphics, I have worked on projects of houses at Restaurants at studios at hotels. And while big ticket items – like dining tables or silver wrappers – tend to take center stage, lighting plays an equally important role in a space. Especially a table lamp, which serves both as a figurative object in conversation with other elements of a room and, of course, as a source of light and heat.
When I buy lighting for myself, I try to look for pieces with simple shapes that will adapt to my ever-changing tastes; timeless materials such as metal, stone and ceramics; and unique, spirited design elements – like a curved sculptural base or a wok-shaped top – that provide a feeling of pleasure. I also always think about what kind of shade I want: a lamp that casts light downward toward a book, or a lamp that casts ambient light like a lantern? What kind of scale do I want: a small lamp that complements other objects on a bedside table, or a major piece that is a key design element? And what kind of functionality do I want: a portable piece that can go from the dining table to the fire escape to the bed, or a large, sculptural lamp that is a fixed design element? Below are some of my favorites.
This tiny light balances timeless design cues like chrome details and a pleated shade with the distinctive quirks Hay is known for, such as rich, punchy colors and a playful sense of proportion. I think it really sings in a deep jungle green and pairs beautifully with a range of interior styles. I’ve used it with rich antique red rugs and on vintage mid-century Aalto birch veneer stools.
A madness. This curvaceous ceramic beauty is sold at the Spartan Shop in Portland, which currently carries most of the current housewares made in the United States. At various times, the base looks to me like parts of the body of that of Picasso On the beach to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, like soft entrails, or like sturdy tree branches, and I love its ambiguity and richness as the light changes throughout the day.
This elegant portable lamp is crafted from powder coated metal and hand-blown glass, giving it a refined texture and delightful proportions. It can hold a charge for 12 hours and gives a soft warm glow to the bedside table. I move mine, taking it from the bedroom to the backyard of our brownstone for dinners, and my 6 year old steals it to be the campfire in his living room sheet forts.
In colors like teal and pink it’s perfect for a nursery, but in white it’s an affordable piece of choice for a grown-up but fun room. As a designer, I always come back to clean, simple forms, and these spheres provide a well-proportioned base.
My Super stylish architect friend Aurora Farewell frequently uses this Dims light in the spaces she designs. It is part of a line of lamps that breaks the conventional division between base, bulb and shade, creating a unified object that shines as one. And I think architects love the flutes of a classic column.
A classic that can go from bedside to bookshelf to library to console over the years. The base is concrete, powder coated metal or aged brass (my favorite!). Architects I know use it everywhere. (And there is a similar option available at Target, too much.)
I sang the praises of this lamp before. Its matte black metal lampshades and black marble base cut an imposing silhouette on a sideboard or bedside table. Although it’s large, it doesn’t shed too much light, making it a comfortable addition to a bedroom. I have used this piece over and over again, most memorably in the office of a stylish gallery director, where it stood like a sculpture alongside an incredible collection of art. He complemented his black fishnet dresses and his black leather lounge chair to a T.
I’m sure you’ve seen this Verner Panton piece millions of times over the years in its many brilliant rainbow hues, and now it’s available in a matte black portable version with a USB charger and dimmer. The shape is formed of three hemispheres. Somehow forever young, this’ 60s piece will be a timeless buy.
The inverted hemisphere perched on the marble base is an inversion of the familiar table lamp. Torch-shaped, this coin has an emphatic shape that catches your eye. I find it works just as well on the floor as it does on a well-composed bedside table.
My nightstand is a jumble of half-finished books and Kindles. Why not make a library of this mess? This Los Angeles-based gem of Human Home organizes your books with two slim metal and cork bookends, creating harmony out of the chaos.
Lighting is an investment, and I’m always looking for parts that will last. Hope customers can bring the lighting with them through movement and changing interior styles. This lamp from Brooklyn-based In Common With has a fantastic wok-shaped top and a sturdy, beautiful profile. It’s serious but unique, and its proportions seem a bit Gatsby the magnificent tome.
We recently renovated a historic Coca-Cola bottling plant and turned it into bright and airy residential units. One of the apartments has a mint-toned bedroom, from the linen bedding to the velvet cushions to the glass vessels, and this lamp was the green cherry on top. I like that the cord comes from the back of the lamp, allowing the top to swivel freely and the base not to be cluttered with twisted cords. Great for a child’s room and perfect for making shadow puppets, too.
Lately, our studio has been thinking a lot about the “softness” of shapes, materials and space. This lamp has a handmade ceramic dome that still appears to be forming on the potter’s wheel. The indentations and imperfect edges of the shade are juxtaposed with the crisp, clean metal of the base. We select this lamp for a new wabi-sabi cabin in the Connecticut countryside, where he will sit next to charred black shou sugi ban wood cladding and rough field stone walls.
This little wonder, with its postmodern influence and bold form, is surprisingly flexible. He could be at home on a spooky ziggurat side table in At Catherine O’Hara beetle juice Manor or on an immaculately organized shelf in a Tony Litchfield County estate. It works best if you aim for a delicate addition to a composition of books and containers on your nightstand, but hope for a room with a strong character and a playful sense of geometry.