Bright sparks - Issue 101 - Magazine | Monocle

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“Light” and “dark” are laden terms. A bogus binary that we apply to the world to strip it of complexity, shadow and shade. But brighter isn’t always better, remember. The primeval flicker of a candle can still calm, charm and flatter in ways that are beyond the capability of the bluish rays of too many LED bulbs. Careful lighting can also create a mood that frees us from the glare of the backlit screens at which we work. It’s time for a switch. Here are a few bright (and some more muted) ideas to keep things cosy at home once the latch clicks shut.


Rotary light switch

Put away the plastic mounts and complicated control panels (it’s a home not a spaceship). It’s a tragedy to think of how many of these old-school rotary switches have been binned by shortsighted renovators so if you can’t source a vintage fitting then plump for a new one. The ceramic gem from Germany’s THPG will do the trick.


Adjustable sconce

Perhaps it’s the height they’re placed at but sconces (wall lights) are often overlooked if they’re not holding candles in churches or torches in castles. These Floris Fiedeldij-designed teak-and-metal beauties were made in the 1950s by the now-defunct Dutch company Artimeta and can be adjusted to cast light either up or down. They’re out of production now but easy to source.


Pretty plug socket

Poor puns notwithstanding, Lumen 8’s bamboo-finished sockets are an elegant solution to the tacky white plastic standard. Cape Town-based industrial designer Ian Munro started his business back in the late 1990s and opened a retail space in Johannesburg in 2012. The concrete range also has its charms if you’re buying for newer-looking spaces.


Shady arrangement

Ceiling lights are usually a mistake and shades can feel mumsy but there are exceptions. This number from Taiwan- based Kimu Design took its cues from Chinese lanterns and collapses to creates different intensities of light.


Dapper dimmer

Too many settings are bewildering but the tiny increments between an intimate light and fall-over-the-coffee-table darkness are easily navigated with a dimmer switch. German company Berker’s rotary dials – raised buttons on a rectangular plate – are simple, understated and won’t outshine the decor. Robert and Hugo Berker founded their factory in Schalksmühle in 1919 and although the firm has grown, there’s a classic look that remains undimmed.


Cloth cords

Kevin Faul’s LA-based Conway Electric has made sparks fulfilling the simplest of needs – an extension cord that isn’t an eyesore. Alongside a range of pretty power-boxes and usbs there’s a range of colourful cording with which to hang pendants or connect lights to sockets. The final products are made in US factories (wire from the midwest and threads from the southeast) and no minimum order on cord length.


Subtle side lamp

Madrileño Alvaro Catalán de Ocón’s Candil collection is simple. Made from wood, copper and brass (just lift the bulb from the copper basin to turn the light off), these shapely sidelights cast a soft and soothing glow. The collection’s name comes from an Arab word used in Spain meaning “oil lamp”. We’ve pumped for the comely Kyoto model.




Finnish brand Iittala has elevated the humble candleholder into a statement with this Harri Koskinen-designed amber-coloured objet d’art. The company does a version that comes with an electric bulb but there’s a certain allure to a naked flame.


Decorative lamp

The pill-shaped Duo lamp is also available with an earthy terracotta base but the blue-glass finish casts a particularly alluring light. Tom Housden, an architect by training, founded Hand&Eye studio in London in 2011.


Moveable lamp

It’s hard to pick a highlight from the stable of Barcelona-based Santa & Cole but the Miguel Milá-designed Cesta lamp is one. Made from steam-bent cherry wood, this dimmable delight dates from 1962 and, as well as being a beautiful object, can adorn either a floor space or tabletop with enviable versatility.


Non-LED light bulb

EU regulations are threatening the production of incandescent lightbulbs but leds, efficient as they are, often cast an unflattering light. Go for one from Swiss firm Righi Licht.

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