The essentials: 20 of the best lights

From chandeliers to bedside lamps and wall-lights: 20 iconic designs selected by Domusweb.

As far as lighting is concerned, the multitude of options we now take for granted is a fairly recent phenomenon.

It was Gino Sarfatti, writing for Domus in February 1940, who tried to convince readers that the inflexibility and singularity of a central ceiling light was no longer in line with contemporary life. He said that domestic lighting should finally begin to adapt to the lives of inhabitants, leading to the creation of “dedicated”, or rather specialised systems.

Nowadays, this goal has undoubtedly been reached. The world of lighting includes various distinct types: it is therefore hard to compare a large chandelier with a small bedside light or a wall-light, a technical light with a table lamp, or an item made of glass with one moulded in plastic.

Our list of 20 icons touches on a number of excellences from these various sectors. A further aspect to not be forgotten is the increasing success of LED lighting which, since the beginning of the new millennium, has profoundly changed the rules of the game.

Designers, used to always constructing lighting devices as “shells” of varying degrees of transparency which surround a filament lamp, have suddenly found themselves working with light sources that have not only been miniaturised, but also provided with particular shapes (for example LED strips), and moreover with a long life expectancy (meaning that accessibility to change the light source is no longer an essential feature). 

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