The essentials: 20 of the best table lamps

Twenty iconic desk lamps that have marked the history of design by combining new technical achievements with the constant search for innovative shapes.

It is often believed that the design of the lamps is more accessible even to non-specialists of the profession due, on the one hand, to the fewer constraints in comparison with other types of furniture and, on the other hand, because of the greater freedom of expression which allows more creative and decorative choices. Yet the history of table lamps seems to partially contradict this stereotyped belief. It is a history, we could say, that began in the twentieth-century and goes hand in hand with the growing strength of white-collar workers and students, but which also progressively became more and more accessible to the ordinary people’s desire to personalize their homes, with lights that are less diffused and more directional and capable of adjusting to their reading habits.

The evolution of table lamps is first and foremost due to a constant updating of the language of this specific category of objects, which puts aside any imitation of pre-existing styles in order to affirm the lamp as a small essential and sculptural icon in itself. At the same time, this evolution seems to have been built around many small tips and tricks conceived by designers, which are turned from time to time into systems of springs and counterweights and joints that make it possible to tilt, rotate, and overcome a static vision of the object, or that are based on other technical innovations, or on the merging of unexpected functions or on the refinement of only apparently simple materials that, once they've become popular, will not hesitate to become a big part of our everyday life.

Read also: Dyson’s new transforming lamp is much more brilliant than it looks

Although the incandescent light bulb is no longer as popular as it was before, the LED revolution seems to have had less impact on the design innovations in this specific field, which in general has not yet come up with any formal and technical breakthroughs. But while we wait for new products that, as history shows, will not take long to show up, we continue to entrust these lamps with the friendly role of a sidekick in our leisure or work activities, thus reaffirming their status as some of the most intimate objects in our homes.

Latest on Design

Latest on Domus

Read more
China Germany India Mexico, Central America and Caribbean Sri Lanka Korea icon-camera close icon-comments icon-down-sm icon-download icon-facebook icon-heart icon-heart icon-next-sm icon-next icon-pinterest icon-play icon-plus icon-prev-sm icon-prev Search icon-twitter icon-views icon-instagram