Italy has always been known for its rich and extensive design history, however it wasn't until after World War Two that the country began to develop a reputation as one of the world leaders in lighting design. Here, we take a look at some of the most iconic lighting designs to come out of mid-century Italy and we explore how interior designers are still using these timeless pieces in their work today.
1. Sputnik Chandeliers
This elegant space by interior designers Humbert & Poyet features a dramatic sputnik chandelier by Fedele Papagni.
The sputnik chandelier was first designed by Gino Sarfatti, a self-taught lighting designer who co-founded lighting manufacturing company Arteluca in 1939. The iconic shape of the light was inspired by the Soviet satellite of the same name, which featured four long antennae emulating from a center sphere. It was the first satellite to orbit the earth and it is believed that the Sputnik largely contributed to the push for the USA to create a rival space programme in 1958. The light became a recognizable part of the design period known as the “Atomic Age”, when concerns of nuclear war dominated the West, influencing architectural, commercial and interior design. The design remains a popular fixture today, as featured above in the chic Monaco apartment designed by Humbert & Poyet.
2. Statement Floor Lighting
The dramatic New York living space of Laure Heriard Dubreuil and Aaron Young, featuring a 1950s Italian floor lamp by an unnamed designer.
One of the best known lighting designs of this period was the Model 12128 'Triennale', a three-armed floor lamp created in the late 1940s by Angelo Lelli. Lelli's design has been copied many times and typically features a slender column, pivoting arms which allow for maximum flexibility of use and enameled metal conical shades. There have been many variations on this design, however it is likely that Lelli's classic model was the starting point for most of them.
3. Glass Pendant Lights
The London home of Martina Mondadori Sartogo, designed by her and decorator Livia Rebecchini. In the dining room, a 1940s Stilnovo chandelier hangs over a '50s Italian table and chairs.
With a world famous glass industry, it comes as no surprise that Italian designers make generous use of the material in their pieces. Murano glass in particular is known for its high-quality and craftsmanship, and has been employed by numerous major design houses over the last century including Stilnovo, Vistosi and Sciolari. It was particularly popular after World War Two, when more expensive materials such as brass and copper were being rationed.
4. Brass Lights
Brass gained popularity in the mid-20th century due to its shiny, modern look which is still extremely popular in interiors today. Whilst some designers enjoyed using brass on its own, others such as Sciolari enjoyed juxtaposing it against satin finishes, including the experimental combination of brass with chrome.
5. Cubist Lighting
The bedroom of a London townhouse by Veere Grenney, featuring a 1970s Gaetano Sciolari light fixture.
The designs of Italian lighting designer Gaetano Sciolari have recently come back into the spotlight, particularly pieces from his Cubic series, which was inspired by a range of art movements including Cubism and Deconstructivism. The designs appeared in many TV shows in the 1970s and '80s and remain highly-sought after by collectors.