lights from Louis Poulsen

Louis Poulsen, the Danish company who manufacture lighting, was founded in 1874. They produce a huge range of lights and are noted not just for the exceptional quality of their light fittings but for their technical understanding of illumination for lighting to be used both inside and outside buildings. They are well known for their collaboration with the designer Poul Henningsen who trained as an architect but never practiced and saw himself as primarily an inventor. Henningsen died in 1967 but Poulsen still produce many of his pieces.

Two light fittings that are currently being promoted by Poulsen illustrate the range and character of their products.

The PH 3½-3 was designed by Henningsen in 1929 and was one of the first designs in the PH series using three shades to control the light. Over the intervening years a number of changes and modifications were made to the design but this light returns to the original form. It is in copper as a limited edition to mark the 120th anniversary of Henningsen’s birth and will only be available to order from 1st March to the 31st May 2014. 

When you look at the working drawings for the light, you can see exactly how carefully and precisely the measurements, proportions, curves and lines were determined. The lamps in the PH series, with their multiple shades, control light in an almost magical way. I have a PH 5 over my dining table and I am still trying to analyse exactly how it works. The layers of shades create a pool of light over the table but also throw out a soft light over the space around and yet people around the table cannot see the light bulb and are not dazzled by it as they look across the table.

With a price tag of £995 in England the PH 3½-3 will almost-certainly be seen as a collectors or specialists piece for architects and design fanatics.

The Toldbod 120, in contrast, is a simple pendant light that is a relatively recent addition to the Poulsen range. The shape is deceptively simple but it has sophisticated and very carefully designed lines … the bulb holder is not straight-sided but a subtle truncated cone and the shade curves out gently without verticals. The bulb itself is housed well into the shade so, again, there is no glare. The lights are relatively small, 120mm high and 120mm diameter (hence the 120 in the name) and made in spun aluminium. They come in a number of colours including white with a pale green interior, dark grey with a deep turquoise interior, “cloudy” white with deep orange inside and apple green with a speckled orange inside. Some finishes have a matt and slightly textured surface.

The lights look great as a loosely-formed group with different colours together and flexes at different lengths or as a line with a number of fittings equally spaced with one colour - for instance along a work surface - to give a structured lighting that would fit with a minimalist interior and be a good alternative to ceiling spots.