We Like — Light Fantastic

It’s already almost a hundred years since pundits observed that one of the features of industrialisation was specialisation; that industrial production demanded people to become highly skilled in one or two particular areas.

Kartell - Gold and silver version of the Bourgie lamp by Feruccio Laviani

Kartell - Gold and silver version of the Bourgie lamp by Feruccio Laviani

If one considers this in relation to Feruccio Laviani, this certainly seems to be borne out. For, ever since the late 1990’s, Feruccio has been the designer of many of the iconic lamps produced by the luxury Italian design company, Kartell.

Kartell was founded in 1949 by chemical engineer, Guilio Castelli, whose professional fascination with the new durable plastics was very much a motivation for his new commercial enterprise. Initially focussing on producing plastic equipment for laboratories as much as for the home, Kartell was originally driven by a post-war optimism that the new materials could bring benefits of all areas of life. It wasn’t until the 1960’s that the company gained international visibility during the contemporaneous craze for Italian design. Some of its products designed by Italian designers such as Ettore Sottsass and Marco Zanuso had already been acquired by key American museum design collections by 1972.

In effect, Kartell is one of those brands that openly promotes its ongoing or multiple collaborations with talented designers, understanding that this only adds to the appeal of the products. But, sometimes, the Kartell identity perhaps overshadows that of certain designers, even where they are responsible for a number of the designs that are considered quintessentially Kartell. Perhaps Feruccio Laviani is a good case in point. Outside of the specialist design field, he is far less known than some of his iconic designs for lighting that are familiar to the broadest public. A number of these have crossed over from the niche world of high-end design to become iconic of a particular era’s aesthetic preferences as might be seen in the huge international popularity of the ‘Bourgie’ and ‘Take’ table lamps.

Architect Laviani first began his collaboration with Kartell in the late 1990’s and his first design for Kartell, the ‘Max’ table proved a success. But, it was at the start of the new millennium tha Feruccio Laviani designed his first lamp for the company, marking his move into the area that has since become something of a specialism for him.  The ‘FL/Ycon’ pendant lamps in shades of bright plastic evocative of the early 1970’s immediately struck a chord with the ‘lounge culture’ of the period and become a familiar sight in many chic private interiors, restaurants and boutique hotels.

Since then Laviani has produced numerous designs for Kartell, a number of which – such as the playful ‘Bourgie’ and ‘Take’ table lamps that envisage bright cheerful plastic as a pastiche of the most traditional design aesthetics- remain amongst Kartell’s most visible and accessible products.

However, Laviani has not limited himself to this particular representational approach and other more recent designs are far more abstracted. Perhaps the most striking of these is his ‘Bloom’ pendant lamp. Constructed of hundreds of tiny double-corolla flowers in polycarbonate, highly precise halogen lamps within the structure throw light at exactly the right angle to ensure a wonderful myriad of reflections and colour transparencies from the tiny flowers. Available in a semi-transparent white, a dramatic black or a daring combination of black, white and pink, it’s a instant means by which to turn any area lit into a contained magical grotto.

Kartell - Bloom pendant lamp by Feruccio Laviani

Kartell - Bloom pendant lamp by Feruccio Laviani