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The Functional and Fabulous Arc Lamp

Posted on February 03, 2013

The arc lamp has been a staple of modern design for over 5 decades. It doesn’t just provide an elegant, contemporary light source; it’s also very functional. Arc lamps come in many forms and styles, but the purpose is the same – to provide good overhead light without having to hang or attach lights to the ceiling. This is especially beneficial in modern homes where you cannot add any electrical to the ceiling. High rise condos with concrete ceilings are a great example, or perhaps a rental property where tenants are just not allowed to have ceiling lights installed.

The original arc lamp was cleverly named the Arco lamp. It was designed in 1962 by Achille and Pierre Giacomo Castiglioni and has been a mainstay of modern design ever since.  It features a heavy marble base with a hole in it (so it could be moved by two people by inserting a broom stick and using the stick as a handle to lift it – pretty ingenious) and a large chrome shade that serves as a reflector. Below you will see a photo of Achille Castiglioni lounging beneath his iconic arc lamp.

The brothers also made a couple of wacky stools that didn’t end up being quite as enduring as the arc lamp. Check out the bicycle and tractor seats of the Sella and Mezzadro stools in the Castiglioni lineup below.

Some might say that the original Arco lamp has become a bit of a cliche in contemporary interior design. It seems that it graces the pages of every modern design magazine and the sets of so many contemporary movies and TV shows. However, its functionality is undeniable, so if you’re one of those who finds the original Arco lamp to be too boring, there are many contemporary takes on the original, from ultra modern to Asian and everything in between.

Check out the Tusk arc lamp below. It has more of a soft contemporary feel than the original, but still serves the same function. It gives you a great overhead light, perfect for reading without the hassle of installing ceiling fixtures. It also has a beautiful, sculptural wood base and a warm fabric shade that can help soften any space.

Or maybe this George Kovacs contemporary arc lamp is more your speed. It is a bit less obtrusive, so if you need the functionality of an arc lamp, but quite so much drama, this might be the perfect size for you. It has a stylish black marble base that should be low enough to slide underneath a sofa if you can’t sacrifice valuable space in your living area.

My personal favorite though (besides the original, that is) is the Ibis arc lamp in red. I love it’s modern shape, and the color makes in instant conversation piece.

Whatever your design aesthetic, contemporary arc lamps may be the perfect solution for your overhead lighting needs. They’re not only functional, but can also add real flair to your contemporary space.

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