Design by Decade – 1950s Lighting at Lightology

The 1950s was a momentous time in the United States. For the first time in history, America had become the most powerful, prosperous nation on Earth. The economy was flourishing in a post-war boom, science and technology were developing rapidly and America’s eyes were planted firmly on the future – a microwave in every kitchen, a television in every living room.

These advancements in technology, remarkable for the time, fit in perfectly with the Midcentury Modern design movement that began to take over home décor in the ‘50s. It placed a strong emphasis on form and function, and was spurred forward by the advancement in mass production. Lighting from this period featured clean lines, provided quality illumination and doubled as beautiful accent pieces. Artistic elements often featured organic shapes and patterns, which were inspired by Scandinavian design. That Midcentury Modern design is still a popular style today is a testament to both its timelessness, and the simple elegance of its design.




Saucer Pendant by George Nelson
designed 1947, first manufactured 1952


Saucer Pendant by George Nelson

The Saucer Pendant by George Nelson for Modernica first became available to the public in the 1950s and quickly took over living rooms across the nation. The design is reminiscent of the mushroom cloud that formed as a result of the blast from the A-bomb or a U.F.O., both cultural phenomena that captured the public’s imagination during the decade. In true Midcentury fashion, the suspension is free of adornment and the soft white shade emphasizes the subtlety of the fixture. This minimalism allows intricate atomic wallpapers and open floor plans to “pop.” The shade is crafted from taut plastic, a material which first started being mass-produced around this time, and coats a steel wire frame.




Atomic Table Lamp by Delightfull


Atomic Table Lamp by Delightfull

Inspired by the Sputnik era, the Atomic table lamp really captures the spirit (and its namesake). This spherical light, with its asymmetrically arranged glossy black round shades, calls to mind the exploding particles of a nuclear reaction – imagery that was hugely evocative at the time. With the advent of the atomic age came atomic design, and few pieces exemplify this legendary design movement more than this exciting fixture by Delightfull.




Sergei Suspension by Nuevo Living


Sergei Suspension by Nuevo Living

By featuring twenty-four exposed lights attached to linear rods that extend from a single orb, the Sergei Suspension by Nuevo Lighting elegantly illustrates some key characteristic of atomic design. Metal had also become a popular design material in the 1950s due, in part, to its mass availability after the war. The Sergei shows off a lustrous chrome metal finish, reflecting the space-age theme that was so prevalent throughout the decade.




PH Artichoke Pendant by Louis Poulsen (1958)


Henry Wall Sconce by Hubbardton Forge

While many of these fixtures are only inspired by 1950s style, the PH Artichoke is an original midcentury icon. Created in 1958 by Danish design genius Poul Hennigsen, the PH Artichoke is a glare-free luminaire featuring laser-cut stainless steel or copper leaves, which give it the sharp smooth lines so indicative of modern design. The leaves shield the light source and redirect and reflect the light onto the underlying leaves creating a stunningly unique illumination. The Artichoke was originally built for the Langelinie Pavillonen restaurant in Copenhagen, where it remains to this day. Through the decades many other designers have attempted to recreate this design without much success. Over 50 years after taking the design world by storm, the PH Artichoke remains Louis Poulsen’s most iconic design and a breathtaking addition to any space.




Sputnik Chandelier by Jonathan Adler


Sputnik Chandelier by Jonathan Adler

Though it may not have been designed until decades later, it’s easy to see which decade gives inspiration the Sputnik Chandelier its inspiration. This stunning fixture from Jonathan Adler both references the infamous 1950s Soviet satellite and, like the Sergei, highlights a key creative characteristic of atomic design – multiple arms stretching in all directions from a central nucleus. It’s a more ornate design, featuring several small touches and embellishments than likely would have been seen back then, serving to demonstrate how the original 1950s style can be altered to serve any kind of look. Available in modern finishes in both brass and polished nickel, the Sputnik lets you opt between a more elegant look and a sleek, futuristic edge.




Havana Table Lamp by Jonathan Adler


Havana Table Lamp by Jonathan Adler

Featuring clean and minimal design, the Havana Table Lamp from Jonathan Adler highlights two dominant shapes from the fifties: hourglasses and rings. The circular base lends the lamp impeccable stability while the hourglass-inspired shade provides quality directional light. A characteristic of its Scandinavian design is the subtle natural references. The perforated pattern in the shade mimics delicate water droplets so artfully crafted it’s as if Mother Nature formed them herself.




Zanadoo Semi-Flush Ceiling Light Fixture by Arteriors Home


Zanadoo Semi-Flush Ceiling Light Fixture by Arteriors Home

Another creative and unique Midcentury Modern fixture, Zanadoo’s eye catching star-burst design takes the concept of atomic design and runs with it – almost evoking the image of a satellite mid-detonation. Though it features the same sleek polished nickel finish as the other Sputnik-esque designs, Arteriors Home’s design is especially eye-catching in the antique brass shown here.




Topo Suspension by Tech Lighting


Havana Table Lamp by Jonathan Adler

Tech Lighting’s Topo Suspension proves that all Midcentury Modern designs needn’t be cold and metallic. The simple design of the drum shade – modern yet slightly retro – is enriched by the warmth of both the fabric and wood finish, available in both walnut and maple.




As these fixtures and the history surrounding them demonstrates, the 1950s was a period of great change in all – scientifically, economically, and culturally. Though the lighting design of the era retained much of what worked in the 1940s, the industry advanced forward in exciting new directions that still very much reflect who we are today. And as amazing as these mid-century advancements were, the times were not done changing – and they were about to head in a very groovy direction…



Top Sellers

Sergei Suspension

Sergei Suspension
by Nuevo Living
$533

Topo Suspension

Topo Suspension
by Tech Lighting
$816 - $884

Sputnik Chandelier

Sputnik Chandelier
by Jonathan Adler
$1,955

Havana Table Lamp

Havana Table Lamp
by Jonathan Adler
$202

Saucer Pendant

Saucer Pendant
by Nelson Bubble Lamps
$395 - $595