How filament bulbs can give you that east London uber-hip industrial vibe

Filament bulbs are part of a stripped-down, utility look in lighting that is bold and masculine – and as far away from pearlised bulbs and fancy lampshades as you can get

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The Independent Online

A long-time favourite of commercial interiors folk, the filament bulb is the light source of choice for raw, industrial-style spaces from hip burger joints to boutiques.

If you’re out eating pulled pork amid exposed brickwork and air-con ducts, look up and you’ll probably see the said bulbs, perhaps caged in metal, or housed in mottled glass. Their warm glow summons a vintage mood with a hint of Dr Frankenstein as the visible element recalls the early days of electricity and the spark of Thomas Edison’s original brilliant product.

 

Filament bulbs are part of a stripped-down, utility look in lighting that is bold and masculine – and as far away from pearlised bulbs and fancy lampshades as you can get.

Now it seems domestic interiors want in on the utility lighting act and suppliers are obliging. At the recent London Design Festival, many designers showed pieces where the bulb itself is the main attraction and made a feature of high-quality flexes and fittings. With no decoration to hide behind, craftsmanship comes to the fore and functionality is raised to the realm of art.

British glassworks Rothschild & Bickers is known for its free-blown pieces with a contemporary twist. The clear, cylindrical glass cases of its Empire lights are windows for elegant copper and zinc fittings, braided metal flex and antique-style filament bulbs. Perfect for mad scientists, alchemists and taxidermists.

Sarah Coulson unveiled her Vitro Lux collection at Design Junction. Little filament bulbs are housed in soft-hued glass tubes within a larger clear glass bubble and set off with striking coloured cables. Hang them on their own or in clusters for a dramatic effect.

There’s nothing like hand-beaten metal to achieve that no-frills look and Made by the Forge delivers with wrought iron cages for its antique-style lightbulbs and fabric braided flex in gun-metal grey. You can see the individual hammer marks where the iron has been pounded by the Suffolk blacksmiths, recalling a time when working men had to get sweaty and the Conran Shop hadn’t been invented. London-born brand Buster + Punch presents more macho styling with weighty textured metal pendants for filament bulbs and hand-forged gun metal chandeliers. Its finishes are not for the faint-hearted: “Steel cut with whisky, copper soaked in olive oil and smoked bronze.” Dyke & Dean, which operates from an old printworks in Hastings, offers a mix-and-match range of filament bulbs, retro fittings, metal cages and shades, and Italian silk-braided flexes in surprising colours.

“[The look] has been in bars and restaurants for many years and it’s just kind of cottoned on as people realised they can have it in their own homes,” says co-founder Oliver Dean. “We took it down to the bare bones and made a pick-and-mix system. Everyone’s house is different, so you can choose the pieces you want.”

Current favourites are Victorian-style black ceramic roses and bulb holders, also available through its concessions in Heal’s. The high street retailer has its own take on the look – the Darcey pendant. Mouth-blown glass in mustard, blue or grey is teamed with stained wood and a striking copper fitting to set off your choice of bulb. Old-fashioned craftsmanship and good materials allowed to shine – as the famous Victorian detective would say: it’s elementary.

Buy now

1. Made by the Forge, Farrier's Cage Long, £240

2. Dyke and Dean Grandad Edison Giant Filament Bulb, £60

3. Made by the Forge, Farrier's Cage, Globe, £240

4. Rothschild & Bickers,  Empire Short, £340

5. Sarah Colson, Vitro Lux: CVL: CT, price on request

6. Buster & Punch, Hero light, £999

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