The Second History Of: Tord Boontje Garland light

Kate Watson-Smith
Friday 07 May 2010 00:00

Curling round a lonely lightbulb in domestic sitting room in late February or early March, it would be easy to mistake the Tord Boontje Garland light for a leftover Christmas decoration.

But it's no tinsel. It's a sheet of laser-cut metal and it was Habitat's best-selling product of 2003. It's also in the permanent collections of both the Museum of Modern Art and the V&A and remains one of Habitat's top products. Designed by Dutchman Tord Boontje, who had made an expensive limited edition version two years earlier but who felt strongly in common with many Dutch designers, that art and design should be affordable to everyone, it only costs £19. This was his do-it-yourself design and the punters loved it. The key to it is that you need more than one. The addition of a second, or even third, turns the shade into a thing of ethereal beauty with an edge. It comes as a flat sheet with a central stem to which all the leaves, flowers and petals are connected and you bend and twist it to the shape you want. The Habitat visual team recommend using three for a really stunning display and warn that you should really take your time. Venka de Rooij, director of website Dutch By Design (, says the piece was inspired by Boontje's changing life.

"His style changed after his daughter was born in 2000 and he went to live in a forest in Sweden for a while. When he came back it was clear he was inspired by the play of light through the trees," says de Rooij. "His approach is quite whimsical and dreamy with flowers, leaves and animals all playing an important role throughout his work."

But Boontje, who since last September has been a professor and head of design products at the Royal College of Art, is very Dutch in his desire that design should be affordable to all, which is what led him to Habitat. "Design is part of our culture and is not seen as something elitist," says Venka.

"Even the street signs and the police car logos we see everyday all around us are designed and on the basis that design is for everyone."

But while it is still cheap in Habitat, on American Amazon, they are retailing for $99 but don't get any ideas – once you have fixed it round a bulb it is almost impossible to untangle so you can't take yours down and hope to make a quick buck.

The Lacemaker, an exhibition of Boontje's latest work is at the Marsden Woo Gallery, Great Sutton Street, EC1Z from 24 June. (

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