Unreal homes: an adventure in alternative light bulbs

Jacob starts his series in industrial design with a look at fashionable exposed-filament bulbs

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Before I get started, it would probably be a good idea for me to introduce myself. My name is Jacob and I’m from the humble town of Wigan. Admittedly, I don’t have the most stylish of origin stories. I’m not a designer; I’m a writer and formally a historian, but I’m interested in style, fashion, design and pretty much anything engineered.

I’ve always been interested in furniture, architecture and decoration, so throughout the course of this blog I wish to share my observations as a new face in an exciting industry. I’m going to talk about the things that I like, namely industrial styling, raw materials, and probably a few things that I don’t like.

light bulb filament retro vintage

Aesthetically, and historically, the Edison bulb is one of the most subtle industrial styling choices you can make. Nothing is quite so bare as a glowing filament encased in thin glass, screwed into a polished chrome or copper fitting. The dull golden glow of an Edison bulb can really set the atmosphere of a room. Stick one in your reading lamp and you’ll feel like you’ve been carried into the dark, dusty corner of a 19th century library. Hang some in your garage and you’ll feel like you’re working in a 50s body shop, it won’t turn your 08 Megane into a 53 Chevy Belair, but you’ll relish working under that glow.

There is a bit of contention surrounding the bulb’s inception. Firstly, Edison didn’t invent them; people had been fiddling with, and patenting, variations on carbon filament bulbs for fifty years before he got his grubby hands on them. The funny thing is, he wasn’t even very good at those. It was a Hungarian and a Croatian – Sandor Just and Franjo Hanaman – that introduced tungsten and consequently revolutionised lighting. If you think about it from an interior design perspective, these guys were pretty important when it comes to lighting.

General Lamps, Authentic Edison Collection

Fortunately, an authentic Edison bulb won’t break your bank. You can pick one up for around £7 from General Lamps or Cult Furniture. Unfortunately, it will probably cost you about 4 times that of a normal energy saving bulb, but surprisingly has an average lifespan of 3000 hours, according to the websites.

Manufacturers seem to be getting wind of the popularity of the industrial style, because LED versions have been popping up all over the place recently. With these, you can get the look  and manufacturers have produced some with an amber frosted glass to create the warm atmosphere of a standard Edison bulb. These will set you back a little bit more. Industville stock 4w versions for £15 each and 8w dimmable versions for £18 each. These last considerably longer, with a run time of 15,000 hours and put out 440 lumens at 4w and 720 at 8w. If you’re looking to replicate the warm glow of an authentic Edison bulb, then you wont be disappointed if you go for something like this.

Industville, LED Edison Collection

Now this is where I fan-boy a bit. Buster and Punch have been on my radar for a while now. Their light switches wouldn’t look out of place on the wall of a man-cave or a home recording studio. They are modelled to look like amp switches and volume knobs. Their dimmer switches are stylistically beautiful and if you install one, you will grow to hate every other light switch in your house. However, that is another blog entirely. Their bulbs on the other hand, are relevant, and are a thing of design beauty. They come with gold glass, smoked glass or crystal glass for £39.99 a go. Or you can really commit to the aesthetic and go for their heavy metal pendant lights for £125–135. These are in the amp knob style and look something like a vintage, hanging microphone and are available in steel, bronze and rose copper.

Buster & Punch, Heavy Metal Edison Lights

Honestly, if you’re looking for some industrial flair, you’re going to want to have a look at Edison bulbs for inspiration, if nothing else. These bulbs are a piece of lighting art and are a stylistic choice rather than a simple light bulb. If you’re serious about it and you go for the Buster Bulb, then you’re investing in a piece of designer art that adds more than just light to your room.