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When people come across a vintage Panthella for the first time they often think there’s something wrong with the on/off switch. “It’s not working properly”, they say. “I have to step on it twice to bring the light on, and twice again to turn it off.”
In fact, the four-step Panthella switch is a feature and not a bug! While later productions of this classic Verner Panton lamp have a standard two-step on/off switch housed a little way along the electric cable, the switch in the original design was a small button elegantly incorporated directly into the curve of the base, and its complex functioning was a key feature of the lamp.
Indeed, the lamp was introduced by its producer Louis Poulsen in 1971 as the Panthella 3-lys (Panthella 3-light). It required the use of a specially-designed bulb – hence its apparently strange behaviour when a standard bulb is used. A Poulsen advertisement, which we have translated from the original Danish, described the lamp as follows:
Verner Panton has created a new lamp. We’ve called it Panthella 3-light. It is no ordinary lamp, because with only one filament it has three levels of intensity: 60, 100, 160 watts. You press the button – with the hand or a foot – one, two or three times. Fourth time off. It’s quite simple. Panthella 3-light is not only new technology, it is functional design, and is simple and beautiful in form. Panthella is made of white plastic, so is easy to move around. The low Panthella is 68cm high, and many will use it as a table lamp. The high Panthella is 120cm tall, and designed to stand on the floor.