What's special about Danish midcentury modern lighting?
Lighting is an essential element of midcentury design, playing a key role in the aesthetics and functionality of modernist interiors. In Denmark, lighting design has been treated as an integral part of architecture ever since Danish modern design principles first emerged in the mid-20th century, and at the peak of the midcentury era architectural project briefs would invariably include a complete specification for lighting. This is the reason so many Danish architects, including Andreas Hansen, Bent Karlby, Jørn Utzon and Louis Weisdorf, were actively invoved in lamp design in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.
During this era the production quality of household fittings such as lights was extremely high, especially in the affluent Scandinavian nations, and particularly at the luxury end of the market occupied by design-driven companies like Fog & Mørup, Lyfa, Louis Poulsen and Nordisk Solar Compagni. No expense was spared by these companies in the development and production of their light fittings, which were built to last a lifetime.
Inevitably this approach meant the lamps were often expensive, sometimes costing as much as a week's average wage at the time. But their high quality means that many of them are still in excellent condition today, half a century or more after they were produced, while their timeless modernist style remains fresh and relevant to both retro and contemporary modern homes.
How to use Danish midcentury modern lighting
The role of lighting in midcentury modern interior design is to help define different activity zones and to create appropriate lighting and atmosphere for each area. These functions originate in the open-plan architecture of midcentury interiors, but are also appropriate to non-open-plan layouts. In the Danish modern lighting style, instead of using just one or two centrally-positioned light fittings to illuminate an entire room, multiple lights are deployed across different areas to provide specific activity-appropriate illumination.
For example, a localised pool of light beside an armchair or over a coffee table will create a cosy area for reading or relaxing, while a pendant lamp hung just above head height over a dining table can provide a well-lit but glare-free and inviting environment for family meals and entertaining dinner guests. Indeed, one of the defining characteristics of the midcentury lighting style is that pendant lamps are often hung low or even very low when they're being used to provide localised ambient light in the Danish hygge mode. Pairs and multiples are also a common feature.
Check out our gallery of original Danish midcentury modern lighting styles below for ideas and inspiration.