Design Classics #9: The PH Artichoke Light


It has not escaped Design Classics’ notice that there is a certain fascination with all things Danish at the moment. The jumpers, The Killing, Borgen, the interior design (that’s Lego for the small ones) so in an attempt to blatantly jump on the bandwagon, we bring you the Artichoke Lamp.

Designed by the Dane Poul Henningsen over 40 years ago, the PH Artichoke is a truly modern classic. So called because it resembles an artichoke although, according to Wikipedia, its original name in Danish was PH Kogle, which translates as conifer cone, which, it might be said, it resembles more closely.

Anyway, fruit or veg, the Artichoke has 12 arches with 72 overlying leaves which are placed in such a way that you can’t see the bulb although it gives out a soft, strong light. It is so heavy that it is suspended on steel aircraft cables and will also require a heavy duty junction box.

When Henningsen was asked to design a lamp for the Langeline Pavilion, a restaurant in Copenhagen, in 1958, it took him only three months to come up with the finished idea as it was based on a lamp he had first produced in 1927, the PH Septima. This was a pendant with seven glass shades, produced by Louis Poulsen until 1940 when it was phased out due to lack of materials during the war.

Henningsen’s lifelong collaboration with Louis Poulsen began in 1925. He started out as an architect but later switched to lighting which remained his lifelong passion.

He once said: “When, in the evening from the top of a tram car, you look into all the homes on the first floor, you shudder at how dismal people’s homes are. Furniture, style, carpets, everything in the home is unimportant compared to the positioning of the lighting. It doesn’t cost money to light a room correctly, but it does require culture.”

He added: “The PH should be a lamp for the home. . . it is constructed with the most difficult and noble task in mind: lighting in the home. The aim is to beautify the home and who live there, to make the evening restful and relaxing.”

The Artichoke was originally available in steel, white and copper but to mark its 50th anniversary in 2008 it was issued in glass too.

So popular is the lamp that it has its own website,, where a spokesman said: “It’s the winner when it comes to classically designed lamps. It looks classical but fits well in today’s market.

“It provides a soft glare-free light around 360 degrees by hiding the source of the light and reflecting it into the underlying leaves.”

Obviously it’s terrifyingly expensive but if you’re looking to justify the expense, Salley Storey, design director of John Cullen and author of Lighting by Design, has said that if you have clever lighting it doesn’t matter if all the furniture is really cheap because, just as candlelight flatters a woman, so the right lighting will enhance your furniture.

First published in The Independent


Tags : artichokedesignlight
Kate Watson-Smyth

The author Kate Watson-Smyth

I’m a journalist who writes about interiors mainly for The Financial Times but I have also written regularly for The Independent and The Daily Mail. My house has been in Living Etc, HeartHome and featured in The Wall Street Journal & Corriere della Sera. I also run an interior styling consultancy Mad About Your House. Welcome to my Mad House.

1 Comment

  1. I was impressed with this fixture when I first saw it at the SCAN co-op in Washington forty years ago.

Comments are closed.