Saturday, September 6, 2008

Shedding a little light on the George Nelson Bubble Lamp

One of the things that we are so excited about concerning our 1955 home, is that nothing has been changed since it was built. Nothing that is, except for the lights in the great room.

This guy isn't exactly 1955:

Now this guy, however...

That's what I'm talking about!

While we are making a concerted effort to start seeking out "lesser knowns" for our decor, the Nelson Bubble lamp is one staple that just seems too perfect to ignore. It will go so nicely above the Hans Olsen round table in the dining nook. I was thinking I'd make a light, or perhaps assemble something from various mid-century vintage parts... but that saucer just keeps calling (not to mention we just buy it and hang it up, and that's much more likely to happen quickly).

Now the only problem is deciding if we should get the 25" or the 36" (the 48" just seems a little ridiculous for our space). The Olsen table is 42" in diameter. I held up a 25" box and it seemed plenty big, but I think the tapered edges of the saucer might make the 25" lamp appear much smaller. I'm just a little worried to get the bigger one and have it look top heavy... though I do think the cylinder that will be formed by the light and the table below could be pleasing.

Yes, $300 (for the 25" --$365 for the 36") does seem a little steep for a ceiling light, but I think it's a cost we'll be able to deal with. If we buy from DWR, we get taxed because they have stores in Colorado. If we purchase from the manufacturer (Modernica in Chicago) however, there is no tax and free shipping.

It is no help though to see that the original 25" saucer shaped Bubble Lamp (H-763) retailed for $35 when it was first made available in 1947. What's the math? Is that appropriate inflation? What do you know... using this handy little inflation calculator, I found that $35 in 1947 would be $321.68 in 2007 (the latest year the calculator would calculate). So $300 from Modernica is actually $21.68 cheaper than what it cost when it first came out. Sweet! We're getting a bargain!

Something I was surprised to find out was that Howard Miller made accessories available for the lamps, including a satin-chrome or brass-finished steel tripod base, swing arms and adjustable pulleys. After finding this out, I may dismantle one of the eleven vintage lamps hanging in the workshop and add the spring loaded pulley to our Bubble Lamp.

There's some more interesting information available at this link:


  1. If you get a chance, you should check out

    It's got loads of great mid-century modern goodness on it.

  2. Hey! That is my photo. You should at least give me credit!

  3. Sorry, Robert. I thought the photo linked to your page, but evidently the default link setting for the blog was just "bigger picture." Fixed!