BY BILL CURRY
The Stemlite (1962) was the first ‘total look’ lamp, a pioneering new typology conceived by American Designer Bill Curry, which replaced the traditional base-plus-shade form with a single self-contained unit comprising interchangeable modules.
The new Stemlite Wall Lamp appears to grow organically out of the wall, with a steel arm that extends directly outwards before turning up 90 degrees to be topped with a bulbous frosted glass shade.
Slender and sturdy
The Stemlite was inspired by the strong, organic, yet slender stems that support flower heads in nature. It comprises a die-cast metal base, evocative of a tulip-stem, topped with a mouth–blown glass globe, and a simple cylinder-shaped rotary switch underneath that gently rolls between the fingers from “on” through “off”.
A modular series
The Stemlite design concept originally offered 48 modular variants using the same components to configure floor, table, and wall lights, each pared back to their simplest and yet most visually compelling form – and was extended between 1966 and 1971 to include more heights, stems, glass globes, shades, bulb variants and colors. This flexible yet cohesive approach aligns with Curry’s strong conceptual skills, honed while working as an ad man and art director, and the power of contrasting materials he refined at Design Line.
Today’s Stemlite remains true to Curry’s designs, comprising three of the original heights: two table heights, one of which was originally conceived as a floor lamp and the original floor lamp height. A second, taller floor lamp has been added and a pendant light has been engineered by simply flipping the original design upside-down, as well as a wall lamp.
American designer William ‘Bill’ Edwin Curry captured the zeitgeist of the 1960s and ‘70s with his iconic lamp designs. From his unique Los Angeles vantage point at the meeting point of art, design and engineering, during an era defined by the space race, pop culture and a new forward-looking optimism, he translated the wonder and delight he saw around him into simple yet intelligent ideas with clear visual narratives.