1970s Louis Kalff Style Desk Lamp
Materials: Grey painted aluminium base, iron bottom with a built-in switch. Cast iron counterweight inside the base. Grey painted aluminium mushroom lampshade. Chromed iron folded rod. Chrome ornamental screw on top. Some metal parts. Bakelite E27 socket.
Height: 38 cm / 14.96”
Width: ∅ 34 cm / 13.38”
Electricity: 1 bulb E27, 1 x 60 watt maximum, 110/220 volt.
Any type of light bulb can be used, not a specific one preferred.
Period: 1960s, 1970s – Mid-Century Modern.
Designer: To be appraised.
Manufacturer: VEB NARVA Leuchtenbau, Lengefeld, Germany.
This 1970s Louis Kalff style desk lamp is often attributed to Louis Kalff who designed many lamps for the Dutch Philips company. The mistake is understandable. The base of the lamp is reminiscent of several Philips desk lamps.
However, Philips lamps with a similar base always have the Philips logo stamped in it. Furthermore, this desk lamp never appears in a Philips catalogue. Also, the socket used in this desk lamp is typical East German, not Philips, as you can see.
This desk lamp was made in Germany by VEB NARVA Leuchtenbau from Lengefeld.
This VEB Leuchtenbau company was founded in 1900 as Wittig und Schwabe Metalldruckwarenfabriken (Metal Printing Factories), Lengefeld. Right after World War II in 1946, the name changed into VEB Leuchtenbau, as every light company in the GDR did. In 1963 they manufactured some 1.5 million lamps, of which 80% were exported. In 1965 they produced 120 different models of lights.
One of the most famous lamps produced by VEB Leuchtenbau is the Kontrast floor lamp, designed by Lutz Rudolf in 1961. The manufacturer himself doubted the success of “this thing” and planned only a small number of pieces.
However, the production was carried through until 1975, in which 11,000 pieces were produced. The GDR citizens at that time were fortunate that the product landed mainly on the domestic East German market, which was not the case with all the design objects. Despite colorfully designed variants, the majority of customers opted for the original, simple-white design of the lampshades of this floor lamp.
Designers that worked for VEB Leuchtenbau companies were, among others: Peter Beyer, Udo Domröse, Klaus Neubert, Andreas Kuhnhardt, Theo Schröder, Hans-Jürgen Weiß, Christian Wagner…
The lamps of VEB Leuchtenbau Lengefeld often have a date stamped on the bottom of the base, as you can see below: 14 April 1974.
Lamps in the movies!
A 1970s Louis Kalff style desk lamp was used as a prop in Carlos. Carlos is a 2010 French-German biographical film/miniseries about the life of the 1970s Venezuelan terrorist Carlos the Jackal. The lamp appears several times, as you can see below.
Two VEB NARVA desk lamps were used as a prop in the German thriller film Ballon from 2018. A movie about two families from the GDR who flew to West Germany with a homemade hot-air balloon in 1979. One of them was used several times. Many other vintage lamps appear in the film.
Two 1970s Louis Kalff style desk lamps were used as a prop in the film The Girl in the Spider’s Web, a 2018 action thriller film directed by Fede Álvarez.