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Vico Magistretti’s Atollo Lamp, Photo Courtesy of @nickolasgurtler IG

What’s a Mushroom Lamp?

Another Seventies throwback returns to the design scene.
Roxanne Robinson Mar 18, 2021
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What does a mushroom lamp have in common with Gucci? Well if Seventies design and fashion get your blood rushing with excitement, you will undoubtedly anticipate the upcoming Ridley Scott movie House of Gucci starring Adam Driver and Lady Gaga. It's based on Sara Gay Forden's 2001 book, The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed and chronicles the fashion-royalty couple's glamorous life together that ultimately led to tragedy and ruin.

If one savors the stylistic leanings early leaked film set images revealed, this movie looks sure not to disappoint. Every detail of their life - dress, homes, vacation spots, and even mode of transport - is recreated by Art Director's Massimo Pauletto and Gianpaolo Rifino, and costume designer Janty Yates. With no detail spared, it's easy to transport oneself back to this design-leader decade. Indeed, when it comes to this power style couple's home stylings - she was dubbed the Liz Taylor of Milan - surely the film will feature an iconic mushroom lamp.

Here Nest Casa looks at these wonderfully cool and charming lamps that defined modern lighting in the 1970s but have returned to today's design scene.

The Mushroom Lamp’s Beginning

Generally credited to the Murano glass-making tradition is the humble mushroom lamp. Glass making on the island of Murano was established in the late 1200s after law consolidated Venice's glass industry to the tiny territory for safety reasons. Generally, the large furnaces used to make molten Glass were a fire hazard. Still, the island also became a spot where noblemen of Venice built summer villas.

Beginning in the 1950s and 1960s, pastel-colored Murano glass mushroom lamps began to sprout up. Not terribly expensive or cheap for that matter, these styles are what most collectors seek when looking to obtain a vintage mushroom lamp. However, kitschy social media sites such as Instagram are mainly responsible for their current popularity thanks to feeds such as Millefiori, a Danish interior site specializing in vintage Murano glass, especially lamps.

In some cases, the 1970s version mushroom lamp took the idea more literally by creating a light that had a red dotted cap mimicking a cartoon mushroom more typically found depicted in a Smurfs cartoon. But as the thirst for vintage and kitsch rises, surely these styles will continue to grow in demand.

Iconic Italian Mushroom Lamp Designs

While the best mushroom lamp styles were widely interpreted and copied in the 1970s, two designers are vital to this look. First, it can be traced to Gae Aulenti's 'Pipistrello,' Bat in English, lamp. It features a splayed cone base and domed shade with recessed, curved lines forming a bat-wing-shaped section in four parts on the shade.

Ultimately Nest Casa’s favorite 1970s mushroom lamp was designed by Gabriella Crespi in 1970. Crespi, who married into the aristocratic Crespi family who owns Corriere della Sera, an Italian daily newspaper, was known for exceptional taste and modern designs of furniture, sculpture, and jewelry. She designed the iconic Fungo lamp in 1970 and continued with iterations of it until 1976. It would become one of her most notable design contributions.

Despite its previous popularity, Vico Magistretti’s 1977 Atollo lamp became the mushroom table lamp archetype. Not to mention it won a prestigious Compasso d’Oro in 1979. Its stark, geometric components – a cylinder, cone, and hemisphere – demonstrate how simple shapes can create a design icon.

Editor’s Picks: Best Vintage and Collectible Mushroom Lamps

Authentic vs. Replica: How to Identify a Mushroom Lamp

Depending on your budget and style goals, you may find yourself deciding between an original mushroom lamp or a replica. Both are good options. But to be clear, you need to know what you are looking for if you seek a vintage Real McCoy.

Obviously, where you source these lamps is key. A reputable antique dealer will not only be well-versed in the works of artists such as Gabriella Crespi, Gae Aulenti, and Vico Magistretti but will have verified its provenance prior to agreeing to represent to sell it. Popular websites such as 1stDibs, Chairish, and Pamono have earned reputations for only carrying good quality, authentic furnishings. Similarly, art galleries specializing in collectible designs are trust-worthy buying spots.

In the case of Murano glass, there are several distinguishing markers such as flecks of silver or gold, and intentionally imperfect shape and often bears the mark of the glassworks that produced it, for example. Like sites specializing in these goods, the dealer should possess in-depth knowledge of the item and its origins.

Replicas are easier to spot. Generally, it is easiest to look at the seller; chains like West Elm, Pottery Barn, and even Urban Outfitters are making and sourcing these items themselves. It is also reflected in the more accessible to attain price tag. Not a bad option, but be advised, you will likely see these in other friends' homes as well.

Editor’s Picks: Best Contemporary and New Styles

How to Incorporate a Mushroom Lamp into Your Decor

The magic of a mushroom lamp is its ability to fit into almost any décor. As noted by Magistretti's Atollo lamp and subsequent award, these lamps are the ultimate table lamp. Furthermore, they look good on a desk, nightstand, or console placed in a hall or focus of a living or dining room. Since they are associated with a retro Seventies vibe, many think it means their place's style must match.

But in their multiple colors and the case of some Murano styles, patterns they can fit both vintage-inspired or modern decor. For instance, some reproduction features marble or leopard patterns. Others have details such a ribbing. And the color range is unparalleled. Of course, often made from glass, they often come with brass or metal accents that skew the look either antique or contemporary.

Roxanne Robinson
Roxanne Robinson is an award-winning Paris-based American journalist covering luxury and fashion industries with over 25 years of experience. I spent over 18 years at WWD, covering sportswear, accessories and fine jewelry. My career witnessed the shift from print media to the digital age. I gained expert knowledge of the design world, wholesale and retail markets as well as the marketing that supports them. I met endless creatives and business people who create luxury from inception to POS with the consumer. My work has appeared in Forbes.com, BoF, The Hollywood Reporter, CRFashionbook.com, The Jewelry Journal as well in-house publications and websites at Bally, Pomellato, Au Depart and Editorialist.com among others.
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