Lampe De Marseille

Photo: Nemo USA

In my new life, I’ve been paying a lot more attention to the many signs and symbols presented to me and the latest sign has come in the form of a wall lamp designed by Swiss-French architect and designer Le Corbusier. Three months ago, I quit my sales job at a prestigious Scandinavian furniture design company and my partner and I packed up and moved into what is quickly becoming my dream apartment on Roosevelt Island in New York. I say “becoming” my dream apartment because New York City rental prices can disillusion even the most ambitious Capricorn like myself from fantasizing too hard about dream apartments here. Still, I’ve loved my last apartment in Harlem where I lived for 11 years and where I thought I’d never leave. That was until COVID happened and changed our lives, our needs and most significantly, my perspective. There were many signs and symbols leading up to this move and I followed them right to this paradise hidden in plain sight. 

It has now been three and a half weeks since we moved into our new place. Now that the aches and exhaustion are wearing off from our frantic day and night sprint to unpack, put away, buy furniture, build furniture, return furniture, repeat, I can start to feel the place awaken into life. The birth process of this apartment was strenuous but now that all the nasty slime has been cleaned away, the space lays before me like a new naked life ready to be molded and shaped from whatever I give it. Much like a newborn, this place has its own personality but it’s up to us to nurture it through design.

Enter Charles-Édouard Jeanneret alternatively known as Le Corbusier. He’s been dead for 56 years now so he didn’t physically enter but entered my life did his influence so. Typically, my YouTube search history is a mélange of interior and architecture design related videos that include home tours, profiles on designers and architects as well as various automotive and smart home tech reviews. Since we decided to move and actually found a place, my YouTube searches have been heavy on the home tours in an effort to titillate my design brain. In these videos is where Le Corbusier has been lurking, whispering to me quietly from the background trying to get my attention. It kind of sounded like “psst, psst, dude I made a lamp and you’re going to want it”. Yes, this is how I imagine the French architect sounded when he spoke, isn’t it obvious!

Joop van Bilsen / Anefo, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Now, I know the works of Le Corbusier, like Mies van der Rohe and Marcel Breuer are not rare appearances in modern designed homes but for all the Le Corbusier classics I’m familiar with, his Lampe De Marseille was not one of them. I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit, I didn’t even know he made lighting that you can buy. I’ve known about his work with light, color and perspective in architecture since I was a student attending the High School of Art & Design in New York. I’ve marveled at edifices like his organic but brutal Colline Notre-Dame du Haut (1950–1955) and have long been seduced by the body-morphic lines of Le Corbusier and Charlotte Perriand’s LC4 Chaise Lounge (1927–28); I just haven’t found the $5,000 dollar modern entrance fee to lounge on one at my leisure.

But here was the Lampe De Marseille, appearing quietly but noticeably in at least two random house tours I watched on the Never Too Small and The Local Project YouTube channels. Coincidently (maybe), both homes were in Australia, one large and one small and neither video focused any one shot on the lamp itself, I just sort of caught glimpses of it in the background and it stuck with me. At first sight, I thought, “wow that’s a beautiful lamp, I wonder where he got that” but being that the apartment was in Sydney, Australia, I just assumed it was some local furniture brand that I couldn’t get access to here in the U.S. Then, about a week later I clicked on another home tour on YouTube, this one done by The Local Project channel on a beautiful architect designed home in Australia and again, I caught a glimpse of that same lamp in the background. “Oh shit, there’s that lamp again” I thought, “okay, now I need to know what it is” and off to Google I went. I searched “cone wall lamp”- nothing, “up/down cone shaped wall lamp” – nada, “designer cone shaped dual light cone lamp” – zilch. How the hell do I find this thing that apparently all these architects know about and I don’t? Google Lens for the win! I used my Google app to scan a freeze-framed clip from YouTube and voila, Lamp De Marseille by Le Corbusier! 

Not only was I shocked to learn that it was a lamp designed by Le Corbusier in 1949 for his Unité d’Habitation in Marseille, France but also that Nemo USA was producing it and I could actually buy it. This discovery felt the same way it feels when I find an album I’ve never heard from one of my favorite musicians and it slaps! This lamp slaps! It comes in two sizes, the regular and the mini. The regular version has an 180º arm that features two additional joints for flexibility and can stretch out to reach 65″ from the wall (use a stud…stud!). The multi-directional double cone shade is spun from aluminum and can cast light up and down with a 340º swivel. This lamp celebrates Le Corbusier’s love of pure and organic forms and is wonderfully democratic in its flexibility. The lines are classic, yet modern and dare I say futuristic even for today. It’s the lighting and the main performance piece all in one and my god is it sexy.

Photo: Nemo USA

This lamp works symmetrically or asymmetrically over a sofa, stretched long over a dining table, perched dramatically over a staircase like a 19th century gas lamp or just nekkid on a bare wall all by it’s lonesome being the bad mid-century post war illuminated bitch that it is.

Image: Nemo USA

I’ve been paying attention to the signs and symbols presented to me lately and not only has this light been whispering to me through YouTube but it’s dimensions, flexibility and function are exactly what we need to stretch long over our new dining room table. I have to have it and you should know about it. At nearly $1,700 dollars it ain’t cheap though but, it’s history, it’s beautiful and it’s a sign I’m going to pay attention to; just as soon as I can get these coins together!

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