Little Details – Light Bulbs & Fittings

February 3, 2014

incandescent SQUIRRELCAGE filament vintage light bulbs

I tend to call this having a tedious moment, or a middle class dilemma, when I find myself scouring endlessly  online for the cheapest version of some design detail or indulgence I am certain a room refurb won’t be complete without! And without wishing to sound too worthy, I do scowl inwardly at myself for getting caught up in the chase for these objects. But I am also quite a firm believer that it is the small details which can bring most joy and be designed most effectively. I’d love to be able to buy vintage radiators but have scaled my detail hunting down to more economical items like light switches, bulbs & door handles. They are often the bits that can get overlooked in the bigger picture of a room design but the ambiance of light and the feel of a switch are the essential jigsaw pieces that complete a space. Here are some of my favourite finds.

incandescent SQUIRRELCAGE filament vintage light bulbs

I have had a bit of a love affair with incandescent filament light-bulbs for the last year, especially those made by the firm that started the trend Calex.  They give off such a warm cosy light and are brilliant in rooms with vintage styling, I’ve bought quite a few of the squirrel cage variety for the apartment. Some retailers can sell these bulbs for upwards of £20 so its definitely worth shopping around to find the best price before buying. I used to find that Classic Lightbulbs was the best online source for these price wise with one 60Watt bulb a snip at £7.95. However since they have become more popular you can get long lasting 60watts commonly for a pretty neat £12 on sites like amazon or John Lewis.  I love the classic squirrel cage teardrop variety (above) but am thinking more along the lines of American globe (below) for the light I am about to fit in the upstairs hallway. If you want to get really fancy or make a statement there are many options for filament patterns and some termed goldline give off a warm redish-gold light, but I rather like these simpler versions.

vintage light bulbs

I am also really charmed by these gorgeous decorative diamond bulbs at a correspondingly decadent price of £35 each from Rockett St George. If you have a light fitting that only takes very small SES fittings then there really isn’t a bulb I know of that tops this Calex golfball one for £6, we have them on our wall lights in the kitchen. And if you are looking at modern energy savers with an aesthetes twist then the Plumen bulb RRP £20 is the daddy of this design.

diamond-light-halogen-bulb-by-eric-therner-es27-screw-fitting-18w-14721-p[ekm]335x502[ekm] calex filament golfball plumen-lightbulbs-fab

But there are so many other things to think of with lighting – flex, ceiling roses, switches, bulb holders. Scandinavian company NUD do some gorgeous colour popping fabric flex in an array of neon bright colours which you can either buy as 3 metres of flex from Radiance Lighting for £12 or with pendant light fitting (note you can’t attach a shade to this fitting) for £29.95 from Curiouser & Curiouser.

nud-pink-textile-cable-flex-pendant-light-fittingNud-lightnud textile bright pink cablenud-pink-textile-cable-flex-pendant-light

If you’re looking for pretty twisted flex sold by the metre, inexpensively, then Historic Lighting through Urban Cottage Industries is the place to go. You can buy an array of flex with a vintage vibe for £4 a metre, you can also get cool flex for tech around the house if you were so design inclined. I have recently seen a really effective use of this flex on an industrial pulley where the flex and the bulb are the statement design.


If you are going for an Industrial look in a room and you’ve purchased a vintage enamel factory pendant, like we did in our kitchen, then you’ll need to think through your light fitting from the ceiling rose and hook to the chain, flex and bulb holder carefully in order that your pendant doesn’t jar in its setting. Again Historic Lighting is a pretty good bet, we bought from here for our GWR enamel task light. If you are just looking for an industrial bulb holder I can’t believe there is anything more beautiful than this concrete one from Rockett St George which is  a slightly unbelievable £54 but could be a good inspiration point for a homemade version that should be relatively easy to make. Rockett’ also stock a great brushed silver ceiling rose for a nifty £12 here.

lighting-hook-pattress-type-4-conduit-galvanised-1_1 concrete-es27-fitting-with-red-flex-25343-p[ekm]335x502[ekm]

Finally, the light detail I have spent many frustrated hours on is light switches rthemselves. I have quite a deep dislike of high street light switches, especially those within my budget and love the click of an old Bakelite dolly switch. You can get some beautiful versions of them for modern homes, I especially like this Fontini one called Dimbler, but it is P.O.A so I assume it is way out of budget for our apartment.Dimbler ceramic dolly light switch

The option we have gone for in our living room and hallway (and who’s design I highly recommend) is made by wonderful small British firm called Period House Shop based in Ludlow. Their dolly switches come in an array of finishes and range from £18-34. They are modern looking enough that the casual eye won’t be wondering if you have dodgy old electrics whilst remaining authentically pleasing to touch. They also make accompanying oak pateras from £6 to mount light switches to modern light boxes in the wall. So many people ask us where we got our switches from when they visit our home, a truly genius company!

Dolly Light switch white Dolly Light switch

Brown Bakelite Dolly light switch bakelite dolly light switch


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