Contemporary, rustic, commercial, ethereal—throw a dart at a thesaurus and you’ll find an apt description for the George Nelson Bubble Lamps. This beloved and recognizable collection has been a fixture in stylish interiors since the early 1950s, after prolific designer George Nelson was inspired by some silk-covered Swedish lamps, which were beautiful but expensive and tedious to produce.
Nelson’s interpretations embraced the mid-century modern ideal of using cutting-edge materials and manufacturing; instead of silk, the Bubble series uses a plastic spray developed by the U.S. military post-WWII. The resulting collection is an icon of modernist style.
Popular designs can run the risk of becoming stale with overexposure, so how do you incorporate these famous silhouettes without falling victim to a cookie-cutter modern cliche? Well, with the Bubble Lamps, it’s not that difficult. The perennially versatile designs offer endless choices and styling possibilities, as you’ll see in a few of my favorites here:
A key design element is the group, and the Bubble series is ideally suited to this treatment. Because the lamps come in such a wide variety of shapes and sizes, it’s as simple as choosing your favorites and hanging them all up together. Here, the varying heights give a floating impression that is both sculptural and atmospheric.
Another grouping that feels completely different. In the above art studio space, the lights are clustered much more closely and arranged mostly along the same plane. It’s an organizational layout where the sum of its parts shines as a makeshift linear suspension over the long table. This design separates the workspace into a clearly divided section beneath the cloud-like arrangement.
On their own, each Bubble lamp has its own aesthetic strengths to offer. The Ball Bubble Pendant shape lends softness to this rustic modern vignette, with the rounded silhouette counteracting the hard lines of the wood paneling and stiff-legged mid-century console table. The soft colors in the artwork melds with the organic lines of the light, basket and plant to reach an agreeable, comfortable end.
A more straightforward Scandinavian style complements a single Saucer Bubble Pendant, with all the smooth lines and light colors creating a relaxed, modern vibe. Organic shapes, gentle curves and a nature-inspired palette stand out here. The look is fresh because nothing is perfectly matched, yet every component works together.
Another grouping suited to a more intimate space, this corner shows that even a few Bubble lamps can create quite a centerpiece. Whether lit or not, the sculpturally interesting white lights will become a focal point against the dark colored walls, and the effect is multiplied with the addition of a mirror. A low-hanging cluster of pendants like this in a living space could be hazardous, but the thoughtfully placed accent tables that prevent residents and visitors from walking right into the lights.
Finally, another part-Scandi, part-industrial look that is not screaming mid-century modern, but nevertheless is well appointed with one of Nelson’s beloved creations. Neutral interiors can always benefit from structurally interesting additions, and the Bubble series is a great way to incorporate some architectural interest without having to do any remodeling.