Choose wood for lighting

Choose wood for lighting

Designers are using much more wood for decorative lighting, and not just for the stands. From the elaborate to the pared down and minimal, wood is a surprisingly versatile material for lights

By Sophie Barritt
No1 Pendant light made using steam bent wood by Tom Raffield

Cornwall-based, award-winning furniture and lighting designer Tom Raffield starting making lights using off-cuts of planed wood from his studio floor. His  No1 Pendant, pictured above, is a beautiful, sculptural curly perm of a pendant light that comes in three sizes. Made from FSC-certified wood, the small pendant, D 35cm, costs £245 (ash) or £255 for walnut or oak.

Wood for decorative lighting isn't something we're used to. While we do expect lamp stands being made from wood, when it comes to the pretty part of the piece, the shade or the pendant, we take it for granted that they'll be covered with fabric or made from plastics.

So if you're pondering how eco-friendly a beautiful light can be, other than fitting it with an LED bulb, the answer is very, if you choose wood.

Tom Raffield is a furniture designed based in the depths of a seven-acre wood near Helstone, and he's enjoying success with his unusual, sculptural, exuberant lights made from steam-bent wood. His No1 Pendant is particularly striking, being a froth of curvaceous strips of ash, oak or walnut.

No1 table lamp,
Butterfly floor lamp,
Tom Raffield's large walnut Flock chandelier, prices from £795
Birch ply Cuboid pendant, £185, W39xH31xD19cms.

'I developed our lighting fixtures after thinking about what to do with the many off-cuts of wood left over from making our furniture. Thin strips of planed wood can give you those lovely curved peels, and when you hold them up to the light, it emanates through the grain.

'Light woods such as ash and sycamore are actually very reflective and give a soft golden glow, while walnut gives a darker but still golden glow.'

Raffield's lighting collection has grown and he can't just rely on off-cuts, so he uses FSC woods from the UK (some from Cornwall) and Europe, while he's experimenting with wood coppiced on his own woodland.
'I think wood is a perfect material for lighting because it is sustainable, and with steam bending you can create many interesting shapes.. and because we make our lights by hand, no two products are ever exactly the same.'
He adds that because solid wooden furniture is very expensive, a light is a way of enjoying wood in the home at a fraction of the cost, since much less wood is needed to make a product.
LZF of Valencia
LZF started making contemporary lights from natural wood veneers in 1994 and is considered something of a pioneer of the genre. While still a small company, it's built up a strong fan base around the world.
LZF has always worked with wood veneers, creating delightful, intriguing and sometimes whimsical designs that reiterate that good lighting can be works of art as well as a functional objects. LZF lights start at around £200 and can be bought in the UK at Do Shop and Willie Duggan Lighting.


Chou wood veneer pendants by Valencia-based LZF
Agatha wood veneer pendant, one of LZF's best sellers.
Raindrop lights by LZF
Escape pendant light from
Oak or beech Babula pendant by Germany's Krools, prices from 340 euros.
Krools' Babula oak/beech and ceramic table light, 250 euros,

Germany's Krools is a design company that likes to work with wood and its charming Babula collection, inspired by Russian dolls, is understated, tactile and has a feel of nature about it.

Oak or beech curvaceously slender pendants can be hung individually, or in a group, while there's also a table lamp with a wooden base and a ceramic top - perfect for bedside tables or where a little extra light is needed. Krools will ship to the UK.

Danish designers have always been keen on wood, including Tom Rossau, whose wood veneer pendants add a contemporary elegance to rooms. His products are available in the UK at The Lollipoppe Shop, which also stocks Finland's Secto Designs' large Octo 4240 pendant. Made from laminated strips of birch or walnut, it's an impressive piece, H68xD54cms. 

'It's hard to mass produce using wood veneer, so you tend to get more unusual, bespoke products'

London design company 7Gods has started working with maple, cedar and walnut veneers and it's Shully pendant light, £150, is available at Heal's.

7Gods' creative director Ronald Gomes says the public are starting to like wood veneer lights because they have a bespoke look: 'Its hard to mass produce in wood veneer, so you tend to get more unusual products.'

And while large pendants can run into hundreds of pounds, many products, though not Ikea-cheap, are comparatively affordable.

TR5 pendant by Tom Rossau, £266,
TR10 Pendant by Tom Rossau, £609,
Birch/walnut Octo 4240 by Secto Design £665
7Gods' George wood veneer decorative pendant, prices £350 to £900.
Shully pendant by 7Gods, £150, available through Heal's,
Wooden Path hand-made veneer pendant from Israeli studio Vayehi, £177.20
Laser cut plywood shades by German brand Min Jon, around 279 euros.

Also check out New Zealand designer David Trubridge, whose intricate wooden pendants are available at Made In Design, German brand Min Jon, which uses laser-cut plywood for decorative shades, and Spanish brands Santa & Cole and B Lux, both of which have lights made from wood.

Once you start looking, it's easy to see the wood from the trees...


Read more: LZF's eco story