The rise and rise of the naked bulb

The rise and rise of the naked bulb

Well, granted, not any old bulb, but a new generation of energy efficient LED and CFL 'filament' bulbs are pushing lamp shades into

Urban Cottage Industries' FactoryLux Eco Filament bulbs offer 25,000 hours of light

A bare light bulb hanging from the ceiling has always been an interior design horror...However, there's a new breed of bulb which is intended to hang as much unshaded as shaded. Pictured above: new FactoryLux Eco Filament low energy compact fluorescent bulbs are attractive to look at and they're dimmable. They cost £30.60 and give around 25,000 hours of light. Edison has LED 'filament' bulbs and Plumen offers designer CFLs.

You'll have noticed them in trendy bars and shops up and down the country -  clear glass filament bulbs and designer CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps), which have become hugely popular with designers. And more of us are following suit at home, forgoing shades so we can look directly at the lights above our heads. 

Because bulbs have become objects of beauty in themselves, whether it's a decorative filament model with thin coils of wire visible in the glass casing, or slender modern CFLs from Plumen. It brought out its striking curly 001 model in 2010, and last year launched the Plumen 002, a compact smooth loop of glass designed more for the home, which is intended to be a stylish and energy saving equivalent to the 30W incandescent bulb.

But if you like the filament in clear glass look, there is now a super energy efficient CFL, the FactoryLux Eco Filament bulb which launched this year and offers an impressive 25,000 hours of light. Compare that to a 'normal' CFL which offers around 8,000 hours of light.

James Wilson at Urban Cottage Industries, the company behind the FactoryLux brand, says Eco Filaments have the look of metal filament bulbs which their ultra thin fluorescent tubing, but they're as energy efficient as LEDs. 'These bulbs are rated A for energy consumption. We've been trying for years to identify a viable low-energy filament bulb and after many false dawns, we've seen the light.' 

Eco Filament bulbs in FactoryLux's raw steel bulb guards
Plumen 002 CFL bulb launched early this year doesn't need a shade
FactoryLux eco filament bulbs come in a pear shape but a globe is coming soon
Edison Light Globes are LED 'filament' bulbs, offering 20,000 hours of light.
The original designer CFL bulb from London based Plumen
The FactoryLux Eco Filament bulbs..they were used in Liberty's Christmas windows
Globe LED filament bulb from Edison Light Globes. Prices from around £20.

Eco Filaments give a warm light and are dimmable - and recyclable - and grouped together, hung on traditional coloured braids, they do look stunning. Alternatively use them in modern or traditional metal chandeliers as they come in standard E27 screw of B22 bayonet fittings. 

'And while there is the initial outlay - the bulbs cost £30.60 -  you'll get 20 years' use at three hours a day. What's more the lamps retain at least 80 per cent of their original brightness at 25,000 hours,' says Wilson.

LED filament bulbs

LEDs (light emitting diodes) are being used increasingly in domestic/decorative lighting because as a light source, LEDs use very little power and last for between 20 and 50,000 hours. Lighting manufacturer Edison Light Globes, based in Melbourne, has developed LED filament bulbs in pear and globe shapes, and it ships worldwide, with prices for bulbs (excluding shipping) starting at around £20.

The problem with LEDs, as it is with CFLs, continues to be that they give a bright white light and as yet don't replicate that warm orange light that traditional incandescent bulbs give out. The latter started to be phased out in the UK in 2012 because they aren't energy efficient, although some of the designer filament bulbs on the market do use a tungsten filament, and so give a warmer light. These bulbs don't offer much in the way of longevity, with 2- 4,000 hours of light being what you can expect to get out of them. 

So why do we want to look at bulbs and not beautiful shades?

Some of us are bemused by growing fascination with the naked bulb, but interior designer Paul Warren says the eye is drawn to following the shape of the filament in the clear glass casing and if it's not too bright or glaring - and these bulbs are not because they're intended for decorative not task lighting. 'And because they tend fo be hung in groups, for example three or four over a table, they offer interest and symmetry. Whether it's just a passing trend time will tell.. but I think these bulbs positioned carefully and in the right location can offer a pared down elegance. They're minimalist, not fussy.'

And CFLs and LEDs can be recycled, albeit not in your household recycling.