The late Danish designer Verner Panton loved bright colors, geometric patterns, and experimental organic shapes. This passion for all things eccentric led to some of his most famous work: groovy wave-print textiles and curvy plastic chairs. Panton, who died in 1998 at 72 years old, started designing in the 1950s and would eventually become synonymous with mid-century futurism, even though his work carried a heavy dose of a hippie-like free spirit. An unmissable piece in Panton's legacy—although nowhere as famous as his stacking S-shaped chair—is the Flowerpot lamp, which merges peace and love with sharp Scandinavian modernism.
The Flowerpot, a vividly shaded lamp with a rounded pendant that hangs from the semi-domed upper shade, was initially created in 1968. Like much of Panton's portfolio, it looks playful in spirit and intentional in design. The light is alluring; there is just enough curve to feel sensual, and the soft glow it omits could transform an otherwise sexless room into a spot where an orgy might occur. At first glance, the Flowerpot looks like pure fun, but a more studied look reveals clever engineering. It consists of two semi-circular spheres facing each other; the upper sphere is twice as large as the lower one, allowing the lower sphere to hide the bulb, while its interior serves as a colorful reflecting surface. This was Panton’s superpower, an uncanny sleight of hand that masked meticulous design under a first impression of pure playfulness.
The Flowerpot comes as a desk lamp, a floor lamp, a wall sconce, and most famously, a hanging pendant. There is no shortage of sizes or colors to choose from, and that selection only expands by the year. (The European manufacturer introduced a new mid-sized pendant option in 2010 to meet consumer demand, and has followed up with more colors and an updated desk lamp to include USB charging.) Prices range from $292 to $1,162 for a new production, and you might be lucky enough to find an original vintage in good condition for around $300 or less. An extremely rare production will pop up every once in a while, too. Case in point: this oversized and patterned lamp from 1969 that is currently listed on 1stDibs for $9,200.
Panton began his career as an architect, working for a respected firm in Copenhagen. As the story goes, he parted ways with his employer and called off his first marriage. Then he grew a beard and packed up in a Volkswagen bus for a road trip across Europe, studying modern design in each city he visited. When he returned home, he began designing what would become his most famous work. His stackable S-shaped plastic chair was the first mass-produced furniture made of a single piece of material and is inarguably hailed as a masterpiece of Danish design. The Flowerpot may not be far behind, especially considering it's been 53 years since its debut, and the design feels as fun and functional as ever.
"Still Groovy After All These Years" read a 2002 headline from a The New York Times Magazine story that described Panton as "the guy who made the 60's swing and the 70's sizzle." (No arguments here—the brilliant article also included the phrase "psychosexual allure" which feels applicable to pretty much everything Panton ever produced.) The designer carried that swing and sizzle in everything he ever designed. For him, great design should inspire a sensory experience—he spent his career experimenting with how could he use color and light to make people's homes more exciting.
In the most recent decade, the Flowerpot has grown up and shed a bit of its shag carpet reputation. The design shows up in homes that favor white floors and minimalist furniture; it also looks great above a farmhouse table with mix-matched classic chairs. In other words, Panton's groovy vibes are no longer limited to the most mid-century of decors. Folks find that it looks just as right in many shades of today's homes—a true testament to Panton's bearded brand of Danish modernism.