House & Garden

Glowing testimony to the beauty of old-fashioned lightbulbs

It’s hard these days to get excited about lightbulbs…

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Glowing testimony to the beauty of old-fashioned lightbulbs

Image: Stanley Wilson

February 21 2011
Sophy Roberts

It’s hard these days to get excited about lightbulbs; they’re just so functional, and although the energy-efficient ones may help to save the planet, the light that they emit is so cold. So I was delighted when I discovered a source of old-fashioned lightbulbs supplied by a business in rural Kent.

Stanley Wilson and his wife Sophie are the duo behind Filament Lighting, and the perfect bulb, says Stanley, is one equipped with a hand-stitched filament by Righi of Switzerland – a company that has been manufacturing bulbs for more than 100 years. “It’s the warmest, cosiest, most atmospheric lighting you can get,” says Stanley. “Unlike LED or fluorescent, everyone looks good under this kind of bulb, which is why they are so popular with restaurants.”

While it would be crazy to light an office with filament lightbulbs, he concedes, “we will continue to exist for a niche market. A railway preservation society needs revivalist lightbulbs. We satisfy that market.”

I am no trainspotter, but I am a convert – not just to the Righi bulb, with its delicate coiled, zigzagged and spiralled filaments, but to the whole of Wilson’s luminous world, whose clients include architects, designers, movie stars and theatre folk (a recent order was for more than 1,000 bulbs for Danny Boyle’s stage production of Frankenstein at the National Theatre in London). I have switched my entire home over to Wilson’s way of filament thinking, choosing from among the 24 different designs – from big round bulbs the size of a child’s head to little round ones the size of golf balls. His bulbs look most impressive in my kitchen, where nine bare filament bulbs (£18 each) illuminate a 14ft-long kitchen table. Prices range from £9-£24.

Perhaps next I’ll move onto Stanley and Sophie’s other websites such as Historic Lighting (bestsellers include 1950s-style enamel wartime shades, £62); Fabric Cable, which supples traditional texile lighting cabling; and Hollywood Mirrors, which supplies bulb-wrapped mirrors to showbiz types. But their core business – and my core interest – remains filament bulbs; truly, I have seen the light.