Lighting the Modern World


Christian Dell was principal of the ‘Metallwerkstatt’ (metal workshop) at the Bauhaus from 1922 to 1925, his cabinet-making studio becoming the most successful department in designing prototypes for mass production.

In 1926 Dell began to sketch designs for the lamp factory Gebruder Kaiser & Co based in Neheim Hüsten. He designed, and named the brand ‘Kaiser Idell’ – a play on the words ‘idea’ and ‘Dell’, his surname. His innovative and pioneering designs resulted in Dell becoming one of the leading characters behind Bauhaus in the early 1930s.


The style we now recognise as ‘Modernism’ never really took off as well in the UK as it did on the Continent, perhaps due to the UK’s understandable, but misconceived association with the rising German National Socialist Party (in fact with anything Germanic at the time). Incidentally, the National Socialists viewed the Bauhaus as a ‘bunch of Bohemian degenerates’ applying tremendous political force to render its closure when they assumed power in 1933.

We also have to remember that electric light was still a relatively new phenomenon in the thirties, the National grid in the UK only became fully functional in 1938, so electrical items of any kind were, in their day, seen as real luxury purchases for the home.

As stark and brutal a style as it is, I can’t help but admire the honesty of Modernism, giving us both form and function in equal measures. Pictured on the right is the Kaiser Idell desk lamp code number 6556, my favourite version, not because it’s particularly rare or beautiful, but because it is reasonably available, it’s affordable, and as far as I am concerned, sums up the ethos of the Bauhaus perfectly.

Made entirely of heavy gauge steel and stamped ‘ORIGINAL KAISER IDELL’, the 6556 is a durable lamp and ‘pulls no punches’, doing exactly today what it was designed to do when first made, back in 1927.

With its unique quality, precision engineering and craftsmanship, the Kaiser Idell desk lamp exuberates style, originality, sculptural excellence and pure design at its very best.

An original 6556 lamp can be bought in a rough state from as little as £50, with fully restored examples selling upwards of £200*.

Alternatively, the Republic of Fritz Hansen now sell brand new reissued Kaiser designs available in black, ivory, white, red and dark green, the lamps are made in steel and brass and the lampshades are hand painted in high gloss. And the price for a new one? Would you believe £588*?

*prices quoted from 2011