5 Ingenious Variations On The Simple Wall Socket

Why ignore ugly wall sockets when we could just design them away?

I try not to think about it much. But every now and again, I notice this one wall in my apartment. For whatever idiotic reasoning of past owners and tenants, that wall is covered with three electrical plates within about four square feet. It’s just an eyesore of holes in plastic, like The Home Depot did a drive-by on my living room.


Designer Inga Sempé could probably relate. She’s released an entire line of plugs and switches that are both more stylish and functional than those filling my now-infamous wall. And she wishes that she could convince more French industrialists to work with freelance designers such as herself.

The crown jewel of the collection has to be the Tromp-L’oeil. It’s a three-plug socket that hides any dark holes or shiny pins by ingeniously deploying a relief raster to to mask them. To activate any plug, you push it inward, and the pins/plugs are revealed.

In another piece called the Rotatif, she hides the plugs in a different manner: a hatch. And it’s not any plain-old hatch. It’s a three-piece hatch that bends easily to wrap itself around plugged-in cords.

Of course, her collection is more than a war on wall sockets. Sempé has also created dimmers with visual feedback–simple red iconography to signal how “on” vs “off” the switch may be–which is particularly useful in applications with pilot lights. She’s also created slimline, stretched-rectangular switches to better fit in thin crannies and complement the shape of door frames, having no idea why the “conformist” field is so full of squares.

“I really wanted to do this work because usually those kind of tools and mechanical objects are rarely offered to be redesigned by woman, as if we would not be able to handle those kind of field,” she tells Co.Design. “Journalists keep asking me if I would be interested to design some furniture for children, but never ask if I would like to design hammer and screwdrivers, whereas it is really this second field that I wanted to be in when I began to study industrial design.”

Just so you know, we mentioned nothing about kid furniture. Promise!


About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started, a simple way to give back every day.