Let there be lights: squeezable, color-changing lights, lights that track your sleep, lights that come disguised as Gummi Bears or giant pencils. These are just a few of the innovations in lighting design we came across in 2014. Some are aimed to make illumination smarter or more power-efficient; others just make it more fun.
The Fantasia lamps, from Italian design studio MID can turn nearly any baton-shaped item—broom handles, carrots, spoons—into a standing lamp. "The idea was to steal things from our daily life to create and animate other, different objects," designer Lapo Germasi says. "To support itself, the family of Fantasia lamps steals the brooms from the storage closet, greens from our food reserves, screwdrivers from our home toolbox." They range from about $113 to $312, here.
In addition to possibly being the world's most sophisticated nightlight—with an ambient light sensor, a ring to adjust brightness, and the ability to set the hue to one of 16 million colors—the Leeo Smart Alert can protect your home when you're away. It's a plug-and-play accessory that will listen for smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, alerting you and your emergency contacts if something goes wrong when you're away from the house. To use it, just plug it into the wall, and connect it to your home Wi-Fi, setting it up through an iPhone or Android app. Get the Smart Alert here for $99.
The whimsical HB Lamp, designed by U.K. duo Michael & George, looks like nothing less than a giant pencil propped up in a corner, illuminating the room with its glowing eraser. The lead-colored cord snakes out of the pencil tip, running across the floorboards as if a naughty giant went and drew on the floor. It's available here starting around $1,600.
At first, the candles look like super-sized Gummi Bears—so cute you could eat them. But when you light the wick and the wax melts down, a demon lurking inside rears its scorched aluminum head. They're available here for $49.
Flos, the cutting-edge lighting manufacturer for which Italian designer Gino Sarfatti once worked, recently decided to modernize a series of his designs using LED technology. Flos revamped five lamps Sarfatti made between 1951 and 1971, challenging its designers to leave the lights' physical and outward design intact while improving functionality. The resulting collection, Flos’s Re-lighting Gino Sarfatti Edition No.1, is available at the MoMA Store from $125 to $3,250.
The Drift, a smart lightbulb by Saffron, requires only your light switch to access its several modes. Flick the switch on and the LED light bulb will glow like any bulb you know. Flip the switch on twice, and you enter Midnight Mode, which gradually dims the light over the course of 37 minutes to lull you to sleep like a setting sun. Flip the switch three times, and you enter Moonlight Mode, which slowly dims the bulb but stops at a faint glow to serve as a nightlight. Buy it here for $29.
You know your train ticket is somewhere in your bag, but it's hidden in a soup of receipts, crumbs, headphones, and other junk. The Kangaroo Light, designed by Madrid-based Studio Banana Things, is designed to sit at the bottom of your bag and make finding your stuff easier. The foldable grid of glowing LED triangles is soft and bendable, and it has a few different modes, so it can flicker or pulse or produce different levels of light. It conveniently charges via USB. It can also be used in any place where a nice-looking soft light would come in handy: camping, during power outages, as a reading light in bed. Pre-order it for $123 here.
Designed by PEGA Design & Engineering, the Colorup is a wireless lamp that changes color based on its surroundings when you squeeze it. You just place the tip of the Colorup on top of an object and give it a squeeze to slurp up its color, dyeing the lamp's LED light with the detected color. It can turn as red as your Converse All-Stars or as green as a Granny Smith apple with just a squeeze. It can mimic hundreds of colors in total. See more here.
Withing's Aura alarm clock is designed to appeal to the very laziest among us: Slip a fabric-covered sensor under the mattress and open an app, and the Aura gets to work. That sensor measures movements, so over time the Aura learns the optimal time to rouse a user from sleep (within a certain window). Even more futuristic is its use of colored light to hack our alertness: At night, the orb glows a deep, comforting orange, like a setting sun; in the morning, it slowly turns on a blue light that Harvard scientists say can suppress melatonin. It's available here for $299.
The ZooM's pentagonal arrangement of interlocked plastic spirals can be 3-D printed flat—making it cheaper to make and easier to ship. Thread a light bulb cord through the center and watch it pop out, like a tent, into a classic lampshade shape. The ZooM lampshades start at about $150, and can be bought here.