Customizable Modular Lamps From E-Tailer Hem Turn You Into a Mix Master

It’s been said time and again that one role of designers is to create parameters, particularly in the realm of customizable products. It’s a balancing act between giving non-experts the freedom and ability to make something their own, but not so much that they create something heinous.

The Alphabeta lamp by Luca Nichetto for Hem—the Jason Goldberg–founded brand on a mission to make high-end design accessible—is one such offering.

“My ambition was to create an alphabet, a system of shades to build your own lamps,” Nichetto says in a behind-the-scenes video showing how he conceived of the design and how it’s made.

The pendants offer bi-directional ambient light, which is good for setting the mood, but outside of the dining room you’ll want a task lamp for your desk if you have one of these. Alphabeta’s lights consist of two powder-coated, spun-steel shades which are white on the inside to ensure a consistent glow, and come in a variety of different hues on the outside.

Your creativity as a mix master comes in to play with determining their form: there are eight different shapes for the top and bottom shades and each one comes in black, white, and a third color. Using the online configurator, you can then build your design. The idea is that there are no wrong combinations. If you’d rather leave it up to Hem, you can use the “surprise me” tool for random computer-generated combinations or you can purchase combinations curated by Nichetto or Petrus Palmer, Hem’s head of design.

Hem says that with four pendants—a good number to have over a dining table or kitchen table—there are over 10 billion different combinations of the lamp, which start at around $370 for a single lamp.