Plumen, the LED lighting company, thinks that the best way to make energy-efficient lightbulbs more attractive to customers is to, well, make them more attractive. In the six years since it was founded, the company has released two very beautiful lightbulbs—the Plumen 001 and Plumen 002—which also won design awards.
Five years ago, the company set out to answer a different question: Can an LED lightbulb make the people it illuminates more beautiful?
The resulting bulb—the Plumen 003—isn't quite a magic mirror. But it aims to create ambiance without sacrificing functionality and capture some of the fiery glow of the old incandescent bulb with a fraction of the energy consumption—it uses 6.5 watts, compared to the standard 60-watt incandescent, and lasts for 10,000 hours.
"It's hard to let go of incandescents because there’s something burning inside. There’s something really beautiful about that. Not just in the way you see it, but it’s romantic," says Nicholas Roope, Plumen's creative director. "It makes people look beautiful. The way the light dances, it masks something but brings out qualities that a brighter light takes away."
Plumen's 003 bulb attempts to bring that candlelit aura together with the function of an LED. Its anodized aluminum facets were designed in collaboration with the fine jewelry designer Marie-Laurie Giroux. Giroux says they wanted to make the bulb feel precious—a feeling clearly communicated by its golden petals. During the design process, she experimented with different patterns on thin pieces of anodized aluminum; while there were several more artful patterns that she liked, they weren't feasible to manufacture on a large scale. Instead, they opted for simpler facets to bring out the metal's reflective qualities.
The gold-tinted shades are held together with acrylic, which allows light to filter through the structure, creating a soft, warm glow. The acrylic both reflects light and secures the metal parts of the bulb's structure—and because it is transparent, there are no shadows on the core. "When you come up close, it looks like it’s hovering on air." Roope says.
But these anodized petals only filter some of the light outward. The rest of the light beams downward for more concentrated illumination. This, Roope says, is the kind of lighting that's ideal for a bar, restaurant, or private dining table, so you can actually see your food and drink while enjoying a warm atmosphere. The same goes for a reading or bedside table light.
But beauty doesn't come cheap. The 003 bulb costs a whopping $170, with a bulb and pendant set priced at $200. Because the Plumen 003 is truly a shade and bulb all in one, Roope thinks it's comparable to other high-end lighting options on the market. And compared to work of professional lighting designers who design the light in luxury hotels and restaurants, it might be even reasonable.
In the end, Roope believes that the Plumen 003 captures some of the old poetry of an incandescent bulb. "You never really understand it and that’s what makes it interesting and special," he says. "We all need a little bit of that in our lives."
The Plumen 003 is available for preorder on the company's website.