Illuminated Ideas: Hidden Meanings in Ring Suspension Lights
Depth and Substance Combine with Divine Shapes in These Designer Lights
Ellisse Triple ring suspension light from Nemo, designed by Federico Palazzari
Ring suspension lights are popular among designers for their ability to fill large spaces from a single lighting fixture. They are stylish and powerful ways to illuminate living rooms, entry halls, foyers, and other large spaces, and are often found over dining tables or in spacious kitchens.
At the same time, there is another reason for the popularity of ring suspension lights that transcends their functional value: the timeless symbolic richness of the simple circular ring. It was the original infinity symbol. It has represented both the totality of existence and its absence. It is perhaps most commonly used as a symbol of perfection; famously, when called upon to demonstrate his artistic mastery to earn a commission from Pope Benedict XI and the Vatican, the Florentine artist Giotto simply drew a perfect circle freehand.
...okay. We can see we've lost most of you at this point. Let's sum up: circles and rings are neat and ring suspension lights make a statement in any space, and that's why we're taking a closer look at eleven of these bold and beautifully expressive lights.
Chandelier from FontanaArte
Chandelier ring suspension light, designed by Sir David Chipperfield for FontanaArte
In designing Chandelier ring suspension light for FontanaArte, British architect Sir David Chipperfield was inspired by the legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Over fourteen hundred years, these legends have grown and adapted to their times, from the original quasi-historical accounts to T.H. White's magnificent 1958 novel, The Once and Future King. This thematic unity is continued in Chipperfield's simple yet luxurious design.
Chandelier is a simple metallic ring with cylindrical glass diffusers spaced around its circumference. In form, it is based upon the candle-based chandeliers that would have been used in Britain in the sixth century. This medieval form is then translated through a lens of modernist essentialism, rejecting obvious ornamentation and relying upon the rich luxury of the materials to speak for themselves.
The legendary King Arthur chose a circular table for his knights to make it clear that they were all equal in status and value, and that they were servants to their God and the people. Balanced and placidly confident, FontanaArte's Chandelier would have suited that table very well, indeed (though the absence of electrical power may have proved somewhat frustrating to them).
Sir David Chipperfield’s Chandelier ring suspension light is ideally suited for traditional or transitional spaces, illuminating a large dining table or foyer.
Blossi 8 from Nuura
Blossi 8 ring suspension light, designed by Sofie Refer for Nuura
The Blossi collection of lights by Danish lighting designer Sofie Refer was inspired by the golden light of autumn in Nordic countries. Through reflection, refraction, and diffusion, each Blossi light from Nuura is a circular expression of subtle passion and quiet strength, a theme which is taken a step further in the Blossi 8 ring suspension light.
Blossi 8, by nesting the circular shades of the Blossi collection around a wide metallic ring, invokes the imagery of the great Nordic and Icelandic Sagas, in which rings were a vital and essential symbol. Rings--for fingers and arms--could be signs of nobility in the Sagas, but, more importantly, they were symbols of heroism and valour. Indeed, the ability to bestow these symbolic rings upon heroes was among the most important powers of kings and lords, to the point that "ring-giver" is a synonym for "king" or "lord" in many Nordic texts.
The richness and power of Blossi (which means "flare" in Icelandic), multiplied in Blossi 8 chandelier, evokes the passages that describe, in meticulous detail, the rings of a hero's chainmail or shield to suggest their strength and courage without even speaking. Nuura and Sofie Refer have imbued Blossi 8 with a similar quiet confidence, making it a marvellous and beautiful addition to both home and hospitality lighting plans.
With elegant gold finished detailing, the Blossi chandelier would add a welcome warmth to your contemporary living room.
Hubble Bubble from Moooi
Hubble Bubble ring suspension lights with frosted "bubbles," designed by Marcel Wanders for Moooi
The imagery and metaphor suggested by circles and rings, however, need not be as portentous or profound as we may have inadvertently suggested by the previous entries. With the playfully-named Hubble Bubble ring suspension light, for instance, Marcel Wanders and Moooi offer us all a respite from matters weighty by evoking the childhood experience of blowing soap bubbles and watching them lazily drift through the air.
Hubble Bubble consists of a series of spherical glass diffusers, in several sizes, attached to a metal ring. What sets Hubble Bubble apart from similar chandeliers and pendant lights, however, is that these spheres are not attached in a uniform direction. Rather, thanks to Marcel Wanders' own Electrosandwich® technology, they are able to cling to the top, bottom, inside, and outside of the ring with the glorious abandon characteristic of youth. The ring itself is designed such that it can be installed either horizontally or vertically, allowing its position to also suggest a carefree spirit within your space.
The ultimate form of this youthful metaphor in the form of a ring suspension light is yours to determine. Do you choose to evoke sweet, placid memories of childhood with frosted white bubbles, or do you prefer the spirit and exuberance of being a child--embodied by the oil-iridescent diffuser option?
The Hubble Bubble chandelier from Marcel Wanders is perfect for adding a touch of refined whimsy to a restaurant or bar.
Halo from Roll & Hill
Halo Circle ring suspension light
Although Halo ring suspension light from Roll & Hill began as an experiment in creating a graceful luminary presence using energy-efficient LED technology, its form and name have made it part of a remarkable symbolic legacy.
Inspired by the rings of light which appear, to the human eye, around light sources, halos have been a sign of heroism and divinity since the earliest recorded myths. In belief systems all across the world and through millennia of human art, history, and mythology, Halos have suggested the radiance and internal power of the figures they encircle… why shouldn't you be one of them?
Halo Oval suspension light
Through the skillful working of luxe metals and LED technology, Paul Loebach has granted Halo Circle and Halo Oval ring suspension lights a refined and luxuriously restrained profile. The Halo collection embodies dignity and sophistication while also exuding power and strength.
Roll & Hill’s Halo is striking as the primary light source in an entranceway or hotel lobby.
Halo 4 Rings chandelier
Rote Collection from Bert Frank
Rote Large ring suspension light from Bert Frank
As a designer lighting brand, Bert Frank tends to produce modern glam luminaires that exude a simple, understated, luxury through form and material. The Rote collection of lights, however, they freely admit is the "extrovert" of their family of designs, with its bold angles and prominent Art Deco influences. Each of the Rote family members--wall, table, suspension, and chandelier--commands attention with its presence, instantly becoming the centrepiece of your space.
Rote ring suspension light's innately regal presence suggests the sleek, understated opulence of a diadem adorning a monarch's brow. Although they've become conflated over time, crowns and diadems were historically different things. Crowns were brash and showy things given as rewards for prowess in battle or games; diadems, though consisting of a simple ornate band around the forehead, were symbols of the innate power of royalty.
Rote Chandelier suspension light
Indulgence and power breathe out of the angles and lines of every Rote luminaire, but the overall impression is still one of order and restraint. They are undoubtedly luxurious, but with a quiet confidence of one born to lead rather than one desperate to show power. Indeed, Rote would not look out of place--size excepted--worn by a Targaryen, Stark, or Lannister (until it was inevitably removed post-mortem and worn by the new ruler before being removed post-mortem and worn by the new ruler and ad infinitum). Rote ring suspension light offers designers particular versatility, with three sizes and the rest of the Rote family, in creating a bold, unified visual rhetoric within a space.
Left: Rote wall sconce. Right: Rote table lamp.
Orb from CTO Lighting
Orb ring suspension light from CTO Lighting
By combining a hand-finished satin brass ring with eight spherical opal diffusers, Orb ring suspension light from CTO Lighting balances weight and lightness, presence and demurity, ostentation and intimacy. Perfect for filling large, open spaces with soft, warm light, Orb's refined, elegant, yet opulent character deftly evokes the internal contrasts found within F. Scott Fitzgerald's magnificent novel, The Great Gatsby.
Jay Gatsby fills his house with people, music, and entertainment every weekend, but finds it empty for lack of one woman. He is a man who came from nothing, accumulated everything, but could not gain what he truly valued. Loved by all, known by (almost) none, Jay Gatsby is a tragic yet noble character of infinite complexity, which is why he continues to fascinate us so many years after Fitzgerald gave him to the world.
Cool in form but warm in presence, CTO Lighting's Orb fills large rooms with intimacy--something which, one would assume, is a paradox. Its luxurious materials and weighty form make it bold and sure in its presence--while their rounded lines nonetheless allow it to withdraw, offering those who enjoy its light to focus upon one another. Orb ring suspension light enrobes your living room, lobby, or ballroom in a warm glow that welcomes and comforts guests and visitors.
22 Petites Lentilles Chandelier from Catellani & Smith
22 Petites Lentilles ring suspension light by Enzo Catellani for Catellani & Smith
Rings and circles also have a long and rich history in the sciences, a tradition which is represented well by 22 Petites Lentilles Chandelier from Catellani & Smith. With the Petites Lentilles collection, Enzo Catellani sought to use LED technology to create a refined and simple collection of lights that, in appearance, manage to balance light and matter.
This combination of technology and craftsmanship echoes the creation of the first eyeglasses in thirteenth century Italy, where Murano glassblowers combined their skills with ancient studies on the refraction of light to produce lenses that could compensate for the effects of age on eyesight. It must be said that the idea was not theirs; indeed, Chinese royalty had been using spectacles for over a thousand years by then, but they relied upon naturally-occurring clear crystal.
"Petites Lentilles" is "small lenses" en francais
It is theorized that China did not develop a clear form of glass due to their preference for tea over wine. Porcelain, which they developed over two thousand years, served perfectly well for tea; European wine-drinkers, however, liked to see the colour of wine to judge its quality, and so devoted time and effort to creating crystal-clear glassware. The availability of refined lenses allowed scholars to continue to work and research decades longer than the generations before them, leading to tremendous advances in almost every area of pre-scientific research.
Light, matter, and discovery--these concepts are embodied by each of the "small lenses" that make up 22 Petites Lentilles ring suspension light, making this simple, minimalist luminaire an exquisite addition to your home office or study.
Tekiò Collection from Santa & Cole
Tekiò Circular P8 ring suspension light, designed by Anthony Dickens for Santa & Cole
Anthony Dickens intended the Tekiò family of lights from Santa & Cole to merge ancient Japanese culture and artisan techniques with modern technology. Dubbing his design with the Japanese word for "adaptation," he strove to create designer lights that would honour the past while nonetheless manifesting contemporary lighting forms. With Tekiò Circular P8 and Tekiò Oval P12 ring suspension lights, Dickens takes this goal still further.
Tekiò Circular P8, seen from below.
In Japanese Zen Buddhist culture, the ensō, or "circular form," represents absolute enlightenment, as well as both the totality of the universe and the nothingness of its antithesis, mu ("not"). Its creation is a spiritual exercise for Zen Buddhists, during which one uses an ink brush to draw the circle on the traditional Japanese paper called washi in one fluid stroke. One of the things that makes the ensō so exciting is that perfection is neither attainable nor the goal in drawing the ensō. Closed circles do represent the concept of perfection in the totality of the universe, but flaws--an incomplete circle, a second stroke if taken, or distortions of the circular shape--are celebrated as examples of the beauty of imperfection.
Japanese washi paper gives Tekiò a pleasant, comforting glow
Tekiò's luxuriant glow--created by using washi sourced from expert craftspeople in Japan--evokes the paper lanterns of Japan, but does so through the use of energy-efficient integrated LED lights. This adaptation of old and new grants Tekiò malleability and the capacity for personal expression, allowing you to add further Tekiò modules to perfectly suit your space and personal style.
Facet from Innermost
Facet ring suspension light from Innermost, designed by Tom Kirk
Defined by the shimmering metal strips that form its surface, Facet ring suspension light from Innermost evokes the power found in simple things, and the extraordinary effects they can have.
Constructed of stainless steel, Facet is designed such that its hundreds of etched and folded strips cooperate with its light to create the illusion that its surface is glass, crystal, and luxury metals. Its specularity was carefully conceived and crafted by lighting designer Tom Kirk to create an air of mystery, with the highly-polished facets of each individual luminaire only coming to life when struck by light. This vibrant nature creates an extraordinary effect, enriching any interior it inhabits instantly--and all through the skillful and respectful manipulation of simple materials.
Through use of intricate arrangements and polished steel, Facet appears to be glass or crystal.
Facet's ring shape is likewise evocative, capturing infinity. The highly-polished inner surfaces of Facet reflect all that strikes them--those facets which face one another, then, capture in their mutual gaze the endless gulf of infinity, all within a shape that itself has represented the infinite to humankind for millennia.
Kepler from Nemo
Kepler ring suspension light in black, designed by Arihiro Miyake for Nemo
The slender twisting form of Kepler ring suspension light from Nemo joyously takes the dignity and refinement of the standard ring light form and adds a sense of scientific wonder--as well as a fair amount of fun.
Available in either uplight or downlight configurations to serve the needs of your space, Kepler is constructed of epoxy-coated extruded aluminium put through a three-dimensional deformation process inspired by the mathematics of a Möbius ribbon. By combining painstaking engineering, the extreme versatility of LED lighting technology, and visionary creativity, Arihiro Miyake has created a vivacious and expressive tribute to German astronomer and mathematician Johannes Kepler.
Whether in black or white, Kepler (in detail, left) and Kepler Mini (right) are divinely expressive luminaires
Although Kepler was devoutly religious, he helped develop the mechanics--decades before Newton's theories and observations of gravity would make them clear--of the heliocentric universe through mathematics. Through careful examination of the observations of Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, Kepler realized that the planets did not move around the sun, as Copernicus had suggested, in perfectly circular orbits; rather, he concluded, they moved in ellipses that made their heavenly movements appear irregular from our Earthbound perspective. Kepler's publications would help further a variety of fields of study, as well as contributing to the development of the scientific method itself.
Kepler pendant light in white.
The use of complexity with a sense of poetry in Miyake's Kepler ring suspension light evokes the historical Kepler's meticulous and mathematically beautiful development upon a simple circular theme, and does so through the integration of further thematic elements, such as the aforementioned Möbius strip. In form, in concept, and in technology, Arihio Miyake's Kepler ring suspension light is a triumph, capable of adding a lithe visual complexity to any dining room, foyer, or office.
Carousel from Lee Broom
Carousel (two left) and Carousel XL (right) ring suspension lights in polished gunmetal, from Lee Broom
Lee Broom's Carousel ring suspension light is the inheritor of a long and cherished history, expressed through its name, form, and inspiration. With masterful deftness Carousel contrasts cool substantial metallic finishes, warm opal diffusers, and an overall light, airy character, drawn conceptually from the Victorian-style carousels near Broom's former home in Brighton.
A fairground staple for centuries, carousels are today whimsical rides particularly suited to those seeking a calm yet amusing carnival experience. For most of the three-hundred-odd-year history of the mechanical carousel, though, they were also a game. A hoop would be hung to the side of the carousel, often in motion itself, and skilled riders could win a prize if they managed to snatch the hoop without falling.
Carousel in polished gold
This game was itself a version of a game played by commoners using real horses, emulating still-earlier cavalry competitions in which soldiers rode in a circle attempting to spear suspended rings as a demonstration of their horsemanship and skill in battle. The name "carousel" came from the Spanish and Italian word Carosella, meaning "little battle," which described the original Arabic displays brought back to Europe by Crusaders. Groups of knights would ride in a tight circular formation, tossing balls back and forth from rider to rider to train, hone, and show off their mastery of the skills of battle.
One can see echoes of every stage in the carousel's history found in the combination of light, metalwork, technology, and theme in Lee Broom's Carousel ring suspension light. As has always been the case, Carousel is a statement of total mastery of self and subject.
Carousel XL in black
Designing with Depth
Naturally, your first concern in building a lighting plan will always be functional in nature. Finding the perfect luminaire for any space begins with the type of light it provides and how it provides it, followed closely by ensuring that it will complement your design vision for your space. Ring suspension lights balance presence and absence of form to fill large spaces with light while also making use of negative space to complicate and soften their presence. Naturally lithe and expressive, ring lights solve both functional and decorative quandaries with aplomb.
With that in mind, however, isn't it also wonderful to have a story to tell? To provoke your imagination and aesthetic sense? That is--for those of you who mysteriously read this entire article without already understanding it (though, hey, thanks if you did!)--the value of searching for deeper meaning within the lights and other objects we welcome into our lives and our spaces. It's why we choose designer lighting: because, even if it was not intended by its designer, there is a richness--a soul--produced by design, and it can only enrich us to seek it out.
Visit us online to find the designer light that speaks to your soul, or through LightForm's offices and showrooms in Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Toronto, Winnipeg, and Kelowna.