More or Less: Shedding light on the task lamp
- The San Francisco Chronicle, 08/09/2009

Though not as quaint as candlelight, task lamps will light your way when you need to burn the midnight oil. Small in stature, these fixtures fit neatly on your desk. And no matter which way you turn, pivot points keep the spotlight on the job at hand.

Among the task's most famous forms is the Signal Desk Lamp, a smaller version of the lamp created by French designer Jean-Louis Domecq in 1950. The Signal was originally intended to light his own work space, but its no-nonsense, industrial aesthetic caught on at a time when Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier and others had popularized a minimalist approach. The lamp's clean-lined base supports a bulbous, semicircular crown - its sole ornamentation, the stark, circular wire suspended below the bulb.

Jieldé, the company that Domecq founded in 1953, continues to manufacture his designs and issued the scaled-down Signal Desk Lamp six years ago. Horne, a Philadelphia company, sells the steel lamp for $405 in 18 colors, ranging from basic black to cheerful red and mustard (

If the price tag is too hefty for you, check out the Hi-Light Task Lamp, $79 at Pottery Barn Teen ( Three bulky pivot points connect the Hi-Light's steel and aluminum parts, whose candy-colored hues - mint green, ice blue and bubble gum pink - clearly target an adolescent audience. But because PBteen imitates the Signal's sophisticated shape, not to mention a stock of more subdued tones, like black, chrome and coffee, this affordable alternative to the Jieldé design manages to feel grown up.

So whether old school or middle school suits your style, you'll still have plenty to chose from.

Jieldé Signal Desk Lamp

PBteen Hi-Light Task Lamp