we love mad men: authentic lighting from the 60’s


If there is one thing that AMC‘s Mad Men proves, it’s that your grandparents were so much cooler than you.   Here at Lucept, we’re gearing up for the show’s third season opener on August 16, and to celebrate, we’ve put together a sampling of authentic 1960’s lighting design.

Richard Kelly and Edison Price Lighting


1960’s International Style in Manhattan, a la the Seagrams Building with its famous Four Seasons Restaurant,  was all about minimalism and exploring the use of concealed light fixtures to highlight architectural surfaces.   Richard Kelly was a brilliant lighting designer and Edison A. Price was a brilliant fixture manufacturer who worked directly with folks like Mies van der Rohe, Philip Johnson, I.M. Pei, Louis Kahn, etc.  Price invented entire categories of what are now common fixtures, including recessed downlights, track lighting, and linear wall grazing systems. Edison Price Lighting is now run by his daughter and is still a leader in those types of fixtures.

If you want to understand the cutting edge style of the era, and the pioneering lighting design that accompanied it, then check out this fantastic PDF by the IES of New York: The Selected Works of Richard Kelly.

Louis Poulsen Lighting

Original 1958 "Artichoke" Pendants

The minimalist aesthetic of the International Style didn’t do away with decorative lighting, it just changed the style.   Louis Poulsen launched a series of iconic pendant fixtures in the late 50’s and  early 60’s that are still as fresh looking today as ever.  Designed in conjunction with Danish designer Poul Henningsen, the 1958 PH Artichoke and the 1966 PH 4/3 Pendant are still selected as the focal points of contemporary projects.

Fluorescent Troffers


Fluorescent 2×2 troffers were the pinnacle of lighting technology in 1960.  Early lensed versions, such as in the offices of Sterling Cooper, created a pleasant brightness — before the days of curved computer monitors and the problems associated with veiling glare, which led to the development of dark “parabolic” troffers that concealed the light source and created the dreary, cave-like interiors of 1980’s offices.

Here is a funny post about the  fluorescent troffers and the expected conformity of that era: “The Oppressive Rectangularity of the Fluorescent Light”.

Although endless manufacturers still produce nearly the exact same fixture, Lightolier has been around from the beginning and was a leader during the era. And today, with modern flat screen monitors equipped with anti-glare coatings, glowing troffer styles have made a triumphant return (see Focal Point, Zumtobel and Ledalite).


Desk Lamps


At the time of this posting, we’re still searching for the manufacturer of the retro fluorescent desk lamps seen throughout the Sterling Cooper secretary ranks.  Our hunch is that they are vintage Arts Specialty Co of Chicago, but we’re still investigating.

For other famous period desklamps, check out Luxo or the piece on Dazor Vintage Task lamps at Retrooffice.

Stiffel Table Lamps


To accompany your 1960’s happy domestic life (or simply your retro-chic glam project), you need some decorative table lamps, of course.   Stiffel made very high quality “heirloom” decorative fixtures.  Although it is hard to find much info on Stiffel even on the web, try a search for vintage fixtures on ebay.

2 thoughts on “we love mad men: authentic lighting from the 60’s

  1. hi there- this is long after the fact, but what were the pendant lights (pine?) in the reception of the first Sterling Cooper offices?

    1. Hi Sherman,

      I have no idea, but I will post your comment. That continues to be a popular post even two years after I wrote it…maybe someone will eventually figure it out.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s