Crazy Design Facts: Poul Henningsen and the PH Lamps

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Poul Henningsen (1894-1967) was a Danish designer who is world renown for his beautiful and functional PH lamps. He was the illegitimate child of the famous Danish writer and feminist activist Agnes Henningsen.

All of Henningsen’s lamps are designed to break and filter the light in a pleasing way, with his most famous designs being the Artichoke and the PH5.

A few crazy Henningsen facts:

– It’s said that the famous three-screen light was designed because his mother complained that she looked so wrinkled in a harsh electric light.

– After openly criticizing the Nazis in the second world war, he was forced to flee to Sweden in a rowing boat.

– Henningsen left us with not only his wonderful and timeless designs, but also his body, which he dedicated to science and can still be viewed to this day by the medical students in Copenhagens Panum Institute.

At the turn of the last century, the electric light bulb was a very new invention so it’s easy to understand people’s difficulty in adapting from a warmer glow of a kerosene or gas lamp to this new, harsh electric light.

This lamp is very similar to the original three-screen lamp that he designed for his mother.

It seems obvious to us today, but imagine only a harsh bare bulb light, and then experiencing a softer ambient light from these lamps.

This pre-1940s example shows the deep patina and coloring on its surfaces so valued by collectors.

Artichoke detail and a modern day Artichoke in copper finish

The complex design and structure of the 1950s Artichoke lamp, like the one pictured above, ensures light breaks and filters evenly in a room.

The original pre-war PH Lamps are extremely rare and valuable, but many great finds and bargains can still be found at reasonable prices from the ’30s to contemporary.

An original “Number 7” from the 1930s sold at auction for $2,800

PH4/4 Pendant Lamp circa 1928-9, sold for $2,400

Click here to find original PH Lamp bargains on sale now at

Jaime Derringer, Founder + Executive Editor of Design Milk, is a Jersey girl living in SoCal. She dreams about funky, artistic jewelry + having enough free time to enjoy some of her favorite things—running, reading, making music, and drawing.