Product Design

An Ode to a New Icon: The Studio Desk Lamp

We’re swooning over the heritage and craftsmanship behind this task lamp.

March  4, 2022
Photo by Schoolhouse

Late last year Schoolhouse, the lighting and home goods company based in Portland, became part of the Food52 family. As Schoolhouse joins Food52’s community of brands, our editorial team has been doing a deep (and delightful!) dive into Schoolhouse’s iconic lighting collection.

Founded in 2003, Schoolhouse was born when Portland native Brian Faherty decided to restore a stash of vintage cast-iron molds for glass light shades—the kind you once found in every schoolhouse in America (hence, the company’s name). At the time, Faherty worked buying, renovating, and selling old houses, and he had noticed there was a dearth of appealing glass fixtures. Research led him to an upstate New York glass factory that ended up selling him the molds. Faherty restored the molds and started manufacturing new lights under the brand name Schoolhouse Electric & Supply Co.

In the 18 years since, Schoolhouse has shortened its name and expanded its product assortment beyond the initial vintage reproductions, partnering with U.S.-based manufacturers to create original lighting designs and other home goods that shared Faherty’s utilitarian-chic aesthetic. After the initial blown glass fixtures came table lamps, trash cans, hooks, hardware, and a revamped version of the classic 1960s IBM clock.

The Studio Desk Lamp, introduced in 2015, is a particularly good example of the company’s quest for “domestic utility”—function, after all, is just as (if not more) important than form. Made from a heavy gauge steel with solid brass fittings, the lamp is made to last—unlike other inexpensive metal-shaded lamps that easily dent. Its adjustable arm slides both horizontally and vertically and the shade swivels so you can direct the light exactly where you need it. Its geometric shape happens to create a beautiful form in your space, as well.

Katie Elliott, the director of product at Schoolhouse, notes the Studio Desk Lamp was inspired by vintage “eyeball lamps”—including those by modernist lighting designer Robert Sonneman—whose spherical shapes are part of the Space Age design movement of the late 50s and 60s. Along with the spherical Keracolor televisions and the iconic Ball Chair by Eero Aarnio, these lamps’ orb steel shades called to mind an astronaut’s helmet or even a UFO. “We're always looking at beautiful forms, color, and inspiring details from the past, and pulling those out to inform our current designs,” says Elliott.

While the Studio Desk Lamp is inspired by Space Age designs, it isn’t pigeon-holed to mid-century-style interiors: it looks equally at home in a modern farmhouse style home or a turn of the century Victorian. “I think the combination of high-quality materials, simple form, colors, and thoughtful function are what make it a timeless design,” says Elliott, who believes it is the mix of materials that gives the Studio Desk Lamp its charm—“glossy paint, matte black oxide, the beautiful, warm rich brass, and then the twisted cloth cord, which gives it a bit of a nostalgia and the softness.”

Like all of Schoolhouse’s lighting, the Studio Desk Lamp is designed, assembled, and fulfilled in Schoolhouse’s century-old brick factory in Portland using ethically sourced domestic and global components—and that commitment to U.S. manufacturing will continue under Food52. Looking ahead, Elliott says new colors for the Studio Desk Lamp are likely on the horizon. Whatever colors they choose, we bet they'll be just the right combo of classic and modern that’s been Schoolhouse’s signature all these years.

What colors would you love to see the Studio Desk Lamp in? Classic or modern? Tell us in the comments below.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • travstansel
  • Laura Fenton
    Laura Fenton
Laura Fenton is the No Space Too Small columnist at Food52. The author of The Little Book of Living Small, she covers home, design, and sustainability. Laura lives in Jackson Heights, Queens in a 690-square foot apartment with her husband and son. You can follow her on Instagram @laura.alice.fenton or subscribe to her newsletter Living Small.


travstansel March 4, 2022
I like Schoolhouse, but this isn’t “inspired” by mid-century designs it’s a direct copy of a Sonneman lamp. I know because I have an original. I’m not a purist about knock-offs, especially when the originals aren’t made anymore, but they should be called out (I know there’s an Etsy link but it should be mentioned in the text).
Laura F. March 4, 2022
Thank you for your comment. I reached out to Katie Elliott from Schoolhouse, and here's what she said:

"The Schoolhouse team and I are thankful for such an informed and active community. Our intention is never to copy designs. I do see some beautiful similarities to the Sonneman design (and other lamps of this era), but I celebrate the nuances and details present in the Studio Lamp, including the substantial geometry of the solid brass swivel, the nostalgic texture of the twisted cord, the functional simplicity of the in-line switch, the unobstructed beauty of the orb shade, and the overall material mix captured by the glossy lacquer, black oxide, brass, and cloth cord."

We're also updating the article to give a nod to Mr. Sonneman, so thank you for bringing it to our attention!