Why The Spiral Lamp Is Sitting at the Center of a Cultural Swing


Curated Objects owner Ashley Chi also affirms the greater desire for statement fixtures on the secondhand market. Although her online shop is based in Los Angeles, she has seen an appetite for obscure objects worldwide, citing more specific requests for statement floor lamps from customers. Inspired by postmodern, Scandinavian, and ’80s-design Instagram accounts, Ashley has sold three spiral lamps at prices ranging from $200 to $300; she notes that they are a “conversation starter.” Other iterations of the spiral design, like the Karl Springer style (which currently sells for $550) with its larger base, reveal more of a postmodern influence.

Historically referred to as the barley twist, the lamp’s helical shape could also be taken as a societal shift toward indulgence. According to Matt Bird, senior critic at the Rhode Island School of Design, the title “barley twist” refers to a twisted candy that dates back to the 17th century; the “helical shape was popular in furniture legs and columns” at the same time. Bird cites Bernini’s Baldachin at St. Peter’s in Rome as a famous example.

As people started spending more time in their homes during the pandemic, they seem to have developed an increased desire to create aesthetically enriching interiors. With this new mentality, consumers are now making purchases that would have been considered indulgent in the past. Carrie Carrollo, a Brooklyn-based copywriter, is currently navigating this tension between investing in long-term pieces and picking up on trends. She initially noticed the spiral lamp on the vintage resale account Gates Haus but didn’t purchase it until more than a year later in November 2020, when she spotted the same statement piece in a pleasing ecru being sold for $250 at Carpenter Studio.

Carrie describes the spiral lamp as not only a functional piece, but also a fixture that becomes “its own little moment.” More critically, she does not see the larger trend toward organic and obscure shapes as a coincidence. “They’re a clear departure from the clean, minimal, modern styles that have been popular over the last five-plus years—incredibly restricted and pared down versus playful and rule-free,” Carrie says. “Turning to color and abstract shapes are easy and obvious ways to infuse more personality into your space too, which might be a response to the pandemic. After being at home for so long, we’re all looking for ways to make our spaces feel uplifting and fluid, and the most ‘like us’ as possible.”

The spiral lamp sits at the center of a cultural swing into the world of decadence and indulgence, a sensibility straight from Michael’s DNA. Perhaps, after a long period of staring at the same four walls, we’re all craving something a little funkier and looser to lighten the mood. To anyone still searching for the elusive statement piece, Ashley offers a final word of encouragement: “I was trying to find the spiral lamp for the longest time and then found four at once,” she says. “If you have your eye on something specifically, always be looking for it and always be searching for it. It will come to you eventually.”

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