Throwing Shade: Lighting Product Inspiration from South Africa

If you’ve tried house hunting recently, you’ve come across your fair share of properties that don’t value natural light. You may even find a few apartments that have three out of the five windows facing the lovely view of a brick wall. You quickly come to value Benjamin Franklin risking electrocution and the genius of Thomas Edison, Joseph Swan Nikola Tesla et al for making electricity an accessible commodity.

They may be treated as afterthoughts, but lampshades are both functional and decorative elements.

However, that’s where the appreciation seems to end. Sure, you have light, but more often than not, you probably kept the lampshades the house came with. They probably match the lampshades in the main areas too. Or if you’re a real design rebel, you’ve opted for the crowd favourite of exposed bulbs. They may be treated as afterthoughts, but lampshades are both functional and decorative elements. These South African product designers got that memo and provide their own creative twists to this interior décor component.

[Image: Courtesy of Mema Designs]

Indigi Designs

This South African lifestyle brand produces collections that merge local craftsmanship with contemporary design.  The use of locally printed textiles and accessories creates products with sustainable materials with African influences that appeals to international audiences.

Drop Wire Pendant [Image: Courtesy of Indigi Design]

[Image: Courtesy of Indigi Design]

Onion Pendant [Image: Courtesy of Indigi Design]


Libere Foundation

Their mandate is not just to crate beautiful handcrafted products, but also to create employment for talented individuals in South Africa who have limited resources and opportunities. The Libere Foundation teaches men to take Perspex and plastic bottles and turn them into lights and lamps.

[Image: Courtesy of Libere Foundation]

Tabita Starflower Light [Image: Courtesy of Libere Foundation]


Heath Nash

With a degree in Fine Art and Sculpture from the University of Cape Town, it’s easy to see how Nash transformed simple material into captivating lighting elements. His experimental perspective comes through his playful pieces that started out as a trial and error endeavour. It has now grown into art expression that has the added bonus of recycling. Nash’s signature piece has become his flowerball light fixtures which he regularly teaches workshops on.

[Image: Courtesy of Heath Nash]

[Image: Courtesy of Heath Nash]

[Image: Courtesy of Heath Nash]


The African Queen Studio

Founder Lorraine Piers takes organic authenticity seriously by making lighting products from waste readily found in nature. Based in the Western Cape of South Africa, you can find chandeliers made from the pods of the Jacaranda trees. Known as the SAND range, these bleached jacaranda seedpods are completed with crystal and bead embellishments.

[Image: Courtesy of African Queen Studio]

[Image: Courtesy of African Queen Studio]


High Thorn

Georgie Anderson’s designs are handcrafted products that primarily use leather and wood. The organic inspiration helps to create a safari-lodge aesthetic to the High Thorn brand. Based in Kyalami, Johannesburg, High Thorn products have become fixture-favourites for retail stores, restaurants, lodges, and hotels in SA and Internationally. And they are available to the public as well.

Leather Chandelier [Image: Courtesy of High Thorn]

Twig Chandelier [Image: Courtesy of High Thorn]

Mema Designs

Co-founders Ari Geva and Sian Eliot create to inspire the observer. An electronics engineer and industrial engineer respectively, the company creates lighting products that are rich in architectural detail. Entering the field without a guide on how to work with aluminium mesh, they had to formulate the entire production process. Through their conceptual thinking they were able to turn aluminium into ripples and folds that come across as soft and feminine.

[Image: Courtesy of Mema Designs]

[Image: Courtesy of Mema Designs]


I Feel Like It

We’ve seen light fixtures that are up cycled, made from seed pods, or leather based, but ‘I Feel Like It’ decided to use wool as its medium; in particular, Merino and Karakul wool. Interestingly, wool can produce multiple configurations and a diverse range of shades. The Cape Town based operation also creates custom chandeliers and pendants to match precise installations.

[Image: Courtesy of I feel Like It]

[Image: Courtesy of I feel Like It]


The right lampshade can be the harmonizing finishing touch that your room has been missing. It’s a great way to freshen up a room, improve lighting and create that ambience that separates a home from a warehouse showroom. Hope these designs have inspired you to look at your fixtures and dress them up a little bit. Your decor will thank you.

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