Now recognized as one of the world’s foremost lighting manufacturers, Louis Poulsen began its long life in 1874, first as the Copenhagen Direct Wine Import Company, and then, starting in 1896, as an electrical components and tools supplier. In the 1910s, Louis Poulsen (1871-1934), nephew of the Copenhagen-based company’s original founder, took over and soon after became partners with entrepreneur and electricity enthusiast Sophus Kaastrup-Olsen (1884-1938). Together they reincorporated as Louis Poulsen & Co. In 1917, Kaastrup-Olsen acquired Poulsen's shares and became the company’s sole proprietor, just in time to benefit from the increasing demand for electrically powered fixtures that developed during and after World War I.
In 1924, Kaastrup-Olsen began collaborating with Danish architect Poul Henningsen (1894-1967) on the design of an innovative, three-shade lamp system, after Henningsen was chosen to participate in the legendary Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes to be held the following year in Paris. Henningsen won the gold medal there, and his work with the Louis Poulsen & Co. grew into a lifelong collaboration that remains the foundation of its ongoing production today.
Henningsen was obsessed with light and considered himself a “lighting architect.” With his PH Lamp series, he sought to create glare-free yet direct light where it was most needed, accompanied by soft shadows, lit by the then-new incandescent bulbs. He did not just design a light, but an entire system; around a thousand different models have been designed over the years. Pioneering and timeless classics such as Henningsen’s Artichoke Lamp (1958) and the PH5 (1958), as well as fellow Danish designer Verner Panton’s Ceiling Flower Pot lamp (1968) and Panthella table lamp (1971), are considered to be among the most iconic Scandinavian contributions to modern design culture.
Louis Poulsen—beloved by design lovers around the world—continues to specialize in the development and production of lighting solutions for indoor and outdoor applications. With function, comfort, and ambience at the core of each design, the company’s products can be found in numerous design museum collections, including MoMA (New York), Cooper Hewitt (New York), Philadelphia Museum of Art, Indianapolis Museum of Art, Museum of Decorative Arts (Copenhagen), Design Museum (London), and Vitra Design Museum (Weil am Rhein). Today Louis Poulsen is part of Polaris Private Equity.
* All images courtesy of Louis Pousen.