Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Walter Von Nessen: Lighting the Way For Modern Design

Walter Von Nessen's influence can be seen in contemporary modern lighting design of today, but there is nothing like the quality of the original Von Nessen's, and the quality that continues to be produced through Nessen Studios today. 

This Is An Original Vintage Pair Of Swing Arm
Table Desk/Table Lamps Purchased From The Convent Auction.
This Lamp is Still Produced By Nessen Studios. (NT961)
Most recently we saw this lasting quality in a number of Von Nessen lamps we purchased from an auction at, believe it or not, a local convent that was downsizing and preparing to relocate. To our surprise, among the numerous religious relics, were some carefully selected Von Nessen lamps for use in the multiple living spaces of the nuns' convent. These lamps were mostly purchased throughout the 1960's, and due to their fantastic quality of structure and design, were still in excellent structural shape. They also still hold their value as well desired modern lighting pieces for any home or working space today.The bidding was competitive on these great lighting pieces, but we fared well enough to score some great desk, table, and floor lamps to feature for our customers. 
Original Vintage Satin Chrome
Floor Lamp From The Convent Auction. This
 Lamp Is No Longer Produced By Nessen Studios.

Pair of Vintage Original Polished Chrome
Table Lamps We Purchased At The Convent Auction
This Design Is No Longer Produced By Nessen Studios.

It also did not surprise us to later find out that these lamps were most likely all selected by the architect who worked closely with the convent in their architectural design changes over the years. He knew lasting quality and design when he saw it.

The architect involved in outfitting the design of the convent also saw how quality lighting and furnishings with good design features would serve his clients well over the years. We are just happy that we can give our customers the benefit of letting these lamps and furnishings live on for countless years to come, continuing the tradition of trailblazers like Walter Von Nessen to merge quality of design and modern style.

Keep A look out for these and other great finds from the convent auction to be available on our web site at Rocket Century. If you are interested in these or any other items from Rocket Century just e-mail us at

The history of how Walter Von Nessen got his start in modern architectural lighting design shows his attention to this very detail that makes his works still famous today.*

 Walter von Nessen
Walter Von Nessen:  1889-1943*

Great commercial architects through the decades learned quickly that the best way to compliment their designs, was to be involved in the design and selection of the furnishings and fixtures of their buildings. This of course included the right lighting.

A 1930 edition of Lamp Buyers Journal, which became the forerunner of Home Lighting And Accessories, stated "The latest, newest most radical expressions of art in industry seem particularly applicable to lamps because a lamp highlights a room and it may well be extreme…and it strives to be an expression of ourselves, our times and our environment."  By then lamp designer Walter Von Nessen, was already considered a trailblazer in modern architectural lighting, and had established himself as a champion of modern industrial design. He had started Nessen Studios in New York's Murray Hill only three years earlier. 

Art Deco Machine Age Table Lamp by Walter Von Nessen
An Example of One of His Earlier
Deco Designs of the 1920's
He was commissioned by leading architects of the time to design lighting and other household objects for their clients which made him one of the first industrial designers. His designs were the foremost examples of modernism from the outset. He began with German deco in his earlier works, and later progressed to American deco in the late 1920's after he started his studio here in the United States. He believed in combining functionalism with new materials, and he was the only major designer of the time who concentrated on innovative modern residential lighting. 

 - NT702-F
NT702 Series
Still Produced By Nessen Studios Today
Height Adjustable swing-arm - NF712
NF712 Still Produced
by Nessen Studios Today
Nessen's most famous design was the versatile 1930's swing arm lamp which is still being manufactured by Nessen Lamps, Inc. today, the successor of Nessen Studios. Although his work here in the United States only spanned a little over a decade, his designs continue to draw enthusiasm from modern collectors. Many of his original designs are still manufactured today by Nessen Studios over 68 years after his death.

 - NT972
This Lamp Designed by Stanley Wolf
 Is Still Sold By Nessen Studios Today
His wife, who was the daughter of a Swedish architect, decided to revive the Nessen Studio in 1943 after WWII. It was later purchased by Stanley Wolf in 1954. He continued the tradition of landmark design concepts and was well known for his 1952 design of a minimal brass column lamp that was featured in the interior of Frank Lloyd Wright's Usonian House. This was erected by The Guggenheim Museum on its Fifth Avenue property in 1953 before the construction of the museum's current building which was completed in 1959.
The Guggenheim Museum Today
Pair of Nessen marble lamps
Pair of Vintage Nesson Studios Lamps
Designed by Elizabeth Kauffer

Nessen Studios continued to introduce stellar modern lighting designs well into the 1960's enlisting other great designers such as Elizabeth Kauffer

Von Nessen Table Lamp NT 1037
This Is A Vintage Original
 Available At Rocket Century.
It Is Still Produced By Nessen Studios.
Von Nessen Floor Lamp NT 1047
This Vintage Original is
 Available At Rocket Century,
 But Is No Longer In
Production at Nessen Studios
They also partnered with George Nelson & Company  to bring outdoor design concepts into the indoors. The need to unite multi-duty spaces in the home had to incorporate designs for lighting with this in mind. The home office continued to gain popularity into the 1970's. a Nessen Studios met this need for functional lighting with great modern design  in their elegant table lamp still produced today. It features a gleaming brass or chrome column base and opal plastic dome shade. This lamp was also designed in a floor lamp model, which unlike its counterpart, is no longer in production. *

*The majority of information published in this blog post was referenced through the Nessen Studios web site. This is a great reference for current listing prices and information on Nessen lamps still in production today, the purchase of these lamps and their parts, and for background information on how the company was formed.*


  1. I have a lamp identical to the one in a photo above (example of von Nesson's art deco work in the 1920's. I have owned it for more than fifty years. It is very, very heavy metal.

    Milt Ferguson

  2. Wow, This is a very cool lamp. They were all made of the best quality and thought for design which is why they are still so desirable today. You are lucky to have yours. Thank you for sharing. We would love to see a pic of it. You can post it to our Face Book if you would like too. We love to see examples of great designs like this.