IF YOU’VE spent a moment on interior designTok over the past twelve months, and you’re old enough to be traumatised by Furbies the first time around, no doubt you’ve felt a stab of nostalgia by the resurgence of all the bedroom icons of the late-90s/Y2K returning to the fray. Think: inflatable furniture, doorway curtains, textured/decorative paint styles on feature walls and even landline phones as an object. And of course, the lava lamp.
The funny thing is, a lot of these objects are now in their 3.0 era—much of what we’re seeing in the resurgence originated in the ‘60s and ‘70s, had a revival in the ‘90s and ‘00s and are now coming around for a third spin in the zeitgeist. Trends, as we all know by now, are cyclical. But when we start digging around some of the trends, for some things, it’s easy to find new ways of interpreting the why behind the interest.
The lava lamp, for example, is an icon of psychedelic culture. Originally designed by British inventor and entrepreneur Edward Craven Walker, the founder of lighting company Mathmos, its slow, meditative bubbles made for the perfect bedroom accompaniment to the sex, drugs and rock’n’roll of choice of the late ‘60s. Then in the ‘90s and ‘00s, its retro-future space-age aesthetic spoke to optimistic technology-centric aesthetics, cultural moments in cinema and music, and the new wave of psychedelic rave and drug culture of the era.
Today, the appeal of the humble lava lamp takes a new shape. Sure, we’ve had dopamine design, retrofuturism, play and nostalgia leading a lot of trends, but with our lives brimming with pings, screens, scrolls and electronics, not to mention another movement of psychedelics for medicinal use, the soothing, analogue visuals of a few blobs of coloured wax floating around in a jar of oil, is a beautifully meditative and primal reprise for our eyes. And for its 60th anniversary, the OG lava lamp (or Astro Lampo, as it is officially known) is also getting the high-design treatment.
To celebrate the anniversary, Mathmos enlisted designers Sabine Marcelis, Job Smeets and Camille Walala; Duran Duran and British photographer Rankin to redesign the lamp for a new era, resulting in a range of limited-edition lamps.
Walala drew on her love of geometry and simple lines, Marcelis played with ideas of simplicity for a more modern futuristic take and frosted the glass so that it was only visible when the light was turned on while Smeets considered the primal idea of lava in a geological sense and adorned the object with fossils and skeletons. Duran Duran’s lamp looks like a silver bullet when turned off, and glows a neon pop pink when on—a nod to the band’s song ‘Lava Lamp’ from its 2000 album Pop Trash, while Rankin’s peaceful aquamarine lamp was etched to resemble a vinyl record. As Duran Duran keyboardist Nick Rhodes commented, “There is something magical about the lava lamp, hence it has endured through many generations of modern design to become widely acknowledged as a genuine classic.” And considering the ongoing need we’re all feeling to find magic, peace and presence in our lives, it’s no surprise this icon of calm continues to live on.