You know Isamu Noguchi lamps—even if you don’t think you do. For design lovers, the late Japanese artist’s lamps are just one extension of his many contributions to modernism, which include towering, amorphous carvings of rock and stone, and the honing of his sculpture-for-use philosophy. But even if you’ve never heard of Noguchi, you’ve almost certainly seen his cultural influence if you’ve ever stepped foot inside an IKEA and taken home a rice paper lamp.
That’s not to say Noguchi invented paper lanterns, which have been a staple of Japanese culture since the 11th century, but he gave them a 20th-century twist. “In 1951 [he] visited the town of Gifu, Japan, known for its manufacture of lanterns,” explains the Noguchi Museum, “[and] designed the first of his lamps produced by the traditional Gifu methods,” only he morphed the lamp shapes to have an ethereal, almost sentient presence; they had heavy-set bottoms, bulbous growths, and twisted frames. He called them Akari, a term that implies both illumination and weightlessness. “Akari has its rationale in being in relation to people,” he said. “I was told early on that all a young couple needed in starting life together was a ‘futon’ and an Akari above—a pad and a light, that is, not only just light, but the Akari because it has a shape, a sense of being.”
Fast-forward to today, where Akari lamps have resurfaced in popularity alongside other highly Pinterest-able, wavy aesthetic pieces such as the Memphis Group Design’s Ultrafragola mirror, Togo sofas, and other blob-core pieces. Remember Troye Sivan’s dreamy Architectural Digest home video tour? It was full of Akaris in order to give off “a soup of light,” in the words of the pop singer, who clearly understood the key to these lamps’ success: They make everything sexy by proxy. They’re the design equivalent of giving a room one of those soft-glow Instagram filters that makes you look like a sexy, poreless marshmallow.
Alas, Akaris ain’t cheap. Taking home a lamp from the Noguchi Museum’s gift shop will cost you upwards of a few hundred dollars, and most archival pieces on auction sites such as 1stDibs and Chairish can cost thousands of dollars.
Good thing we’re design-loving hermits with only 1.5 friends (the pigeon nesting on our fire escape counts), and all the time in the world to get elbow-deep into the internet to find you the best deals on Noguchi lamps, and their Japanese-inspired doppelgangers.
When you hunt for Noguchi-esque lamps online, use search terms such as “rice paper lamp,” “bamboo lamp,” “wabi-sabi,” or “Japanese-style lamp”; and make a habit of peeping sites that love the Japandi design aesthetic such as Muji, HAY, West Elm, Wayfair, and Cost Plus World Market. You can also find a surprising amount of affordable Noguchi-style lamps on Amazon, but they sell out hella fast:
Whether you’re looking to zhuzh your home with a little minimalist, mid-century design, or you’re sick and tired of having a reading lamp that looks like an IV pole, the world of Noguchi-inspired lamps is a surefire way to cast your home—and your life—in a more magical light. Here are some of our favorite affordable dupes, from hanging pendants to oversized floor lamps and more.
The best Noguchi table lamp dupes
Etsy is one of the best places to find both authentic Akaris and their look-alikes. Not only can you take home a nightstand-sized paper lamp, but there are even XL boys that would look chic on the floor of your living room:
Again, don’t forget to peep Amazon’s selection of rice paper lamps for side tables and nightstands. Customers of this long boy say “the bulb illuminates the lamp very nicely,” and that it’s “not overly bright, but on the whiter side of a warm hue.”
Finally, looking for a more unique take on Noguchi-style lamp? Peep these fruit-shaped Japanese paper lamps from Etsy seller Kutsurogu—the conversation-piece mood lighting we truly need in our homes.
The best Noguchi hanging lamp dupes
Noguchi’s pendant lights ranged from bulbous paper lanterns, big and small, to misshapen disks and twisted designs. Amazon is home to both cocoon-like lamps that would look gorgeous above any dining table, and globe pendants going for less than $50.
West Elm’s “Cirrus” pendant is a little pricier, and it legit looks like an alien is trying to crawl out of its center—in a chic way.
The best Noguchi floor lamp dupes
A standing Noguchi floor lamp can go for over $4,000, but the good ol’ design elders at Wayfair, Amazon, and Cost Plus World Market have given us column-like floor lamps that work in any room. “It is a nice ambient light and does not need a dimmer,” writes one happy reviewer of the best-selling Ebern Design’s lamp on Wayfair.
If you’d like something with a bit more structure, the paper floor lamp at CPWM has a more tubular structure and a firm rattan base.
If you’re always thirsty for more storage (same), this Japanese-style floor lamp from last month’s editor’s picks is a stylish and sneaky way to highlight your tchotchkes under the warm glow of a reading lamp.
See? We feel more relaxed already.
The Rec Room staff independently selected all of the stuff featured in this story.