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The Ikea lampshade of choice for students and renters is now Instagram cool

Sophie Gallagher
·4-min read
 ( Ikea/Hay/Vitra/iStock)
( Ikea/Hay/Vitra/iStock)

You might not recognise the name, but you will certainly have seen one before. You might have even shared a house with one. The Ikea Regolit lampshade is to rental homes, what Sports Direct mugs are to office kitchen cupboards - you don’t know when it arrived, or who put it there, it just has always been lingering in the background. Functional but ever-so-slightly bleak.

The Regolit lamp is best described to the uninitiated as a structured white paper globe (Ikea prefers “pendant lampshade”) with a ribbed inner frame. When the light is turned on it has the glow of a supermoon, or one of those floating Japanese origami lanterns everyone used for their millennium NYE parties, but later learned were terrible for local wildlife. Of course the most notable (and success-driving factor) of the shade is it’s price: £1.75. Less than a coffee.

They are so popular that Ikea has shared ways to customise the lamps. They are sold in multipacks on reseller sites like Amazon and eBay. On Reddit there are Regolit owners discussing everything from complex pulley systems, to helping others find where they are in stock (with the great title “Regolit lamp dead forever?”). People share experiences of Regolit lamps surviving pogo-stick accidents or toddlers throwing toys, and some even speculated the orb-shaped Oxford Street Christmas lights in 2016 had taken inspo from the great Regolit.

Ikea
Ikea

Comedian Stevie Martin wrote an entire four-minute sketch (available on YouTube) based on the Regolit. She tells police investigating a supposed break-in that “it’s like having the moon in every room”, to which they respond: “You’re just desensitised to their presence - nobody sees them, nobody notices them...its part of their appeal they’re so inoffensively boring.”

Regolit lamps have been available to buy since 2006. Although Ikea did not confirm how many it has sold in total, it told The Independent since September 2020 alone it has sold 75,000 of the lampshades in store and a further 20,000 online. “[The] shade is in just about every student house in the country and every year we see sales increase from the end of July peaking in September when students go to university.” I’ve lost count of the number I have seen at house parties or walking on residential streets during winter before people have remembered to close the curtains.

Particularly because one quirk of the Regolit is how it compels buyers to use it throughout the house rather than in just one location. One reviewer says “I have the lampshade in my lounge, bedrooms and landings,” and another, “My neighbour has these lampshades in every room of his flat..I only have two at the moment but they light up my life”.

Despite being a big player in interiors, in its heyday it was rare to encounter a lover of the Regolit, more likely an apathetic party, or even some haters (see tweeters condemning them for running “otherwise perfect” aesthetics). This is why it is so surprising to see 2021 serve up a trend for more expensive Regolit-style lamps dominating homeware.

I only have two at the moment but they light up my life…

To the untrained eye, the HAY rice paper shade, now selling in three sizes, looks remarkably similar. Despite this, the lamp retails for between £25 to £39 (depending on size), which makes the most expensive version 22 times more expensive than the Ikea Regolit.

Another brand, admittedly which created this style of light shade long before Ikea, is the Akari 75A light shade. Designed by Japanese-American artist, Isamu Noguchi since 1951, based on Asian parasols and lanterns, and still made by hand in an Ozeki workshop, the light sculpture (as they are known) even has its own specially-designed flatpack box to be shipped in.

Akari
Akari

And all this detail doesn’t come cheap. The lamp retails for £875 on the Vitari website. (A slightly different shape in the A series pendant range starts at a more affordable £216).

Although those who can afford it may have opted for the high quality, design-led Akari version for decades, there seems to be a shift in the customer base. Instagram influencer, Brittany Bathgate, who has over 400,000 followers, is just one of those featuring the Akari light shades on her social media.

With plenty of millennial fans commenting that they too would love to get their hands on an Akari lamp. The Hay version has also been a sell-out success (it was out of stock on several outlets seen by The Independent).

Now it seems the Regolit-style shade is no longer just a background object, to be tolerated or at best, ignored, but ceiling decor of sophistication and desirability. Perhaps the time has finally come to acknowledge what students and renters across the country have long known: that a giant paper moon should be at the heart of every room.

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