Having been swept up in hype (and hope), we spent $35 or so to buy a Plumen bulb, the high-concept CFL (compact flourescent lamp) that is getting a lot of play on design blogs these days. Designed by Sam Wilkinson for the London-based boutique electronics brand Hulger, the Plumen is meant to be the answer to the unattractive compact fluorescent bulbs whose energy-saving virtues are, for many, cancelled out by the ugly light they cast. The company says that the CFL’s problems can be solved by changing the design. “Make the bulb attractive and people will enjoy a better quality and spend a bit more”. Yeah?

Hopeful, we screwed ours in and voila: the sculptural Plumen emitted the same terrible cold, dim, gulag-like light of an ordinary CFL. The naked truth of the Plumen is: when lit, its 60 watts are ugly… the fancy designed failed in its mission. The Emporor’s New Clothes came to mind.

We’re wondering if any of the blogs and magazines touting the Plumen have actually plugged it in and LOOKED at the light it emits, or is that they want so much to believe that it is great, to solve the CFL dilemma…

Stay tuned for more on our hunt for a pleasing, environmentally-friendly bulb…

Related posts: 
annals of bad design: light in your eyes
annals of bad design: stove window
are you a secret lighting designer?
great clip-on lamp shade (+ the search for glass fiber paper)

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12 replies on “high-design plumen bulb review: it casts an ugly light!

  1. CFl with a Kelvin rating below3000 will give off a warm light. The trick is to buy bulbs that show that rating.

    Color temperatures over 5,000K are called cool colors (blueish white), while lower color temperatures (2,700–3,000 K) are called warm colors (yellowish white through red).( from Wikipedia)

  2. Thanks! , We’ve been pulling together a bunch of research for our follow-up post on exactly this topic. Then we’ll test to see if we can find a CFL that actually is able to give off a nice light (as the Plumen doesn’t). Have you come across one you like?

  3. You just saved me $30 – I was going to buy one just to test the quality of the light. Disappointed to hear the light is as ugly as the rest. My hopes were high.

    Believe it or not, I’ve moved to LED, battery-operated candles when I don’t need a lot of light. Not sure batteries are any better for the environment overall, but at least I don’t feel physically awful from the quality of the light.

    Love your blog!

  4. Couldn’t disagree with you more. I just finished a small office project in a 1913 building with 30 of these fairy-like bulbs installed in Schoolhouse Electric’s “Lewis” fixture on new tin ceilings. The bulbs are about 6 feet apart and the light is bright and even; perfect for an office environment. The light from this CFL is . . . um . . . exactly like the light from any CFL. I’m curious as to your expectations: the warm glow of a candle or the opposite from a metal halide? I used to be a fluorescent hater and am not sure how or why I got over it. No matter, the bulbs are gorgeous and my expectations were met to a fare-thee-well.

  5. Michael, thank you so much for writing, and giving us an opposite view. I am wondering if there are pictures of your intriguing project that we could see, either online or via email.

  6. Regarding Michael’s comment about this CFL’s light comparing equally to every other CFL — that’s what I gathered from the review. My dilemma is to find CFLs that DON’T give off that familiar CFL glow… I own a hair salon and a cool, fluorescent glow is the last thing I need when examining hair and makeup tones. Warm light is essential to my business, but my attempt at “going green” with our lighting has been a real challenge. Any recommendations?

  7. Thanks for sharing your review. I also bought a bulb to try a while ago and was questioning my judgment about its quality of light when my search turned up your review.

  8. The stylishness of the bulb doesn’t make up for the coldness of the light. An expensive lesson.

  9. I’ve been looking high and low for a CFL or a LED with a pleasing light. So far, I’m going with a hybrid: Philips Halogena at 100 watts, dimmable, uses about 30% less energy than incandescent, lasts longer and has a really nice light.

  10. Just found your blog, but I’ve had your cookbook forever. Anyway, thanks for the review. You just saved me $. I’m still going over your DIY’s, they’re great! Thanks again. Cheers.

  11. Hey thanks so much. Yeah, I decided to test out that Plumen…have it sitting in my closet. Every once in a while I pull it out to try in a new use. It remains disappointing. Stay tuned for the ‘improvised life’ store which will only sell tried-and-true stuff that we’ve actually vetted.

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