Art of the Artichoke

A dietary staple makes its mark on the world of luxury design.

By Wendy Noory


When thinking about inspirational design elements, the globe (or green) artichoke is not usually top on the list of design requests. This spikey variety of the thistle plant, which has been cultivated as food, creates a globe-shaped flower bud that we know and love to eat. 

The simple globe shape with complex overlapping layered petals creates an opportunity for unique nature-inspired designs.  The artichoke as a design element can be seen in drapery finials, as a motif in wallcoverings and textiles, illustrations, photography and lighting. The multiple shades of green seen in an artichoke are currently trending in kitchen cabinetry and the paint industry.  The uniform, globe shape of the artichoke can be very useful for artists and designers, especially in the lighting design industry where the layering effect creates a simplistic, visual focal point. 

Early Scandinavian designer Poul Henningsen, trained as an architect and later lighting designer for Louis Poulsen, was initially attracted to pure functionalism from the Bauhaus era in the late 1920s but quickly modified the approach to a softer, more “organic” one. After 10 years of development and scientific study to eliminate glare, the PH Artichoke lamp was created in 1958. The lamp has a soft warm glow with multiple layers of copper-clad louvers, making this a stunning sculptural form which can be purchased still today after 75 years, a true classic design.

In contrast, a different approach at achieving an artichoke-inspired light fixture with the use of upcycled papers such as vintage sheet music, old maps, flower bulb catalogs and recycled book pages can be seen in the designs of Aster + Quail pendant lights. The handcrafted pendant lights using cutout circles in an overlapping placement create the subtle artichoke abstract form.

The artichoke flower’s meaning and symbolism represents hope and prosperity; with a tender core and hard outer shell, the artichoke is a resilient design motif that has lasted for centuries.