The chandelier reinvented. The lightbulb redecorated. Stainless steel brought to life. Moving patterns stopped in motion.

Through his work, Tord Boontje aims to celebrate ornament in design. When creating the Wednesday light, Garland’s predecessor, he looked to the romantic design aesthetic of the 17th and 18th centuries. (Wednesday was a stainless-steel piece self-produced by Boontje in 2002. In 2003, he simplified the pattern and renamed the design Garland, to be mass-produced by Habitat in the UK. The museum’s example was manufactured by Artecnica in 2004.) Boontje has compared the intricately cut paper to lace of earlier centuries, but this shimmering, elaborate metal is certainly not your grandmother’s lace.

When sold, Garland is not yet a light, but rather a two-dimensional rectangular piece of “lace” held flat and stiff by a border of the same material. The pattern is so beautiful that it could serve as a wall hanging—its intricate, seemingly random design provides intrigue and conversational fodder even when flat. When transformed into a sculpture illuminated by light, the possibilities are endless. No two Garland lamps are ever alike.

With Garland, Boontje offers an alternative to the identical, indistinguishable objects that emerged with the last century’s rise of machine production. User-generated design and curation is everywhere today, from Pinterest boards to Etsy and Zazzle sales pages. In his lighting, Boontje provides the raw material, but the user completes the design. The user determines in which directions the stainless steel will flow, where a flower will extend out and where a leaf will curl in. The user, not Boontje, creates the lamp’s final silhouette.

By relinquishing control of the final design, Boontje encourages individuality but remains a silent mentor. The raw material is so dazzling and graceful that Boontje prohibits the user from making a wrong turn. It is impossible to “design” the Garland light into an aesthetically unpleasant form. It is no wonder the first 12,000 units Habitat produced for the UK market sold out in two weeks. Now, one can only hope to find the perfect room worthy of the light’s beauty and splendor.

Today is Tord Boontje’s birthday.

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