Still kitschy after all these years: The lava lamp turns 50

British inventor Edward Craven Walker designed the first lava lamp in 1963.
(Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)

The lava lamp celebrates its 50th birthday Tuesday, and though it’s more kitsch than classic design, the piece remains just as memorable as mid-century furnishings from Eames, Noguchi and Saarinen.

British inventor Edward Craven Walker designed the lava lamp in 1963 after he spotted an intriguing oil-and-water egg timer at a pub.

“Because it was so completely new, we had to convince people it was worth going with, particularly when it came to selling,” Walker’s widow, Christine Baehr, said in an interview with the BBC. “Some people thought it was absolutely dreadful.”

When did they know they were on to something? “The day a store in Birkenhead phoned to say that Ringo Starr had just been in and bought a lava lamp,” Baehr told the BBC.


“It brings out your inner hippie,” said “Mad Men” set decorator Claudette Didul of the lava lamp’s current appeal. “Even to this day, the classic original red lava lamp is visually pleasing to watch. You can get lost in its every changing bubble of oil and wax.”

Any readers care to share a photo of their lava lamps at home? Send it to

ALSO:In Venice, remodeling the inside and the outside

Koning Eizenberg’s family playground in South Pasadena

John Frane house: Creating a sense of seclusion in urban Venice

Twitter: @lisaboone19