Design Icon: Stoff Nagel


Twenty years before the STOFF Nagel candle holder ever saw the light of day, an idea glistened within the Nagel family. They were deeply affected by the recent end of World War II and the repeated bombings that had largely leveled the nearby city Cologne to the ground. Thousands of people became homeless and the little family could only look on while the spirit of their village was drained and many neighbors moved away.

In an effort to create a new livelihood, the four Nagel brothers were sent out into the darkness of night to collect empty American cartridge cases. The brass cartridge cases were plentiful enough for their blacksmith father to transform the war remnants into ashtrays, vases and candle holders. It is unknown whether it was the father’s ingenuity or their childhood steeped in metalwork that later inspired the sons of the family to apply to the Cologne Art School, but surely they all shared their father’s passion for art and design. One of the Nagel sons became a painter and sculptor, another a silversmith, but it was Hans Nagel who served as CEO of the small family company, determined to pursue his father’s work, fueled by a creative streak and a penchant for details.



Merely 20 years after the end of the war, the now 35-year-old Hans Nagel met the architect and artist Werner Stoff in in the design community of Cologne. Nagel had long been interested in making beautiful things for the dinner table, while Stoff had been working as a performing artist and had developed his own signature line of rounded objects “without corners.” Their shared loved for good design and passion for art sparked a creative match.



Nagel told Stoff that he was struck by an idea during a skiing vacation in The Alps where an accidental backward tumble forced him to break the fall with his hand, thus creating the finest three finger-holes in the snow. The perfect holes brought a candle holder to mind—a beautiful, sculptured and simple candle holder with room for three slim sticks.

Nagel asked Stoff if he would like to make the design for him? This question launched an adventure much like humankind’s desire to reach the moon, motivated by the vast technological achievements of the decade and honed by the boom in individualist expression. Cologne’s rebirth brought the world’s first art market to town. Worldwide ‘design’ was a force influencing all layers of society, and the candle holder became an objet d’art symbolizing movement away from the status quo.



It was in this melting pot of impressions and cultural shifting that the STOFF Nagel candle holder was born. Considered in this light, it may not be so strange that it stands anchored by three legs, casting a sleek, chilly glow with its three domes hovering over a moon-inspired landscape. It is considered a work of art—a personal statement and malleable sculpture ready to assume the shape of its owner’s unique creativity. The STOFF Nagel candle holder launched with great success in the late 1960s and the item turned things around for the Nagel family, making their company world-famous. This piece stands tall as a success story and an unforgettable design rooted in the rubble of Cologne.

Until recently, the STOFF Nagel candle holder has been unavailable in stores, but Danish design company ‘STOFF Copenhagen’ has resuscitated the iconic piece. With respect to the era of its infancy and its signature design, the Danish company has re-launched the timeless icon using Nagel’s original drawings. Now the STOFF Nagel candle holder heads back into homes, assuming its rightful position on mantels, bedsides and dinner tables worldwide. Hans Nagel and Werner Stoff’s dreams and the spirit of the age are revived and ready to delight design-loving generations to come.