Home is, I suppose just a child’s idea. A house at night, and a lamp in the house. A place to feel safe. .
– V. S. Naipaul
Call me old-fashioned, but I love lamps. They not only make rooms look good, they make them feel good. And that, for all of you out there who love beauty, is truly magical. How can an object as seemingly inconsequential as a lamp do this? Aren’t lamps just there to give off light? Yes, and so much more.
Lamps have the capacity to project light through color. And color, through its multiple mystical talents, can fill a room with energy that soothes, comforts, invigorates, and lifts the spirit as few things can. Music does this as well, as we all know, but that’s another topic of wonder.
When I moved into my 1929 Spanish Revival cottage twenty years ago, it saddened me to learn that previous owners had covered a dozen glorious redwood beams with an ugly, flat sheetrock ceiling, presumably to create the space to install lighting in the old house.
When I turned the huge downlights on, they made the place feel like an operating room in a hospital. Undone by the harsh light, I came up with a plan. I vowed to remove the false ceiling when we remodeled the property, expose the original beams, and add only enough track lighting to illuminate artwork and architectural elements. In the meantime, I filled the house with lamps – lots of them.
The Attributes of Lamps
Through this process, I learned a lot about the attributes of lamps. Scouring antique stores for unique lamps and shades is fun and rewarding. As with so many things from earlier eras, vintage lamps are made of high-quality materials and old-world craftsmanship. They’re solid and stable and don’t fall apart like the mass-produced lamps that you see replicated everywhere.
Even though my office has old-fashioned divided light windows covered by a cottage-y green-and-white checkerboard shade, this industrial lamp base on wheels with a mid-century modern cylinder conveys an edgy feeling that’s unexpected in an old house.
Create Your Own Lamps
Traditional lamps can take themselves too seriously with their elegant black shades and ornately carved wood or iron bases embellished with gold leaf. But lamps can also be made from rustic materials, like this inexpensive rusted urn that I topped with a crimson red shade. This lamp not only makes the living room glow, it conveys a sense of informality with its fat tassels dangling playfully from its edges.
Lamps Serve a Purpose
Another lesson I’ve learned from lighting homes with lamps is the myriad ways lamps can be functional, and in doing so, make a home feel welcoming and energy efficient.
The green lamp with an orange shade in my entryway greets me and my family and friends when we walk through the door at night. It’s so comforting to enter a well-lit room. This lamp even saves me money, as I rarely need to turn on the decorative ceiling light that uses much more energy.
I like to read in bed, but my old house doesn’t have reading lights in the ceiling, nor would I want them. Instead, I had an inexpensive recycled newel post made into a lamp base and added a shade with clean, contemporary lines. The height of the shade provides perfect light for bedside reading.
Lamps Make You Feel Safe
This last image shows the lamp I leave on in my kitchen at night. When I can’t sleep, which happens with increasing frequency these days, I sometimes go downstairs and make a cup of tea and read a book. Between the lamp in the entry at the bottom of the stairs and the small lamp on the kitchen counter, my way is always lit, making me feel safe and secure in the dark of the night.
Thanks to modern technology, we now have energy efficient Compact Florescent Lighting. I use these Soft White CFL light bulbs in all my lamps. They provide 60 watts of light using only 14 watts of energy, and project less heat than incandescent bulbs. They save money with lower energy bills while doing what’s good for the planet. AND you won’t have to climb a ladder to change CFL bulbs because they last up to nine years based on three hours usage per day. Win-win-win!
Lamps as Design Elements
Lamps come in all shapes, sizes and colors. They’re much less expensive than installing an elaborate mesh of downlights in your ceilings. Lamps can be important design elements for your home, provide soft ambient light, save energy and money, and truly make your rooms glow! That’s only a few of the reasons why – I simply love lamps!
In the love of lamps,