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.

Lamps can lift your spirits image.
Lamps can lift your spirits.


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 

Vintage lamps have unique charm.
Vintage lamps have unique charm.

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.

Lamps can convey a timeless feeling.

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

Image with caption Traditional lamps can be playful and informal..
Traditional lamps can be playful and informal.

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

It is comforting to come home to a lighted room.
It is comforting to come home to a lighted room.

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.

Tall lamps provide good light for reading.
Tall lamps provide good light for reading.

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

Text with image Lamps can light your way in the dark.
Lamps can light your way in the dark.

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.

CFL Bulbs

Caption under image Thanks to technology using lamps can save energy and help the planet.
Thanks to technology using lamps can save energy and help the planet.

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

Image with caption "Lamps can be fun."
Lamps can be fun.

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,

Toby and Linda Applewhite
Showing 9 comments
  • Danelle Carpenter

    I love lamps also and I especially love what looks like a love seat in the area close to your entry light. It looks like a rosy pink or coral shade. You are blessed with a wonderful talent!
    Danelle Carpenter
    Springdale, AR

    • Pebbie Comer

      Fabulous article! I too love lamps, especially the older ones. And with a geology background, some of my core lamps( from drilling rig cores) are so beautiful. And I love old marble lamps with wonderful redone shades. My mom also loved lamps and when we built our current home 14 yrs ago, due to circumstances mom moved in with us. We had her for the next 6 hours and she brought some of her unique lamps. We liked lamps so much that we even had “lamp night” at the house where we never turned on overhead lights. I still have lamp night almost every night as I love the feel of the glowing light they share! Another wonderfully informative newsletter! Thank you!

  • Judith Jones

    I love lamps too, Linda….they are comforting and friendly and light the way…and are fun to shop for and choose and decide where to place…thank you for this and for advice on bulbs that make a huge difference..we have so many choices these days…I hope all is well in your life…I enjoy your “Linda” emails so very much….keep doing what you do so well…from Judith, Boise

  • Liz Nichols

    I love all of your lamps and I agree completely. I did make a lamp from a Chinese basket and I’m so happy with it: I was inspired by a basket lamp Ali McGraw had in a NY apt years ago. Most of my lamps (all table) are stained glass so cast lovely light, plus a couple of others in my bedroom with fabric shades. So much better than overhead lighting, which is so harsh. I have the lightbulbs you show in most of my lighting around the house; so energy efficient. I also love the sculptures you have around your house. I agree wholeheartedly with your decision to pull that ceiling down to reveal the beams. I’ve happily noticed that you’re furnishings, color palette, et al, remain the same and that’s great because they are timeless and without following any trend: personal and speak to your own sense of happiness and well being. Your signature is a very cozy, warm, welcoming look. I just told my realtor that I like my house to look like a big hug, not giving a message of don’t touch anything. You are the only designer I would let touch my house if I hired one.


    Lamps YES!! I’ve always wanted a space like Parisian or NYC apartments where there are lamps on the dining table or snuggled into a bookshelf adjacent to the table. I’ve got 2 I found in Laguna Beach made out of 100 plus years old tea canisters.

  • Jennifer Duffy

    Ah, lamps. I’ve collected them for years. Each is unique and evoked a sense of excitement when I first saw them. And then, the added gift, the light and its effect on my environment and sense of well-being. Thank you for sharing and describing what they do for us. And thank you for another peak at your lovely painting in photo #1. Always warms my heart. Best to you and yours.

  • Janet McAlpine

    This is absolutely perfect timing for me. I just started my lamp search and there you were with your great ideas.

  • Maureen

    This is a beautiful post – I love lamps! I have found lovely ones at Goodwill, and one of my favorites I found on the sidewalk outside a fraternity house in Berkeley on a Sunday morning. Evidently their antics the night before including tossing out a bunch of lamps – shades and bulbs included.
    Thank you Linda!

  • Kay Criley

    Of course you love lamps! You are a lamplighter yourself!!

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