Lamp design creates glow

W ith colour and form, well-chosen decorative accessories can spice up decor. But table lamps have an additional edge. They can add warmth, coziness and an overall glow.

Compared with other decorating categories, lamp style, for the most part, has been a yawner. Similar shapes, limited colors and patterns, and seemingly one-size-fits all vanilla shades in the same tailored drum or coolie silhouette, some with outdated crisp pleats, dominated the lampscape. But along with a buzz of late about imaginatively designed and scaled chandeliers and pendants, more lighting designers are shaking it up with lamps. That’s great news for consumers, who now have a myriad of illuminating choices.

Table lamps, in particular, often are afterthoughts. For many, the purchase is more often pragmatic — a need for a reading light on a night table or next to a sofa, yet how you light your home is as important as how you decorate it.

Remember the larger the lamp, the greater amount of light is produced also, because table lamps can be so prominent -right in your eye line invest in the best examples you can afford.

There is a wide price range depending on use of materials, quality of construction and where the lamp is made. A designer name may add panache as well as a higher price tag. A hand-painted shade or one clad in elegant Fortuny fabric, for example, will have its premium, as will hand-blown glass, stone such as marble, or fine wood with a distinctive grain.

Options reflect a variety of decorating styles, from the currently ubiquitous Belgian modern, with its whitewashed wood, linen and low-lustre metals, to sleek, glamorous throwbacks to the 1930s and 1940s with a hint of art deco. From craftsman styles to retro 1950s, coastal to log cabin, there also are modern designs that are perfect for transitioning — lending a spark to ubertraditional decor.

Shapes, for example. Gourds, globes, urns and eggs seem fairly mundane. But interpreted in unexpected materials with a sheen or texture casts them in a new light.

You also may notice that some designs have a beefed-up scale, often interpreted in taller lamps with tall shades, a nod to 1960s and 1970s.

Placing the light source within a familiar form, say, in a cylinder, creates a glow, especially when the cladding is fairly opaque. That makes it effective as an up-light.

Thinking totally outside of the box has some lamps sprawling, crawling, sinuous, and perhaps interpreted in ribbons of colourful glass. These captivating striped sculptures almost seem to put art first, treating lighting almost as an afterthought. Other sculptural forms are modelled in bronze or other materials, such as a beautifully formed nautilus which hides its light source from within.

There’s a lot to be said for transparency. Familiar shapes such as stacked glass crystal or Lucite balls or cubes are reminiscent of boudoir lamps from Hollywood movies of the ‘30s and ‘40s. Fashion designer Michael Kors described a simpler, classic see-through design created by New York icon John Saladino some 30 years ago as “the little black dress of lamps.”

Some clear glass cylinders or urn shapes have been designed to house collections — sea shells, for example. But these, as well as newer square and rectangular shapes, are most intriguing when they allow the eyes to get past the form, to take in other objects and colours in the room. Colored glass adds still another dimension.

Colour has stylishly transformed even the most familiar shapes into eye candy. Lamp shades often are cued up in the same hue, or interpreted with boldly contrasting hues, such as the magenta porcelain Isadora lamp from The Natural Light, with its shiny lime lamp shade lined in magenta.

New lamp shades, some in more modern cylindrical, square or rectangular shapes, offer new hope for existing tired lamps.

Colours can be picked up with accessories such as cushions and throws to knit the whole room together.

Lamps do play a pivotal role in decorating. In fact they can be an interior designer’s lifeline as it does not matter how much money is spent on an interior or how ‘luxe’ the finishes are, the light is what will bring it to life.