Butler County Times Gazette
  • Through the Front Door: Let there be light!

  • Lamps have more power in rooms than you might think
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  • Good morning my lovelies!
    Sometimes we need to shed a bit of light on things. Oh, I am full of folly today! Anyway, let’s talk a little about lamps! This subject puts people in the dark on occasion…OK, I have punned enough! I think it is the beginning of spring silliness at hand for me! Let me get serious and review a few things in regards to lighting.
    When selecting table and floor lamps, you are at risk  of making costly mistakes. Please believe me when I say that not just any lamp will fit the bill! Plunking any lamp on a table and assuming it is the correct size, proportion and composition rarely works. Lamps have more power in rooms than you might think. They are the lighting element that literally meets us at eye level when we enter a room.
    The Power of Lamps
    Let me give you an example. Let’s say you have a newer home with an open floor plan. Once you walk in, the living room is in full view along with a clear vista of the kitchen as well. In this case, what you want to do is create a little division. You want to pique the curiosity of visitors and give them a desire to see more. There’s an easy lamp and table trick for this situation, and it works over and over. Use the sofa as the barrier to the living room. Then, obstruct the view further with a sofa table bedecked with a pair of weightier candlestick lamps, evenly spaced. Suddenly, you have literally built a wall between the entry and the living room. No drywall, no hammers or nails, just a smartly selected furniture piece and lamps. You added illumination and privacy at the same time—such sleight of hand!
    Aside from the placement of the lamps, the weight and proportion is extremely important. Moving into the family room, let’s suppose you have two sofas perpendicular to one another, a very common furniture plan. A table and lamp with some weight and volume is required to break up the vast amount of upholstery and leather here. Err on the side of a larger, heftier lamp. Asking a delicate candlestick lamp to handle this corner is liking asking a 6-year-old to help you move into an upstairs apartment. A small lamp wouldn’t be proportional—and it wouldn’t provide the proper lighting.
    So how do you select the proper lamp? Well it is not as difficult as you might think. Start by considering the type of light you need, and then move into considering the height, weight and shade options. And, of yes, you better love the design of the lamp as well.
    Page 2 of 3 - Light Type
    Before you buy a lamp, think about your lighting needs. Will the lamp be required for reading? If that is the case, select a table lamp that stands 20" to 25" from tabletop to the actual light bulb. This positions the lamp to the proper height for reading. Will the light only be asked to stand at attention and brighten a dark corner of the room? A floor lamp could work here, and you can control the amount of light by filtering it with a shade. If the lamp is in a tight area or a traffic area, consider an adjustable floor lamp such as a classic pharmacy lamp. It’s out of the way when you don’t need it, but ready to swing into action when you do.
    Perhaps you want an elegant cast of light shining upwards to graze the ceiling or wall. A torchière might be the answer in that case. (A torchière, or torch lamp, is a floor lamp that casts light up from a dish-shaped lighting fixture.) For this lighting task, the lamp height is not as important; just be cognizant of the proportion and scale. I need to share a couple warnings in regards to torchière lamps, especially the older ones, made prior to 2004. The halogen bulbs get very hot and when placed in contact with something like a window treatment they can cause a fire. This has been corrected with a cage type piece over the bulb. Since lamps can stay in use for a very long time, check to see if you are placing any older versions into your home. Another concern with this type of lamp is the top-heavy design. The bowl aspect of the torchière can make them a bit unstable. Because of this, it’s a good idea to place them in corners or out of major traffic patterns.
    Lamp Height
    Floor lamps heights tend to range from 50" to 55" off the floor to the light bulb, for proper height. Table lamps as I mentioned are at the 20"to 25" off table top. Typically lamps in this size range are ask to reside on side tables, islands, nightstands, and some sofa tables. I feel compelled once more to explain that in many cases a side table lamp is taller than the table it is place on. Once you calculate the harp, shade and finial height, the lamp is often in the range of 30" to 36"—taller than the table! As for serving pieces and console tables you could use lamps, especially candlestick lamps 28" to 32" to the light source and will still be perfectly proportioned. Then there are the "wee lamps" 10" to 14" to the light source. These reside nicely on trays on counters in the kitchen, in bookcases, or tucked in areas that could use a bit of brightness.
    Page 3 of 3 - Lamp Weight
    Respectable table and floor lamps should have some weight. If a dog’s wagging tail bumps a table and the lamp goes flying, it is too much of a lightweight. Once you find a lamp you’re interested in, see if it can hold its ground.
    Lampshades
    Lampshades are decorative, but they also filter the light. Fabric shades—such as linen, silk, burlap and canvas—allow light to shine through for a certain ambience in the room. This is especially important in the evening when the room is immersed in lamplight. Always ask to test drive a lamp in your own home so you can see how it looks in the evening. The light needed at night alters fabric colors, wall colors and, actually, anything the lamp casts its glow on. Please shop where you can take lamps out on approval for a sleep over!
    Some shades, such as parchment, prevent light filtering. Instead, pools of light are directed up or down, adding a delicious level of lighting to an evening room. You will find these shades in all sorts of colors, including black and white. Black shades may be lined with white, a tortoise type metallic or even a gold metallic lining. White shades offer direct, clean circles of light on the table surface and ceiling. Luscious metallic shades, on the other hand, give off a golden candle halo effect—a very strong, handsome effect in rooms with lots of woods and heavy fabrics. You see these shades often on Boulette lamps, which are French lamps featuring candlesticks. The shades are tin and can be in black, red, brown, green or even painted with a design…lovely. The illumination they bestow is so attractive, especially as a welcoming light in the entryway, kitchen island or bathroom!
    I hope this might help you select lamps you’ll love for years to come. Select the right lamps and you can shuffle them about your home to make some easy, seasonal changes. If you opt for different materials—porcelain, glass, crystal, pottery, brass and silver—you’ll have a nice mix of lamps to scatter about.
    I must add one more thing: A good lamps will be on the expensive side. Sorry! But good ones will last 20+ years (with an occasional shade change). So be prepared to swallow hard as you let go of the credit card!
    Have a healthy and happy week!

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