Lamp shades are like fashion. Some styles stay, some go and some return. We take a journey through the years, from the streets of Paris in the 17th century to the modern-day return to exposed lamps. Which moments have defined the lamp shade? And which designs have survived the test of time?
Ever had to light your home with candles after a power cut? They are no comparison to modern lamps, right? With their localized glow and minimal glare – no shades are needed. Go back in time however and such lighting was the norm. Accompanied by oil lamps, it was more important to create ways to transport light sources or protect people from an open flame. Glass containers for oil lamps and candle holders with handles were common.
In the 17th century, as oil lamps were first introduced to the streets of Paris and Italian cities, shades began to appear. Used to direct light onto the dark pavements below, reflectors were placed above and alongside the flame. Gas lamps followed – inside the home and out - and were much brighter. It was then that shades were first required to dim light. Opal (milky) glass and fabrics were most popular.
1879 changed the world. It was the year that Joseph Swan and Thomas Edison invented the incandescent filament electric lamp. The result? Lamps with a much more intense glare that could illuminate a bigger area. Shades were needed to disperse the light across a room. Combine this invention with Victorian style influences of the time and the lamp shade becomes a decorative feature central to interior design. Think fabric, lace, tassels and beads!
Fashions have since come and gone. Some, like the garish green and orange variations from the 1970s are best left in the past. Even some designs from the 1990s today look completely out of place. Others, however, are timeless.