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Vintage and Antique Lighting

Updated on February 4, 2013
Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet-White is an internationally known food writer, food editor for Texas Living, cookbook author, and food blogger.

Whether you are restoring and old home or decorating a new one with vintage style, antique lighting adds a cozy look that is irresistible. The ability to access the Internet means that finding exactly the right antique light fixture for your home is easy. The hard part may be choosing the exact light fixture for you.

Take into consideration the age, era, and style of your home when choosing lighting. A Queen Anne home, for example, would call for a different type of antique light than the Arts and Crafts style of a Chicago Bungalow. Keeping your fixtures in the same style as your home will help your décor to have a cohesive look.

Tiffany Dragonfly Lamp, circa 1902 via Quinn's Auction Galleries
Tiffany Dragonfly Lamp, circa 1902 via Quinn's Auction Galleries

Types of Antique Lighting

There are a number of types of antique lighting. It is good to familiarize your self with the terms so that you can choose the proper light for your home.

  • Sconces – Attached to a wall sconces are most often used over fireplaces, in long hallways, or stair landings. Sconces are often found in pairs.
  • Flush Mount – A flush mounted fixture is attached to the ceiling. It is meant to illuminate a whole room. The flush mount fixture will not have any hanging parts.
  • Pendant – A pendant fixture will attach to the ceiling with a chain and the light fixture on the end of the chain. It is great for use over sinks and work areas.
  • Chandelier – A chandelier will hang from the ceiling and have a number of lights attached to it. This is usually a large, fancy antique light fixture found in main hallways, dining rooms, and other formal areas.
  • Table Lamp – a table lamp or desk lamp will stand on a side table or desk to provide light for reading and working.
  • Floor lamp – A floor lamp will stand on its own on the floor to provide light. It is often placed near a reading chair.

Styles of Antique Light Fixtures

Within the many types of antique lights there are many styles.  Here are some of the most common antique light fixtures:

Victorian – Victorian lighting describes a style that was prominent from about 1880 to the early 1900s. The style was ornate, graceful, and often had a floral motif. Many of the fixtures from this time period are gas that have been wired for electricity. Sconces most often will have shades that face upward due to them being gas lit. Pendant lighting will use tubes instead of chains.

Art Deco - ArtDeco was popular in the 1920s and 1930s. It is a sleek, modern design with flowing curves, symmetry, and smooth angles.

Arts and Crafts – Arts and Crafts style was popular in the 1910s through 1920s. The lines were clean and straight and the materials were often hand tooled. Hammered copper, wrought iron, and other simple materials were part of the designs of these fixtures.

Modern – Modern fixtures began coming into vogue in the 1940s, but reached the height of popularity in the Atomic Age of the 1950s and 60s. Mod style, chrome, glass, and rounded shapes are all part of this style.

Choose Safe Fixtures!

When you are choosing antique lighting for your home be sure to look for items that have all ready been rewired. It is not difficult to rewire lamps and light fixtures but unless you have experience it is a job best left to an electrician. Buying them all ready rewired saves the step of finding someone to rewire it for you.

Also look for antique lighting with the original glass intact. It can be hard to fit modern glass shades to antique fixtures. If you find an antique light fixture that you absolutely love but it doesn't have shades you may have to resign yourself to living without the shades.

Another important aspect of buying an antique light is to make sure that the hardware is strong and in good condition. You don't want your 80 lb Victorian chandelier landing on a guest as they walk into the house!

Once you have your vintage lighting you should have an electrician install it. He can let you know if there are any potential problems with the wiring or the way the light attaches to your ceiling or wall. He may even be able to make small changes, such as installing switches, to make the light easier to use.

Where to Find Antique Lights

There are a number of places to find antique light fixtures as well as reproduction fixtures but eBay is one of the primary places to find affordable antique lighting.

Be sure to ask questions before purchasing and if the light fixture has not been rewired you should have it done before using. Old wiring is just not safe.

When you have a great antique light fixture in a room you create a historic ambiance that can't be created any other way.


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    • Marye Audet profile image

      Marye Audet 6 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      The first thing i would do is check ebay for the search term 1901 ceilong fixture and see what came up.. Next, try an internet search for victorian light fixtures . Good luck

    • profile image

      Jerry peer 6 years ago

      What type of lighting is typical in a 1902 victorian entry hall and formal dining room and where can I purchase the ? Elizabeth city nc

    • profile image

      MilesBerry 7 years ago

      I didn't know the exact dates for each period of lighting. Good info. Great hub!

    • greenatheart profile image

      greenatheart 7 years ago from Orange County, CA

      I enjoyed how you took into consideration of all these factors. Never underestimate installing an antique lamp. With such vintage and classic beauty, finding the right home decor with it to wanting either a chandelier or a pendant is keen!

    • angelaglancy profile image

      angelaglancy 7 years ago from Seattle

      You make a really good point to install safe fixtures. Not only should you have an electrician install it, but you should have them make sure that the internal wiring of the antique lamp is in safe working order. Nice hub, thanks.

    • profile image

      Casey 8 years ago

      Good tips for selecting antique lamps and such. I've always stayed away from purchasing antique lamps because I wasn't so certain what to look for. I would love to add a few sconces to an area in my dining room and now I think I might be able to do so.

    • Darren2010 profile image

      Darren2010 8 years ago

      Thanks!!! My mother loves antiques and I was trying to figure out what to get her for Christmas. Good Hub!

    • kartika damon profile image

      kartika damon 8 years ago from Fairfield, Iowa

      I love antiques and have a couple of antique lamps that are my favorites! Kartika

    • dusanotes profile image

      dusanotes 8 years ago from Windermere, FL

      Way to go, Marye. I love the lights, the variety that you spoke about and specialed in your piece and pictures. Don White