This section is from the book "The Practical Book Of Interior Decoration", by Harold Donaldson Eberlein, Abbot Mcclure, Edward Stratton Holloway. See also: The Victorian House Book: A Practical Guide to Home Repair and Decoration.
It is well both to group candles at certain points and also to use them singly or in pairs symmetrically placed. The objections to candle lighting usually come either from those that have never really been used to them and do not know how they should be used or else from those whose ridiculous and savage obsession for a multiplicity of blazing lights prompts them to jeer at candles as antiquated or obsolete. To the latter charge one may reply that good taste, like good manners, is not a thing of the moment or of caprice. Like good manners, it has a permanent, enduring quality, unaffected at bottom by minor ephemeral variations of fashion. And good taste recognises no temporal disability. If a thing is good, as the sound decorative principles on which candle lighting is based shew it to be, it is perennially in order.
Next in place comes oil. The light is agreeable to the eye and satisfactory in its action upon decorations and furnishings. The degree of light and its regulation depend entirely upon the kinds of lamps used and the shades employed. It is a sufficient and convenient illuminant and practicable if the lamps are intelligently tended. For purely practical reasons small lamps are generally undesirable and better results are gained by using medium-sized or large lamps.
Gas, unless shaded and tempered in varying degrees, is trying to the eye, the shafts of light are sharp and harsh in effect and colours suffer under the rays. When burned through chemically prepared filaments or other intensifying devices, the greenish or intense white quality of the light is especially disagreeable to the eye, disastrous to colour and produces a ghastly effect. Heat and a certain amount of smoke are also objectionable features. If gas is used, discreet shading is absolutely necessary. Its cardinal recommendations are convenience and cheapness. Diminutive, dim flames rising from porcelain sham-candle burners are absolutely indefensible on the score of either utility or decorative fitness.
Electricity is convenient and clean and its brilliance commends it to them that like floods of artificial light. When used for domestic lighting it must be judiciously shaded; otherwise, it is even harder on the eyes than gas and casts sharp, exaggerated shadows. The use of either gas mechanically or chemically intensified, or of electricity with high voltage unshaded bulbs may be appropriate and convenient in public places and commercial establishments; in domestic interiors they have no proper place. Considered from the point of view of either convenience or decorative propriety, it is indefensible to mount electric bulbs atop of imitation candles. They are so patently shams that they are foolish and they have just about as much place in decoration as the vermiform appendix or wisdom teeth have in the human anatomy. Their presence is utterly inexcusable in view of the many really admirable and satisfying fixtures that competent designers have devised. Electric bulbs, whether globular or pear-shaped, are not objects of beauty and should be screened from view by shades or by devices for diffusing the light and when they are perched on sham candles the shade should be large enough and of such shape as to hide the offensive deception.
The architectural or fixed lighting appliances may be divided into those (1) that depend from the ceiling and those (2) that are affixed to the walls. (The pimples and carbuncles of glass sometimes set in the ceiling we shall not discuss. They are barbarous and would be appropriate only in german interiors.) The first or dependent group includes chandeliers, hanging lamps, hanging lanthorns and drops. The second, or affixed group, includes sconces, wall lanthorns, girandoles, wall lamps and sundry sorts of brackets. Impressive and large chandeliers are appropriate in large or stately and formal rooms or in lofty halls, hanging, perhaps, in the open space of the stair well (Plate 100). In small or informal rooms they have no place at all. The smaller chandeliers with only a few lights, known as "hanging branches" until the early part of the eighteenth century, allow a greater latitude of use. As designers of gas and electric appliances for chandeliers have generally conformed to candle traditions, the principles applying to the use of one sort apply to the others also. When chandeliers are used there should also be sufficient side lights at a lower level. Otherwise, unless it be for a ball-room or some similar apart-ment, the centre of illumination is too high to be agreeable. It is only in exceptional cases that a chandelier can be used successfully as the sole source of illumination, even when candles are burned.
Hanging lamps for halls, entries, stair wells and rooms, especially large rooms, permit more freedom of use than chandeliers. The same may be said of lanthorns (Plate 100). It is scarcely necessary to call attention to the many admirable designs to be found in both cases. Drops, usually and preferably for electric lights properly shaded, are to be recommended for use above dressing stands (Plate 170).
Sconces, girandoles, wall lanthorns, wall lamps, brackets and all other affixed lighting appliances, every one of which may and ought to have a very real decorative as well as utilitarian function, should be placed (1) where they will be useful; (2) not too high so that the major part of the light goes to the ceiling; (3) and, if possible, in a balanced or symmetrical manner. Whether candles, oil, gas, or electricity be the illumi-nant, equally good designs may be used, wholly consistent with the character of the architectural background and the general decorative milieu. If electricity be used, it is suggested that the bulbs be enclosed in some of the wall lanthorn or lamp forms with ground glass to diffuse the light or with a rice-paper shield, such as they often use in Japan. In this way the unprepossessing bulb is completely screened. For many admirable historic designs of affixed light appliances the reader is referred to the numerous illustrations in the fore part of the book, while adaptations and purely modern designs of merit are to be found here and there through all parts. Finally, let the number of the affixed lights as well as their placing be sufficient to ensure an agreeably diffused illumination.
Portable lighting appliances include candlesticks, candelabra, torcheres, and standing lanthorns as well as all the numerous family of lamps.