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.
Said the innocent small-householder
"I have just spent $60.00 for a new chandelier." And when we groaned: "Why a chandelier?" his injured surprise was as great as if he had been asked, "Why a breakfast?"
Yet why a chandelier in a small house or apartment? They have their appropriate places - as we have seen - but it is not here. Yet nothing seems so dear to the heart of "the people." Happily it has largely passed out of use with those of taste, except in its proper sphere, but the present affliction is scarcely less intense - the inverted dome reigns supreme! Why should the strongest light be thrown upon the ceiling? The portion of the room to be illuminated is naturally that which we ourselves occupy: the farther corners and the upper and lower areas may well go off to halftone and shadow, thus giving relief and charm.
In general and for the modern well-furnished home, it may be said that the only sources of illumination worth considering are side lights, lamps and candles. The first and the last may find only occasional employment, but the use of the lamp is constant.
Except for the slender standard lamp which has no receptacle for oil, the same styles are adapted for electricity, oil or gas. The electric system is the most convenient and the only objection to it is the necessary wire: this we shall have to dispose of as best we can. Perhaps some day we shall have "wireless" lamps. Here Mr. Marconi might help us out.
Henry James, in his novel, "The Ambassadors" gives us the phrase, "a deep suspicion of the vulgar." This suspicion should constantly dwell with the decorator or homemaker in all his work but never more so than in the selection of lamps. The commercial-fixture man has laid many traps for the unwary in the way of brass and fancy metals with opalescent shades in disagreeable variations of green and yellow: there are pottery lamps - as there are jardinieres - in which the tones or blending of tones have that quality of vulgarity so to be discriminated against; and even not all the Chinese and Japanese lamps of modern make are good.
Apart from its environment no decorative object should for a moment be considered, for, no matter how intrinsically beautiful it may be, if it does not fit both usefully and decoratively into the existing scheme of things, its advent will bring not beauty but discord and discontent.
There are, it will be seen, a few matters to consider before a lamp is purchased
- For what room is it to be used! Should the lamp be handsome or simpleT Is a strong light needed over a large area or is a softened illumination desired? Upon what sized table is it to stand? What should be the lamp's height? Should it be slender or of more rounded form? Of what character are the furnishings with which it is to go? What is to be its background or particular situation, and of what colour or combination of colours should or might it be? Should its tone be light or dark? Do you need something striking or restrained, colourful or quiet?
The lighted lamp is likely to be the greatest centre of interest in any room, and attracts attention even when unillumined. For this reason the expenditure of perhaps fifty dollars or more for a handsome and unusual lamp would often prove a better decorative investment than the spending of the same amount on a piece of furniture. A lamp for reading or sewing should be of convenient height to give proper illumination, while the light itself should be strong and unimpeded by fringe. A fringe of beads, particularly, casts a swaying and annoying shadow. For such purposes the light should also retain its whiteness, so that, if shades of a pronounced colouring are chosen, they should be lined with white. If the light is to be diffused over a wide area, it is well that the shade should be light in tone and of sufficient transparency.
Where a room is throughout of a definite period-character the lamp - as other lighting fixtures - should of course follow the period. "Where, as in many instances, it contains more or less period furniture but is pleasantly and not erratically eclectic, the choice is wide. If the room is of non-committal character, the lamp may be anything that is generally attractive and harmonious. If the room be furnished in the "newer*' modern mode, the form of the lamp should be simple and the colour definite.
In a large room, even where side-lighting fixtures are supplied, a pair of matching or similar lamps will often be needed. They may be placed near the two ends of a long table as illustrated in the group of lamps in their environment, or on two smaller ones. More interesting sometimes than this uniformity is a large lamp supplemented by one or two smaller ones of differing character placed elsewhere about the room. These supplementary lamps need not always or generally be lighted, but should be placed in advantageous situations, so that if it is required to illuminate that particular portion or any interesting feature it may easily be done.