NO matter how complete the installation of gas or electric lighting fixtures, beauty and efficiency can both be increased by the addition of lamps. For the height at which fixtures must be placed - at least six and a half feet for ceiling pieces and five and a half for wall brackets - not only removes the light sources too far from the eye for comfortable work with needle and book; it also raises the plane of decorative interest to too great an elevation - provided the fixtures be decorative. At a dance or a reception, table lamps are in the way; but in a family living-room or in a bedroom they can be extremely useful and economical as well as ornamental.
The lamp on the somno stand concentrates the illumination where it is wanted, and a small lamp there - oil or gas or electric - is more efficient for reading or sewing in bed than a light ten times as powerful and expensive in the ceiling or inconveniently placed on the wall.
So, too, in the library. A lamp on the center table means convenience and comfort for several members of the family, and if the room and family be large, can be supplemented to advantage by lamps on small tables.
I. Wood standard, finished in antique gold; French silk shade; at $ 75.
2. Square Chinese porcelain base with square silk shade painted to match, $ 35.
3. Silk shade painted to match the porcelain base, $48.
4. Shade, painted silk; base, Chinese porcelain, with bronze mountings, $ 85.
The problem is not to prove that lamps in a home are a necessity; it is to procure lamps that are efficient and beautiful and not too expensive. With candles and lamps of the primitive kind employed by the Greeks and the Romans, it was easy to light a room beautifully, but practically impossible to light it sufficiently. Indeed, the very dimness and inefficiency of the ancient lamps was to some extent a safeguard against ugly and vulgar installations. Only since the comparatively recent introduction of the incandescent electric bulb and the gas mantle burner, has overlighting become a danger that one must be constantly on the watch to avoid. Very serious are the eye troubles resulting from exposure to unshaded light sources of high power. They have wrecked many lives and seriously impaired the usefulness of others. Good eyesight is a blessing that cannot be too jealously guarded. This means that the light must be shaded and toned in such a manner as to eliminate glare and shadow streaks, and remove injurious violet and ultra-violet rays.
The most useful light and the easiest for the eye to work with is that in the middle of the spectrum - the gold and golden-brown light with which leaded glass shades in amber and yellow glow so beautifully. Blue light and red light - that is to say, the light which comes through blue and red shades - is of little value for purposes of illumination. Orange light and green light occupy an intermediate position, and when handled with care and employed only in the more luminous tones, are useful for seeing by as well as decoratively pleasing.
I have dwelt on the efficiency value of the different colors, because in selecting lamps the color and translucency of the shades is of primary importance. No shade in any material - paper, cretonne, silk, iridescent glass, leaded glass - can possibly be a useful shade if it contains much blue or red, or much opaque green or orange. The useful shade is the one in which golds and ambers predominate, with oranges or greens to introduce contrast and variety, and with only small spots of gray-blue or pink to give jeweled effects.
Moreover, gold light and amber light are safe to use in rooms of any color. For red rooms, green light is inadvisable; for green rooms, red. Green light will not illuminate a red room, nor red light a green room.
Among the most attractive and least expensive shades on the market are the Japanese ones in oiled paper, often hand painted, mounted on light but substantial black wooden frames. They are rather too opaque for kerosene lamps, but for the more powerful gas mantle lamps are splendid, particularly with Japanese porcelain bases, or with simple metal bases in pompeian green.
The most obvious fault of pretentious pottery and metal bases for kerosene lamps is massive-ness. They look as if the manufacturer mistook size for quality, and was trying to make his particular product the most prominent object in the room. To the so-called art lamps produced by amateur potters and imitated by those who make them for merchandise stocks, I infinitely prefer the very inexpensive and exceedingly efficient kerosene lamp, with yellow porcelain shade, offered to the public by the corporation that makes the profit on the oil.
First among shades, as far as making the light beautiful is concerned, are those in leaded glass. And by leaded glass I mean leaded glass - not mere sheets of colored glass more or less covered with a filigree of thin metal. Leaded glass shades of the kind worth having are mosaics formed of copper-bound pieces of colored glass held securely and permanently together by the leading. Leaded glass shades properly made will last after more perishable materials are worn, soiled, or broken. They range in price from $10 to $ 60, with others more expensive for those who prefer bases of bronze to bases of brass.
On this question of bronze, and of cast brass vs. spun brass - no matter whether the finish be gold or silver or verde antique or statuary bronze - there is a great deal of poppycock handed out to those who visit shops. Bronze is indisputably the best metal to receive and retain intricate shapes and delicate ornament. Its superior hardness and malleability give permanency of form combined with possibility of working. But a beautiful shape in spun brass is infinitely preferable to a commonplace one in bronze, or to any of the numerous monstrosities pushed by salesmen upon customers in the name of "all cast brass." Of course, a large proportion of the over-ornamented bases are in spelter and soft metal alloys that receive impressions easily but retain them briefly, and are secondhand as soon as the shellac finish is bruised. These are the lamps that enable shops to spend much money - and get it back - advertising "tremendous bargains in lamps."
5. Yellow bronze base, Colonial style; leaded glass shade in tones of crystal, light green and gold. $50.
6. Gold-finished bronze standard, Adam style; shade, alabaster and gold with ruby accents. $75.
7. Simple classic standard of gold-finished brass, with shade in alabaster, gold, and red. $75.
8. Bronze standard and yellow chrysanthemum shade. $70.
Shades of silk and cretonne are not especially durable, or efficient for the transmission of light; but many of them are exceedingly beautiful - particularly the hand-painted ones and the plain silk ones that fit beneath frames in carved wood or compo. These frames, as well as the bases and standards to match, are finished in antique wood finishes, and in the Italian Renaissance or the Old English style, often in polychrome with exquisite Gothic reds and blues and yellows and gold and silver. Most of them are too massive for small rooms and too elaborate for very simple rooms.
Particularly suitable for country houses and for informal rooms generally are the bases and shades in willow, bamboo, and reed basket work. Many of the shades are of distinguished excellence, and they are equally adaptable for oil, gas, or electricity. These, of course, must be lined with silk made on a wire frame so as to be easily removable and changeable, for silk shades fade quickly and soil easily.
The shades in Japanese grass cloth painted or stenciled, with skirts of fringe or brocaded galloon, look well when new, but are hard to keep in good condition, and are too opaque to be recommended from the illumination point of view. The cut-out paper shades with fancy insertions and linings are also apt to be too "fussy" for constant everyday use. So also the exquisite imported French shades in the style of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI, that utilize rich and unusual and especially dainty woven materials in combination with fringes that have a distinct individuality. Some of these shades are sold with bases to match in Dresden china with quaint shepherdesses and rustic lords and ladies, or dull gilt metal work of classic form.
The foreign metal work is uniformly far superior to the American in design and finish, even when made of much cheaper materials. The chief objection to foreign lamps is the lighting attachments, which are seldom suitable for American use with oil or gas or electricity. This objection is removed by some importers and dealers who supply American attachments and wiring.
Many of the lace shades, particularly those with quaint-figured filet panels, are most attractive.
Iridescent shades are beautiful rather than useful. Those in dark blues and violets spoil any interior that they are required to illuminate, and have won for one prominent Western hotel the doubtful distinction of having the worst-lighted lobby and cafe in the country. Even the iridescent shades in cream and pearl are de-vourers of light, and advisable only where the appearance of illumination, rather than the actuality, is desired.
The very best inexpensive standards for electricity are in plain turned wood. They can be had in maple or mahogany-finished birch, and with a variety of simple shades in tissue or other colored paper, or hand-painted, Japanese fashion. Some of them can be adapted for gas, but they are too slender to have room for the tank of oil lamps, that requires either to be concealed in a bulbous base, or made an obvious part of the construction, as in student lamps.