Lamps: lowly to luscious

Published February 3, 2006

Nearly two decades ago, when I moved to my first apartment in a small town where I had taken a newspaper job, I owned exactly one good lamp.

A 1960s hand-me-down from my mother, it was a large, ultra-modern white fabric hanging extravaganza that resembled origami sculpture.

My fascination with lamps as decor accents evolved slowly over the years, first with a 1920s Rin Tin Tin lamp purchased at a lamp repair shop (the German shepherd poses gallantly over a green stepped Art Deco glass shade). Later my lamp tastes became even more eccentric: a large light-up heart; an illuminated art-glass mermaid made by a South Florida artist; and a perfume advertising lamp that once stood on a department store cosmetics counter.

In between, a parade of inexpensive tchotchke lamps have come and gone from my life, among them, a glittery, glowing pink star that my sister once remarked belonged in a teenager's bedroom. There was the lamp that twirled on its base and projected planets onto the walls; a leopard-skin, fur-trimmed light-up purse that still sits perched on my dresser; and the latest, a neon pink flamingo that will eventually go in my front window.

At the moment, I'm mulling purchasing a truly glamorous bathing suit lamp made by Nashville artist Kelly Butler, who has appeared on HGTV and makes lamps from vintage lingerie. You can view her creations at www.tramplamps.com.)

Lately, as I've browsed catalogs and discount stores shopping for my new home, I've noticed that my love of quirky lamps isn't so eccentric anymore. Store shelves are brimming with the latest in funky lamp chic, from lava lamps to light-up flowers to martini glasses garnished with olives.

On the serious side, lamp selections have never been better. I recently purchased an ultra-chic chrome and paper-style lamp from a home improvement store for less than $20.

And, raves Maria Gorter, a Tampa Bay area interior design consultant, "the selection has never been better. There are more lamps to choose from than ever before. It's really unbelievable."

Gorter, who owns Mar-Go Interiors in Wesley Chapel, a business that provides interior design services to homes in North Tampa, Avila, Cheval, Carrollwood and Pasco County, carries a selection of accent lamps that range from beaded and feathered varieties to styles reminiscent of the West Indies and the Orient.

Gorter notes that the lowly lamp, once relegated as a functional, utilitarian device for reading or lighting at night, has taken on a whole new life.

"They're really replacing candles, providing the same mood and ambience in a room without the hazard of candles, which people can go off and forget about," she says. "They really can be very seductive."

The variety on the Internet and in catalogs, she says, has soared in recent years. Forget standard shapes and sizes; you can light up your life in unexpected ways with sconces, wall lamps, picture lights, outdoor lighting, pendant lamps and novelty lamps. Check out the palm tree accent table lamp with wicker and the amber sea-shell lamp for $29.95 at www.lampsplus.com Gorter suggests using accent lamps in bathrooms "as a boudoir light that can be left on all the time," on the kitchen counter and on a bookshelf to provide unexpected warmth.

"You can even place a small lamp next to a mirror for the effect of multiple lights," she advises. "I like decorating with light, because the choices are so beautiful and can create a real feeling of mood in a home."