Vintage Floor Lamps Style Guide
Yes, a table lamp is inspired for adding a glow to a room, but for those spaces that are in need of a true let-there-be-light moment, let us offer up: the vintage floor lamp.
Often overshadowed by showier fixtures like pendant lights and chandeliers, vintage floor lamps have a tendency to be painted into corners—stashed behind a sofa, or partially obstructed by a bookcase. Yet, their function is unparalleled, and so, quite frankly, is their style.
In fact, the majority of used floor lamps showcase shapes and finishes that are startlingly avant-garde. Designers like Milo Baughman and Tommi Parzinger have all tried their hand at them, bringing into fruition floor lamps that are comparable to a tall, cool drink of water (or maybe champagne...) But make no mistake, these vintage floor lamps also handle the task illumination with aplomb, directing a canopy of light in a way that a table lamp decidedly can’t. To learn more about the secondhand floor lamp styles we majorly heart, read on.
A literal translation from French renders the torchiere “tall candelabrum.” It’s fitting when you consider that the original torchiere was composed of a single candle attached to a towering stand. If it sounds like something you saw in Beauty and the Beast, it’s because, well, you did. Up until the creation of electricity in the 19th Century, the torchiere was a mainstay of French chateaus and manors. When lightbulbs emerged and swapped places with candles, the only change made to the torchiere was the addition of an inverted shade.
Today, the majority of vintage torchiere floor lamps have an Art Deco leaning, the upwards shade frequently assuming the shape of a stepped pyramid or flaming palm fronds. These lamps are oh-so regal and we love the idea of them displayed in pairs, whether they’re flanking a fireplace decked out in cool marble, or a duo of sumptuous club chairs.
If you’ve ever fancied a pet monkey who’d sit on your shoulder and drop into your business at all the right times, an arc or arch floor lamp might be for you. Featuring a bold, parabolic-curved neck, these used floor lamps are undeniably atmospheric, lending any corner a sheltered, cove-like feel.
While most arc lamps feature bling-y, metal finishes and globe-like heads, some take a more demure route, opting for matte finishes and simple drum shades. While the latter can lessen the style’s aggressively Mid-Century Modern vibe, those who can’t get enough of the mod look might do well with an arc lamp composed of multiple stems. Routinely referred to as a waterfall lamp, these floor lamps showcase three to six lights, all of which are hung at varying heights. The result is something we’d liken to a chrome-plated houseplant. One that’s all style, and no burden on your conscious if you forget to water.
With the exuberance that greeted electricity in the 19th Century, design innovators rushed to create a lamp that would make the most of it. The result? The pharmacy lamp. And what made it so special? Well, the vintage pharmacy floor lamp ingeniously did what a candle could not—it aimed light downwards by encasing it in a chic, triangular brass box.
While the functional style was a mainstay of early 20th Century hospitals, medical offices, and factories, the design still endures today thanks to its clean, industrial-minded lines and unparalleled lighting abilities. While its chiefly directed light makes best used as a reading lamp, we still consider it a force to be reckoned with in and out of the home office.
If life’s been one long trip and you’re ready to dig your toes into the harwood below you, you can’t do better than the three-legged tripod lamp. Inspired by old-school camera or surveying stands, vintage tripod floor lamps tackle on two fronts: one, they’re as industrially chic as can be, and, two, with three legs, they pose virtually no threat of tipping.
While it’s most common to find tripod floor lamps constructed of utilitarian woods and metals, don’t count the style out if you fancy something a bit more dramatic or glam. Some vintage tripod lamps add an oversized theater spotlight to the equation, and there are beautiful versions available in Lucite with brass accents that replace the standard metal ones.
Consider it the lamp equivalent of BYOB, only rather than booze, we’re talking about a vintage floor lamp that brings its own end table to the party. A ready-made companion for sofas and accent chairs, the vintage skirt lamp really is the wonder kid of floor lamps. A style that’s been reinterpreted by virtually every decade, this one’s a must for tight quarters of any kind.