Did you know that electricity for lighting did not exist until 1879? Before then, gaslighting, candles, or oil lamps was the only way to bring illumination into a space. Today’s antique style lighting guide focuses predominantly on the electric bulb. This might include antique reproduction lighting that mimics kerosene products but accommodates modern conveniences. So, pull up your neo-rococo chair or get comfy on the imitation Victorian fainting couch to find out more.
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What is Antique & Vintage Style Lighting?
Antique looking lighting is developing a growing following. More and more companies now create reproductions of the popular light fixtures that delighted bygone eras. As you further delve into the different product lines, you will see terms such as “antique,” “vintage,” and “retro.”
It is fair to say that one manufacturer’s retro is another’s vintage. As a general rule of thumb, antique fixtures can refer to Victorian period pieces, whereas vintage can be a far newer replica. Most importantly, retro can be a reproduction of virtually any style.
What are the Characteristics of Antique Lighting?
As we mentioned, "antique" is a relative term, so let's break it down to the different periods in time:
- Victorian era - Think of the middle 1800s. There is an exciting gradual change from gaslight to electricity. You will notice plenty of glass shades that feature intricate etchings. Others present as frosted globes, and a few will feature stained glass. Although elegant, the light fixtures look heavy for their sizes.
- Classical revival - Go forward about 50 years or so. The 1800s are giving way to the birth of the 1900s. But people are looking to the past for inspiration. The Greek key motif is a typical feature you will see. The same is true for gilded wood and plenty of crystal in chandeliers and dripping from scones.
- Art Deco - The decade between the roaring 20s and 1930 exemplifies the Art Deco movement. Clean, geometric lines combine to create astonishing patterns. Lamps are works of art that combine form with function. To be true to the style, you forgo opulence for elegance.
What are the Characteristics of Vintage Lighting?
Two distinct terms come to mind when discussing vintage lighting. One focuses on the industrial style. It is interesting to note that it is an offshoot of the 1920s. Industrial style lighting will not feature the elegance of the Art Deco. Instead, it emphasizes function before form. This is task lighting at its best.
From there, it is a small hop, skip, and jump to schoolhouse lighting from the 1950s. Vintage reproduction lighting loves this decade. Light fixtures are practical and big. Metal finishes are simple. Even so, these light fixtures become easy conversation pieces.
What are the Characteristics of Retro Lighting?
Now is the time to enter the mid-century. The 1950s and 60s, with their kidney-shaped side tables and green surfaces, are all the rage. Retro reproduction lighting delights in organic forms. There is not much ornamentation, and the shape is far more important than the detail work.
The 1970s return to big expressions of the decade. It was one that combined wood and glass. Hanging lamps were favorites. Some featured woven baskets. Others combined with mirrors for a boost of the ambiance.
Reproduction Antique & Vintage Lighting
Antique & Vintage Chandeliers
Antique chandeliers might feature plenty of crystal adornments. Do not be surprised to find gilded exteriors as well. Mounts to the ceiling are always ornate and rarely flush. The older the look, the more elaborate the mounting surface. Fast forward a few decades, and you will notice that these light fixtures take more of a backseat to the pendant.
Antique & Vintage Pendants
Antique pendants delight with massive glass globes that feature intricate workings. During the art deco period, they entered their heyday. That said, pendants never go out of style. They simply change style and – occasionally – shape.
Antique & Vintage Wall Lighting
Antique wall sconces are favorites for ambiance. They take their cues from the central light fixture and contently play second fiddle. Look for vintage looking lighting products with small glass globes or attractively shaped – downward-pointing – lampshades.
Antique & Vintage Outdoor Lighting
This style lighting guide would be incomplete without also mentioning antique and vintage outdoor lighting. These are reproductions that meet all applicable codes and style expressions. However, you will notice a wealth of colors that allow the homeowner to match house colors or provide unique metal counterpoints for visual aesthetics.
Antique & Vintage Ceiling Fans
Did you know that it is possible to connect the various styles with fitting antique and vintage style ceiling fans? The trick here is to follow the general form of the primary light source that will set the tone for the rest of the products. Few designers will take on the challenge. But a modern home is virtually unthinkable without ceiling fans. Therefore, we recommend focusing on a style element of your chosen period and finding a fan that exemplifies it.
This guide to antique and vintage style lighting is the fourth in a series of style guides we have developed for our readers! Our first style guide was the Tuscan Style Lighting Guide which shares quite a few similarities to victorian era of antique style lighting. Feel free to check it out!
- Tiny House Lighting: The Best of Bold Design
- Modern & Contemporary Style Lighting Guide
- Rustic & Farmhouse Style Lighting Guide
- Tuscan Style Lighting Guide
- Nautical & Coastal Lighting Style Guide
What do you consider antique or vintage lighting? Let us know in the comments below!