Vintage Mid-century Modern lamps are characterized by simple lines and a fun space-age feel. In general, these lamps are geometric, with globes, hourglasses, and rings being the dominant shapes.

The earliest lamps of the period combined the figurative aesthetics of the the 1930s and ’40s with more familiar mid-century looks. These transitional lamps often featured kitschy plaster or chalkware bases shaped like Nubian slaves or cape-flourishing matadors. Above these painted figures were geometric, two-tiered shades in parchment or fiberglass. Such lamp shades often had stitched edges and were decorated with everything from geometric lines and designs to splatters and squiggles recalling the drip paintings of Abstract-Expressionist artist Jackson Pollock.

Shades like these were also used on ceramic, wrought-iron, and brass bases, whether it was for table lamps or floor lamps. Sometimes fiberglass shades were fashioned in the shapes of flying saucers, while other mid-century shades consisted of only a single ring around a lamp’s light source. Metal shades in black, white, or brushed metal saucer shapes directed light down while cones anchored in pairs as a part of a wall sconce could be aimed.

Furniture designers saw lamps as a way to unify their work with the rest of a room’s furnishings. Thus, George Nelson Associates, whose tables, chairs, and couches designed for the Herman Miller Company are Mid-century Modern classics, made lighting products for Howard Miller, Herman’s son. The most famous of these was probably the Bubble lampshade, produced in 1952. Shaped roughly like a mushroom’s cap, the lamp was made of translucent plastic pulled tight over a wire frame. Collectors should look carefully at the earliest examples of these shades, which had a tendency to yellow.

In Europe, Danish designer Poul Henningsen created a hanging lamp for manufacturer Louis Poulsen. Known as the Artichoke lamp, Henningsen’s steel-plate creation was a contemporary riff on the traditional crystal chandelier. Scandinavian Alvar Aalto went in a more minimalist direction with his Handgranate A 111 lamp, whose pair of white, painted-metal-and-brass cylinders hung from a slender wire.

Italian lamp designs were also illuminating. One atomic-style six-bulb chandelier from 1950 featured a metal globe at its center surrounded by angled brass tubes—the lights at the ends of the tubes suggested protons and neutrons. The Castiglioni brothers excelled at floor lamps like the Luminator (1954), which consisted of little more than a spotlight at the top of a long, vertical, black-metal tube. Other Italian floor lamps from the 1950s were topped by trios of goosenecks, at the ends of which were brass-belted hourglasses in a range of colors and finishes.

One pair of designers who are often incorrectly credited with designing lamps are Charles and Ray Eames. While the Eameses excelled at chairs and other types of furniture, they were content to leave lighting to their fellow designers, and the sun.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

The Lampworks

The Lampworks

Lamp collector and dealer Dan Edminster has put together an incredible reference site on antique lamps and related … [read review or visit site]

The Mid Century Modernist

The Mid Century Modernist

Stephen Coles' really visual blog dedicated to the Modernist era of design from 1940 to 1970 (aka Mid-century Moder… [read review or visit site]

Herman Miller Consortium Collection

Herman Miller Consortium Collection

This website showcases several hundred pieces of furniture, held by thirteen museums, that were designed for Herman… [read review or visit site]

Texans Incorporated: The History of a Lamp Company

Texans Incorporated: The History of a Lamp Company

Mark Stevens has created an impressive living memorial to Texans Inc., a 20th century Texas manufacturer of ceramic… [read review or visit site]

The Lamps of H. G. McFaddin

The Lamps of H. G. McFaddin

Bruce Bleier's tribute to the Emeralite and Bellova lampshades made from Czech glass and popularized and distribute… [read review or visit site]

EamesCollector.com

EamesCollector.com

Steven Cabella's personal homage to Charles and Ray Eames. This site is as clean and visually appealing as the Eame… [read review or visit site]

Fairy Lamp Club

Fairy Lamp Club

This incredible site is a stunning showcase for Victorian and contemporary fairy lamps, a style of lamp with a glas… [read review or visit site]

Work of Charles and Ray Eames

Work of Charles and Ray Eames

This Library of Congress microsite is an overview of the postwar modern design work of Charles (1907-78) and Ray (1… [read review or visit site]

Classic Modern

Classic Modern

Get a taste of how homes were lit in the 50s, 60s, and 70s with the Danish retro-style lighting designs featured on… [read review or visit site]

Gas Pressure Lanterns, Lamps and Stoves

Gas Pressure Lanterns, Lamps and Stoves

Terry Marsh’s beautiful showcase of gas-pressure lanterns, lamps, stoves, irons, and heaters from the 1920s o… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Most watched eBay auctions    

Pair 1960s Eams Era Mid Century Modern 2 Tone Martz Ceramic Pottery & Teak LampsFase Madrid 520 Mustard Vintage Desk Light Lamp Mid Century Bauhaus Jacobsen 60sVtg 2 Two Tier Fiberglass Lamp Shade Retro Green Atomic Mid Century ModernGerald Thurston Desk Lamp Lightolier Eames Mid CenturyMid Century Desk / Table Lamp Modernist Bauhaus Vintage Stilnovo 50s 60s EraFase Madrid Boomerang 2000 Vintage Desk Light Lamp Mid Century Bauhaus JacobsenFase Madrid 520 Black Vintage Desk Light Lamp Mid Century Bauhaus Jacobsen 60sVintage Mid Century Modern Bee Hive Table Lamp SetPair Of Mid Century Bedside Lamps Stilnovo Art Deco Danish Modern 1950s 40s 60s Stiffel Futura 4 Light Tension Pole Lamp Mid Century Modern Vintage 1950'sFrench Ceiling Vintage Light Mid Century Lamp Maison Jansen Sunburst Sputnik 50sVerner Panton Moon Ceiling Light -beautiful Mid Century Danish Modern Moon Lamp!Vtg Gerald Thurston Lightolier? Table Desk Lamp Mid Century Danish ModernSuperb Retro 50s Mid Century Modern Atomic Mcm Boomerang Majestic Floor LampVintage Mid Century Hollywood Regency Extra Large *red Glass Globe Table LampMid-century Modern Abstract Orange Faip Chalkware Lamp Pair With Original ShadesVintage Danish Modern Teak Wood Table Lamp Globe Orb Mid Century Dansk Pair Danish Modern Italian Raymor Bitossi Lamps Rembrandt Laurel EraQuadrifoglio Desk Table Lamp By Gae Aulenti For Guzzini 70s Mid Century VintageVintage Mid Century Modern Hanging Swag Lamp Light Chunky Lucite Ball 1960sPair Of 1960s Bedside Lamps Mid Century Stilnovo Danish Modern Eames Panton 70s Vintage Mid Century Modern Murano Italian Art Glass White Marble Table Lamp ChicMid Century Modern Lightolier Michael Lax Desk Lamp White Japan AdjustableVintage Mid Century Modern Atomic Age Brass Lamp FinialVintage Mid Century Murano Glass Table Lamp Marbro Hollywood RegencyMid Century 60s/ 70s Mushroom Lamp Vernor Panton StyleVtg Retro Mid-century Fluffy Fiberglass Shade Table Desk Lamp 50's AwesomeMid Century Modern Murano Glass Art Lamp(2) 1950's Vtg Fiberglass Lamp Shades Mid Century Retro Atomic Laced Need Sm Tlc1950s Mid Century Green Collapsible 7 Tier Metal Venetian Blind Lamp Shade Only Set Of 5 Retro 1950s Or 1960s Adjustable Wall Lamps/ Lights Mid CenturyVintage Mid-century Bird Gold Toned Metal Owl Desk Lamp Vintage Mid Century Modern Pop Art Table Lamp Globe C N Burman Kartell PantonHamilton Industries Vintage Lamp Desk Table Top Mid Century Modern Green AvocadoMid Century Modern Tension Pole LampVintage Wood Leg Tripod Lamp Beehive White Shade Mid Century Modern Retro TvVintage Wood/brass Floor Lamp/end Table Mid-century Modern Frederick Cooper-eraVintage 5 Panel Blue Glass Retro Mid Century Modern Hanging Light LampDeco Mid Century Modern Vintage 1938 Lamp Unusual New YorkPair Of Vintage Mid Century Modern Fiberglass Lamp Shades Green Small LightVtg.pair Mid Century Fiberglass Shade Table Lamps Atomic Retro Turquoise BrassVtg 60s Accordion Scissor Extension Wall Mount Lamp Light Mid Century Neutral Vintage Rare Mid Century Infinity Tunnel Led Light Counter Lamp Mirror Black2 Vintage Eames Era Round Pottery Ball Lamps W/ Shades Rare Mid Century Pair 1950s Vintage Ufo Flying Saucer Desk Lamp Mid-century Modern Swing Arm Dazor? NrMid Century Modern Atomic Space Age Hamilton Flex Swing Arm Combo Desk Nite LampVintage Mid Century Wooden Table Lamp Eames Style~3 Way Pair Of Vintage Mid Century Modern Fiberglass Lamp Shades Red Small LightBronzed Horse On Cowboy Hat Table Lamp Mid CenturyVintage Mid Century Encased Lucite Flowers Red Roses Tv Lamp Light Circa 1950sVintage Mid Century Pair Murano Glass Table Lamp Marbro Hollywood RegencyRare! 1950's Mid Century Ceramic Atomic Lamp W/original Fiberglass ShadeMid Century Modern Art Deco Wood Myrtlewood Lamp Country Mushroom Oregon CabinVtg Mid Century Lamp Table Desk Atomic Modern Unusual StyleMid Century Chalkware Lamp Oriental Design Super 50's/60's Kitsch Excellent Nr!Vintage Heavy Deco Mid Century Polished Brass Ball Harp Lamp FinialVtg Mid Century Modern Space Age Windsor Hil-1 High Intensity Desk Lamp LightMid Century Ornate Ceramic Opalescent Glaze W/gold Trim Hanging Swag Lamp/worksMid Century Chalkware Lamp Fox In Red Coat & Bow Tie Excellent Working ConditionVintage Mid Century 28" Table Pole Lamp ** Hard To Find