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]

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]

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]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Mid Century Table / Desk Lamp Vintage Eames Danish Modern Atomic 1950s 60s EraPair Of Art Deco Glass & Chrome Bedside Lamps Vintage Mid Century 30s 40s 50sVintage 1960's Louis Poulsen Arne Jacobsen Black Floor Lamp Denmark Mid CenturyRetro Blue Green Chunky Lucite Hanging Lamp Light Fixture Swag Ball Mid Century1950s Mid Century Table Lamp Stilnovo Vintage Eames Danish Modern 60s EraMid Century Modern Desk Task Lamp Flying Saucer Lightolier Brass 2 Tone CobraMid Century Modern Vintage Lightolier Interplay Helmet Lamp Space Age 1970s McmVtg Atomic 1950's Mid Century Modern Retro Lamps W/ Two And Three Tiered Shades!Vintage Motion Lamp Ship Sailing Lighthouse Goodman Mid Century Econolite 1950'sMid Century Modern Eames Era Peach Frosted Glass Vintage Retro Mushroom Lamp YqzPair Green Opaline Hollywood Regency Murano Italian Glass Lamps Mid CenturyPair Table Lamps Brass Willy Rizzo Guy Lefevre Maison Jansen Mid Century Light1970 Evans Jere Table Lamp Brutalist Bauhaus Modernist Mid-century-modern Eames Vntg Mid Century Bullet Shade Hanging Swag 5 Tier Lamp Light Ceiling Chandelier Small French 1950s Brass Lamp Mid Century Danish Modern Vintage Eames 60s Era Set Of 3 Mid Century Danish Modern Beehive Tripod Table Lamps Gilbert Prod 60s1970 Evans Jere Table Lamp Brutalist Bauhaus Modernist Mid-century-modern Eames Vintage 1950's Pair Of Lamps 2 Tier Fiberglass Shades Mid Century Modern Atomic Lg Vintage Jadite Green Pressed Glass Mid-century Lamp Shade & Base For PartsRadius Habitat Industrial Modernist Table Desk Lamp Vintage Eames Conran ArtVintage Spartus Atomic Eames Era Lamp Clock 50's 60's WorkingRare! Vintage Pair Mid Century Modern Atomic Age Table Lamps – Eames EraMid Century French Solr Clamp-on Jielde Style Desk Lamp Industrial ExtendableCool Mid Century Atomic Era 1960's Space Age Dazor 2008 Flying Saucer Lamp 1970 Evans Jere Table Lamp Hollywood Regency Modernist Mid-century-modern Eames Vintage Curtis Jere Hood Table Lamp Brutalist Mid CenturyVintage Broyhill Brasilia Nightstand Danish Modern Bedside Table Bed Lamp StandVintage Mid Century Brass/glass Modern Lightolier Saucer Ceiling Lamp! Teaktable Lamp Danish Modern Mid Century Eames Wegner Luxus Vintage 60s 70s Vintage Torino Chrome Robot Lamp Mid Century Modern / Modernism Italian LampArt Deco Machine Age Eames Era Lamp Light Fixture Geometric Brass Silver Multi-fPair Mid Century Modern Eames Era Table Lamps Glass Globes Modernist Bird Theme Mid Century 1950's Retro Tripod Giraffe Floor Lamp 5' W/shade Modern EamesVintage Florence Art Co. Glitter Motion Table Lamp Mid Century Retro Eames Era Danish Modern Lotte Bostlund Cobalt Blue Lamp Ceramic Danish Sputnik Ceilling Lamp Modern Mid Century Denmark Eames Basket 50s 60s 70sEames Era Lamp Panton Mid Century Modern W Triple Fiberlass Shade RetroFase Madrid 520 C Gold Vintage Desk Light Lamp Mid Century Bauhaus JacobsenVintage Brass Laurel Floor Lamps W/ Acorn Shades Mid CenturyPair 2 Vintage Mid-century Tall Gold Amber Murano Art Glass Blown Table Lamps ++Vintage Broyhill Brasilia Nightstand Danish Modern Bedside Table Bed Lamp StandCuda Galaxy 101 Fiber Optic Chrome Lamp Ufo Space Age Mid Century Works GreatMid Century Modern Style Pair Of Wood Lamps W/shades Two Mid-century Danish Portable LampsVintage Mid Century Atomic Sputnik Table LampFase Madrid Presidente Gray Vintage Desk Light Lamp Mid Century Bauhaus KaiserVintage Kron Mid Century 1950's Siamese Cats Tv Lamp Works Great 13.5" TallVintage Retro Mid Century Eams Era Brass Floor Pole Lamp Great Cans!! @@wow@@Rare Mid Century Lightolier Paavo Tynell Cone Shade Fixture Chandelier LampVintage Motion Lamp Econolite 1950's Mid Century Fountain Of Youth Boy Peeing Vintage 1950's Mid-century Modern Dual Goose Neck Coral Cat Tail Floor Lamp ExcFase Madrid Presidente E-10 Vintage Desk Light Lamp Mid Century Bauhaus JacobsenItalian Eames Era Antique Modern Steampunk Industrial Urban Table Lamp NrLarge Vintage Mid Century Martz Marshall Ceramic Pottery Incised Lamp Vintage 1960s Berger Table Lamp Lucite Wood Mid Century Modern Fiberglass ShadeVintage Mid Century Fantasia Lamp Rotating Fiber Optic Motion Light W/ Org. BoxA Pair Vintage Mid Century Fiberglass Lamp Shade W/ Whipped Stitching Gold SwirlVtg Mid Century Lrg Spaghetti Light Lamp Hanging Swag Yellow Lucite Acrylic Exc 50's/mid-century Green/silver Metal Lamp Shade Unmarked, By Modern Lamp & Shade Vintage Chrome Ball Table Desk Lamp Mid Century Modern Swivel Arm Thomas