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Lighting 101: The Basics
Last Updated: 10/08/2013

Chandeliers - are installed electric fixtures that hang from the ceiling. Also known as hard wire products that are wired directly into an electrical source.

Wall Lamps - may either be of the "pin-up" variety or they may be permanently mounted on the wall. Wall sconces, wall brackets and swing arms are all types of wall lamps.

Table Lamps - This is the most common lamp type. Are also knows as portables.

Accent Lamps - These are generally smaller than table lamps and can sometimes a have more decorative look than table lamps.

Buffet Lamps - As their name implies these lamps are generally used on either side of a buffet table. They are sold in sets of two.

Desk Lamps - These are functional lamps; they must give off excellent light for reading.

Floor Lamps - These lamps sit on the floor. They originated from an "overgrown" candle idea. A 3-way lamp has gives off three levels of light, a 6-way lamp gives off six levels of light.

Bridge Lamps - This is another floor standing lamp category. In some styles the bulb hangs down. The "bridge" portion of the lamp hangs over to offer more direct light on a person seated nearby for reading of close work.

Swing-Arm Lamps - The swing-arm can be used on a table, floor or wall lamp. It offers the flexibility of having the light source pivot while the lamp remains stationary.

Boudoir Lamps - These are small versions of table lamps that are used on bedside tables and vanities. They are generally more feminine in character. The vanity pieces are taller than the nightstand pieces.

Torchiere - A floor standing piece topped with a glass bowl. The bowl sits facing the ceiling as to reflect light up onto the ceiling.


Ambient Lighting - Illuminates the entire room. It should be moderate in level to create a warm and inviting atmosphere. High levels of lighting in a home environment should be avoided. Too much light can cause a dreary effect. The overall illumination of a room should be done with layers and various types of lighting options. A combination, of chandeliers, track or recessed lighting, wall, table and floor lamps should be used to create the desired ambient effect.

Focal or Task Lighting - This type of lighting provides functional lighting for areas where it is need for reading, sewing, cooking, computer work, etc. This type of lighting should be cool in tone allowing the function to take place while safe-guarding the eyes. Good placement of task lighting will also limit or avoid shadows or glare to further minimize eyestrain.

Accent Lighting - Illuminates and highlights interesting architectural features or objects in a room. Such items can include plants, decorative accessories, artwork, alcoves, moldings, beams, etc.

Decorative Lighting - Fixtures and lamps in this category attract attention to themselves as objects. The classic dining room chandelier or oversize two-story entryway pieces are both examples of this. Extremely decorative shades and other accents can make a lamp a decorative piece as well. A piece used for ambient, task or accent can also be decorative.


In today's world many materials are used in the manufacturing of lighting products. In years past materials were much more limited. Now all types of materials including, resin, metals, wood, marble, leather, glass, ceramic, and crystal are used to make both hardwire and portable lighting. One of the most interesting things in today's development is the use of two or more of these mediums on the same piece.

Today the vast majority of lighting is produced in the Far East where skilled laborers in modern factories can mass manufacture well made pieces at reasonable prices. Even in these modern facilities the final steps of production are still done by hand. Artisans still hand paint and hand finish most pieces.

Courtesy of Murray Feiss

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