I love lamps. There is such a variety of them, and they really represent one of the easiest ways to alter the look of a room.
I often search for vintage lamps on Ebay, where there seems to be an endless supply. Now, we haven't given Ebay it's due, given that it was in invaluable resource for our house. I'll devote some future posts to it. Ebay has lamps of every size, shape, material and price. Frankly, it can be overwhelming. Mostly, I gravitate towards alabaster lamps, simply because I think that they're incredibly unique and timeless, but I've also found amazing lamps made of glass, wood, porcelain, bronze and iron. I don't get overly concerned about finding lamps in perfect condition: a small chip or dent here or there can add to their character. The lamp pictured here is made of Spanish alabaster, known for its warm, caramel tones.
When you purchase a vintage lamp, it pays to be on the safe side and rewire it. Even if a lamp's wiring seems to be in good condition, you just never know. Hardware and lighting stores sell very inexpensive rewiring kits, and many of them will do it for you for a nominal fee. If you're going for a more antique look, ask them about silk cords and vintage-style plugs, which seem to be more and more available these days.
Now for the lampshade, which I think is the trickiest element of the lamp. The golden rule here it to take your lamp with you when you shop for its shade. It's also not a bad idea to bring a light bulb with you. Much like the lamps themselves, lampshades come in every conceivable variety and price point. Two things to consider: first, pick a size of lampshade that will cover the lamp's socket completely when viewed at eye level; second, consider the kind of light you wish the lamp to give off. Paper will give bright, diffused light. Mica will give off a warm, amber glow. Silk will tend to diffuse the light the most, while directing it downward. My personal favorite is the silk string variety of lampshade, pictured above, because it creates a beautiful play of light as you walk past it. Darker lampshades tend to appear more formal, while lighter ones appear more casual. If you want to tie a room together, use the same type of lampshade on all your lamps. For a more cottagey, "collected over time" feeling, use a variety of lampshades in a room.
When placing lamps, I tend to put larger ones in living rooms and smaller ones in bedrooms, but you can mix up the sizes however you like. One rule of thumb: the eye will usually be drawn to the largest lamp in a room, so place that one where you think the focal point should be. Lamps can be much more than a utilitarian light source. They can be an easy and cost-effective to express your personal style.