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What is a Torchiere Lamp?

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  • Written By: Kate Monteith
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 04 July 2014
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A torchiere lamp is a tall, thin floor lamp topped with an inverted shade that directs light toward the ceiling. There are several types of torchiere lamps, ranging from traditional to contemporary designs. The word "torchiere" is a variation on the French word torchère, which means a tall candelabrum. It is also related to the word torche, which is French for torch. Torchiere is properly pronounced as tour-SHARE or tour-she-AIR.

The torchiere lamp has been around for quite awhile, with a candlestick version making an appearance in late 17th century France. The first torchiere was a single candle mounted on a tall stand. Designers soon realized that adding two or more candles greatly improved the illuminating power. The single stand with numerous candles was recognized as a great advancement; however, too many candles made the original torchieres top-heavy and prone to toppling.

The electric torchiere made its first appearance in the late 1800s when the use of electricity in private homes became practical. Early floor lamps usually had a wood or metal stand, often highly decorated with intricate, curving designs. The shade was made of frosted, opaque or stained glass to provide protection from the direct glare of the light bulb. Today, a vintage torchiere lamp in good condition can generate a great deal of interest with antique collectors.

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When shopping for a torchiere lamp, the available choices are vast. The modern torchiere is just one of many variations on the basic floor lamp. Retro designs include bases and stands with finishes described as antique brass, brushed gold or steel patina. Contemporary styles may be described as brushed aluminum, platinum or stainless steel. Many of the modern lamp stands are actually made of an extremely strong resin that simulates metal.

A torchiere lamp can require halogen or fluorescent bulbs, depending on the manufacturer’s recommendation. The stand will often have a dimmer switch, or a switch that controls individual light bulbs. Although fluorescent bulbs will flicker when dimmed due to their design, halogen bulbs can be dimmed to any desired level. There is some concern about fire danger with halogen lamps, however. The inverted shade of a torchiere floor lamp leaves the hot bulb exposed, so the lamp must be kept away from flammable materials, such as curtains or drapes.

Torchiere lampshades can be made of alabaster, glass, plastic resin, metal, or acrylic. They can have a scalloped, stained-glass style; or a marbled glass bowl shape; or a geometric, prairie-style shape; or a futuristic neon light appearance. The lamp can even be topped by a simulated torch, harkening back to the early torchères of long-ago France. Lighting stores, department stores and online stores offer hundreds of styles of torchiere lamp to suit any style or taste.

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