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What is a Wall Lamp?

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  • Written By: Kate Monteith
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 26 September 2016
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A wall lamp is a lighting fixture that is secured to a wall to provide a convenient source of illumination. Wall lamps come in many styles, from simple coach lamps to elaborately filigreed sconces. Some have a light source focused downward for reading, but most decorative sconces are pointed upward. The illumination casts a warm glow on the ceiling and provides an indirect source of ambient light in the room.

The earliest wall lamp was literally a flaming torch set in a metal slip that was bolted to a stone wall. The fire hazard was great, but torches were used as a light source for thousands of years. In the early 1800s, modern gaslights came into fashion. They were fueled by coal gas, still relying on a live flame. Gas lamps were much safer than open torches, however, because a glass shell called a hurricane globe protected the flame.

Although torches and gaslights could provide a hands-free light source, they were dangerous, unreliable, smoky and sooty. When the electric light made its debut in the early 1900s, consumers never looked back. Electric wall lamps were a huge advance in reliability and fire safety.

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Today, wall lamps are sold in thousands of designs to suit any decorating taste, from ancient to ultra modern. People who like vintage lamps can find light fixtures in art deco, Victorian, Old World, early Greek, and many other styles. Matching lamps are often installed in pairs, making a cheerful entry point for an outside door, or a beautiful accent to a fireplace mantle. A single wall lamp adds an elegant decorating touch to a foyer area, or several lamps can be used to brighten a dark hallway.

Wall lamps can sport shades made from all sorts of materials. Plain silk or satin shades make a safe choice for a conservative look, but some designers just can’t resist an upholstered shade embellished with extravagant rhinestones and glittery beads. Wall lamp shades can also be made of amber glass, providing illumination bathed in a pleasant sepia tone. Tiffany styles can have intricate leaded glass shades, known as stained glass. Contemporary styles often include a sleek panel of clear or frosted glass over a soft light source.

The hardware of a wall lamp can be found in any number of metal finishes, including platinum, bronze, brushed steel, polished brass, antique brass, chrome and nickel. There are rustic lamps made of wooden logs, with shades made of real deerskin. There are elegant chandelier sconces, with dangling crystals and flickering lights that look like candles. The choices are endless. Department stores, furniture stores, lighting stores, and online stores sell wall lamps in styles to match any decorating vision imaginable.

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