In the period between World War I and World War II the occurred a fantastic explosion in the creative arts. One of the most enduring styles of this era is the Art Deco Style. It was elegant and often futuristic but not nearly as kitschy as later modern styles. As such, it can often be blended quite seamlessly into decorating schemes where it ads a dash of modernity to any setting.
Art Deco Lamp Styles
Drawing from the Art Noveue, Futurist, Arts and Crafts, and many other elements, Art Deco exhibits a wide range of influences. Art Deco lamps are no exception. They come is a great variety of shapes. Two of the most common, however, are what I call the "raygun gothic" and the "elegant lady" motifs.
"Raygun gothic" is a contemporary term that denotes the futuristic stylings of the 30s and 40s. Think Buck Rogers space ships, streamlined locomotives, and curvaceous automobiles. These lamps are often made of chrome and have an almost science fiction look to them.
"Elegant Lady" is a term of my own making and it refers to the very common deco practice of making lamps in the shapes of dramatically and elegantly poised women. I would lump into this category lamps which have a similar style but feature graceful animals like cats or gazelles.
In both cases you'll find certain Art Deco conventions are commonly used. They are:
Bold contrasting colors (chrome and black were particularly popular)
Ethnic elements (especially egyptian and native american)
Use of new (for the era) materials like aluminum and plastics.
By the 1930 most of today's lamp forms were being used. You had table lamps, desk lamps, torchiere lamps, as well and many types of lights designed to be built into walls or other structures. Actually, many of these forms arose in the period as the use of electricity became the norm. If you traveled back to 1910 you'd probably find a great many such forms absent or rendered as oil lamps.
Important Warning About Wiring
If you are purchasing a vintage art deco lamp it is highly advisable you have it checked out before use. The wiring used in the 1930s and 40s was far less safe than it's modern counterpart. If your lamp has never been rewired it could present a real fire hazard. gest you have it replaced.
Fortunately Art Deco has never really gone out of style. It may not be at the forefront of fashion anymore but it remains an enduring favorite that can be integrated with a great many other styles. Because of this there are still a great many new lamps made in the style. Some are reproductions but many are totally new takes on the Art Deco style. Modern lamps will lack the historical cache and probably the resale value of antiques but they can prove less expensive and temperamental. I suggest you explore both options to see what will work for your home.