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The Tale of Tripod Floor Lamps
One of the most sought-after floor or standard lamps is the tripod lamp. The 3-legged lamp is a masterpiece of mechanics, perfectly poised on splayed legs. In many instances, the legs can be adjusted in height, not telescopic per-say, but along the same principles – each leg can be set at a different height. Akin to the legs on an easel, they slide up and down and can be secured at your chosen height. This allows the lamp to be set at shoulder height when seated to make it a great lamp for reading, or at full height for more general lighting. This ability to alter the height is perfect for rooms both tall, and with lower ceilings, as it can be set at the best height for a balanced look in any room from loft apartment to cosy cottage.
The unique little trick of being able to alter each leg individually is novel, making the lamps look perfectly level, even when floors are uneven. Even when the lamps don’t have adjustable type legs, careful positioning can achieve the same result. As anyone with an old cottage will testify – not all floors are flat!
Aside from the practical aspects the tripod lights brings, they are also good looking additions to any living room, bringing an instant style statement. Unexpected and characterful, they span multiple trends, from antique to midcentury modern – there is lots of choice.
One-of-a-kind lamps, the commonality between all styles is the three legs but aside from that, the choice of lamp is diverse and original.
It’s thought that the lamp design came from seafaring days on voyages of discovery, where they acted as searchlights scanning the horizons. We’ll embark on the history of the floor lamp to the spotlight and where the various style notes derive from.
Navigating our way through the nautical styled lamps through to the modernity of the shaded versions of the tripod standard lamp.
Nautical tripod lamps are directional lamps, usually with large spotlight styles made in predominantly brass or copper. Shipping and railways style lamps all came from the same patterns of stock with no distinctive differences (at least at the start of the voyages).
Railway versions were nearly always highly polished in comparison to the weathered and tarnished finishes of the counterparts. This weathered look does bring an olde-world charm, the antiqued styling showing the workmanship and heritage of the tripod lamps. In most cases the lamp heads were fixed to the train, not freestanding as the legs would have been a little too splayed and demanding of space for the carriage. I guess they were all component parts at that time.
Travel was undoubtably why the lights were engineered in the way they are. They could easily be collapsed and stowed away when not in use.
Tripod lamps were often referred to as lighting equipment in the past, they nearly always had an industrial rather than decorative function. Tripods were portable surveyors instruments (theodolite), a precision instrument for measuring angles on the horizon. These tools needed setting down on all manner of ground. Having 3 legs made the lamps more topple resistant.
Wooden Tripod Lamps
Craftsmen, journeyman or apprentices would have been asked to make the much-coveted status equipment for specialist skilled jobs. Having something purpose made and attached to utility legs, would have seen the cabinetry element being elevated and embellished for the lamps according to status of the owner.
Wooden tripod lamps have an elegance and status even today we do like the marriage of two contrasting materials to be used.
Lights, Camera, Action!
With the dawning of the picture houses and theatres of the 20’s lighting the scene was the order of the day. Again, it was the tripod light that stole the show. Even the film camera had tripod legs, for stability on various platforms and floors. Theatre style lamps had barn-door effect shutters, huge spotlights or can lights. The primary function of these, was to direct the light forward to where the action was. The age-old phrase Lights, Camera, Action came from the director’s calls, so often tripods lamps are also called directors lamps.
Modern Tripod Lamps
Lighting has always been a key contributor to setting the right scene; no wonder the tripods are becoming the iconic coveted lamps for domestic homes too.
The revival of the tripod lamp stems from seeing tripod lamps looking at home in almost any situation. Especially now, they are almost seen as midcentury classics. Midcentury trends which coincided and combine Scandi and Retro has produced a hybrid Midcentury Modern trend that’s really popular. A floor lamp is a must in a modern decorative living room. If you are considering buying a floor lamp you can’t go wrong buying a tripod floor lamp. However, be warned you are faced with a towering array of choice. Which iconic tripod lamp would you choose?
“Tripod lamps! it seems to be the most natural choice because of the personality and style it brings to a space. The chameleons of all standard lamps they blend in and look right at home in nearly all decors”
We put the theory to the test and used the Bamboo Tripod Lamp (which is sold without a shade) with variety of lampshades and indeed it does style up well. Truly an investment piece.
It’s all about the base…
Not exactly! As the above images testify, the shade is important too. Of course, the legs on the lamp base are unique, ingenious, beautiful and practical, yet it still needs a shade. It’s like wearing a suit with tails, if it’s not topped with the right hat it’s not the same. Top hat and tails – now that cuts a dash!
Step out of the Shade
The way a lampshade works is by directing or diffusing the light. Shades help to maximise the lighting effect by creating a soft ambient mood lighting, softening glare and washing light up and down. In short, the shade should dictate the version of a tripod light you choose, depending on what effect you wish to achieve.
Light effects that you can gain from each style of lamp shade when used with a tripod lamp base.
Whatever tripod lamp you choose it’s sure to steal the limelight. We just can’t help but give the 3 leg lamps a curtain call. Though they’ve been around for decades we just can’t say goodbye Encore! Encore! we cry.
Todays tripod lamps are more luxurious with softened edges, we’ve moved away a little from the steampunk industrial styles. In the latest of the incarnations of the tripod whilst still slight retro feel modernity has arrived and the tripod lamp is once more being customised to suit our own personal requirements.
Tripod lamps have remained popular because of the adaptable nature of the lamp, the base is perfect for most situations and has remained eternally practical, but the mix and match element of the shade keeps it on trend.