What we love most about vintage lamps is their ability to set the tone for any space. Their color, texture, and placement all impact the way the guests feel when they walk into a room, giving them a crucial role when it comes to curating your space. Whether you prefer hand-blown Murano glass lamps made in Italy or timeless ginger jar lamps produced in China, the history of a vintage light fixture adds an element of nostalgia and history into our homes.
Although you can certainly spend hours searching flea markets or local thrift stores, we often turn to Etsy for their wide array of vintage lighting. And we’re not the only ones: As of today, Etsy has over 126,000 listings for vintage lamps available, and in the past three months, there has been a 213% increase in searches for ’70s lamps or lighting and a 70% increase in searches for midcentury-modern lamps on the site.
“Shoppers are increasingly looking to stand out from the crowd and vintage is a surefire way to find that one-of-a-kind piece that no one else will have,” explains Dayna Isom Johnson, Etsy trend expert. “Vintage items allow shoppers to avoid manufacturing delays that are affecting the decor industry during the pandemic, while buying something truly unique.”
To help you find the vintage lamp you’ve been dreaming about, we spoke with decor experts who share their brilliant tips for curating a collection you’ll love forever.
Ahead of starting your search, Cortne Bonilla, Etsy–obsessed branded content editor at Vox Media, recommends saving pictures of lamps to help narrow down what your interior design style is. “It’s hard to look for things when you don’t know what you’re looking for,” she says. When searching for inspiration, Cortne recommends scrolling through social media and home decor publications and then saving items that stick out to you. This will help you see a pattern and give you a better sense of what you like before making purchases.
When browsing for vintage lamps, it’s common to see some lamps that come with a lampshade and some that come without. Katherine Thewlis, the owner of Hausmatter Interiors, advises looking past the lampshade and focusing on the actual base of the lamp. “The value is in the lamp itself,” she says. If you’ve found a lamp base that you love, but aren’t so keen on the lampshade, you can easily replace it by stopping by your local lighting store. Vintage seller and content creator Aarica Nichole actually prefers to purchase lamp shades separately because they’re “a great way to spunk up your lamps and add your own personality.”
Searching for the perfect vintage lamp takes time, says Audrey Peters, content creator and self-proclaimed vintage lamp collector. But it’s worth putting in the work. When you search “vintage lamps” on Etsy, “You’ll get thousands of results,” Audrey notes. “I find that the best way to actually find the craziest unique find is to just dig and keep going through every page because you’ll find so many surprises on page, like, 150.”
If you’re someone who knows exactly what type of lamp you’re looking for, Aarica recommends using specific key terms to help you find the lamp that fits your vision. “I like to narrow down my search by table lamps, pendant lights, floor lamps, etc.,” she says. “I also like to search by color, material, and era to quickly find what I’m looking for.”
If you fall in love with a lamp, but find out that the electrical wiring is not compatible with your home, it doesn’t mean you have to part ways. Whether the wiring is older or the plug is for another country, Katherine says that this is a simple fix. “It can be done with a lighting repair kit,” she explains. But if you’re not into DIY, “most lighting supply stores will replace the socket and cords for a dime!”
When shopping on Etsy, it’s important to build a relationship with shop owners so that you know exactly what you’re getting when making a purchase. “Make sure to read the reviews,” Cortne advises, to get a sense of how the seller has interacted with other customers. If you’ve landed on a lamp to purchase, “make sure to ask for more photos if the listing is lacking that,” she notes. It’s important to know the exact condition the lamp is in before it arrives.
Use lamps to add color to a space and show off your one-of-a-kind interior design style. “People are sometimes so afraid of color, but it’s what creates depth and individuality,” Audrey says. “Don’t be afraid to mix and match—not everything has to be neutral!”