Illuminating the Present with the Past: Historic Lighting Reproductions

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Forties Style Replica Naval Searchlight

1940s Style Replica Naval Searchlight, made of bronze & aluminum and sits high on a black rosewood tripod.

Finding the perfect lighting fixture for your retro or vintage-inspired room can be difficult – and expensive. If your quest is style over true authenticity, though, historical reproductions are the perfect way to bring designs together on a budget.

When it comes to lighting, pieces influenced by historical events provide a sense of nostalgia. Such lamps and lights tell a story, and spark conversation.

Here are my four favorite “historical” lighting fixtures of late. Each of these are designed to stand on their own in rooms – braced atop tripods.

The 1940s Navy Destroyer searchlight was used on the bridge to illuminate dark, foreign waters. Although designed for function first and form second, this lamp style is beautifully cast. Perhaps an original was used to light the bridge so sailors could work, or perhaps it was aimed out over the foggy sea as part of a search and rescue mission.

For classic car enthusiasts, a 1928 Cadillac headlight tripod lamp beautifully pulls together elements of automotive history and art deco. But there’s more to this piece than just a nod to an early automobile – the 1928 Cadillac was the year and make of car owned by Al Capone (only his was a bulletproof V8 Town Sedan). I can picture this headlight illuminating the streets of prohibition-era Chicago, on a car ferrying bootleg gin to speakeasies and jazz clubs.

1928 Cadillac Head Lamp

Skillfully made, this reproduction of a 1928 Cadillac Head Lamp sports a pressed glass lens and a housing of polished brass and aluminum.

1930s Marconi Spotlight

A fully working Marconi Spotlight reproduction - aluminum & brass with moveable louvers.

Dating back to the 1930s, the Marconi Signal Light was probably put to use on a French battleship. The adjustable slats enabled sailors to send Morse Code messages from ship to ship and from ship to shore. It makes me wonder what kind of messages were sent from this light – perhaps it was used to warn of icebergs on the chilly Atlantic or to signal for aid. Maybe it was used to let a ship in distress know that help was on the way.

Cinema Light Reproduction

Cinema Light Reproduction

If you’re a fan of 1950s Hollywood, a classic-style cinema light brings celebrity into the home. These types of lights cast strong, bright beams. Picture it shining in a smoky club or music all, calling attention to a vocalist. I always think about what celebrities may have performed under a light like this. Édith Piaf? Ella Fitzgerald? Elvis?

A truly stunning collection, each piece features both beauty and history. All of these pieces speak to me, and I’d love to know if they do the same for you.

How would you decorate with these lamps? Would you use them to illuminate a studio or business? Or would you display them at home to throw extra light, or perhaps guide a guest’s attention to a painting, statue, or treasured objet d’art?

Last updated: May 07, 2012
Filed under: Retro Design Tagged with: retro lighting, vintage reproductions