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The History of Vintage Lighting Styles

July 1, 2019

The History of Vintage Lighting Styles

When you're shopping for lighting online, you often see buzzwords and phrases like art deco, mid-century, French provincial, minimalism, etc. But what do these mean? In this article, we contextualise these styles within the historical period and place they originated from, and outline the materials and design considerations you should make in order to seamlessly incorporate these vintage lighting styles into your modern home.

French Provincial: 1718th Century

French provincial style is a classic style that developed in the smaller cities and rural countryside of the 17th and 18th century France. This style was created as a way for regal French furniture to be adapted to create accessible and affordable items for the wealthy families of the provinces; who, although were rich by most standards, could not afford the opulence and luxuriousness of the furniture found within the French monarchy. Sadly, provincial furniture was not given much importance in its day, so few pieces from this time period are well preserved.

However, French provincial furniture and design has witnessed a renaissance in recent times. And, with more people injecting modern farmhouse style into their homes, French provincial design transitions seamlessly into this modern trend. And, if you need some photo inspo to get you started, here are some photos of kitchen styling that perfectly exemplify French provincial style:

So, if you'd like to instill French provincial style into your home, consider materials such as cherry, walnut, oak and beech wood, as well as lighting styles such as lantern or cage lighting, or even a rustic linen shade such as our Farmhouse Ceiling Light. As French provincial style is all about conservative ornamentation, consider pieces that have some intricate detail, but don't scream grandeur and extravagance in your face.

Art Deco: 19201930s

Art Deco evolved after the Art Nouveau period, and generally ranged from the 1920s–1930s. This was one of the first movements to consider lighting for its form as well as its practical, utilitarian function. While Art Nouveau utilised older materials such as bronze, Art Deco marked a shift towards more accessible materials such as chrome, plastic, aluminium, and painted metal, etc. This period also noticed a shift in design attitude towards utilising clean lines and directional light. White glass globes, often suspended by an opulent, gold gooseneck wall arm, were also popular during this period.

To get you started on your art deco renovation or room update, here's some of the best art deco Pinterest boards we've curated: 

So, if you'd like to add an art deco twist to your modern home, consider materials such as glass (especially milky/opal glass), brass and other metalware, as well as the importance of directional lighting. Our Astor Pendant Light is a great example of the use of art deco materials with geometric shapes, and would be perfectly styled inside an opulent living room with ornate furniture, or a high-end restaurant with live entertainment and a whisky on the rocks.

Minimalism: 1920s–Present

The age of minimalism erupted in the post-WW1 era – around the late 1910s to early 1920s, and was inspired by both the Dutch De Stijl art movement and the German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who famously declared "less is more". With its focus on simplicity, pared back and timeless design, it's no wonder that this style is still popular a century later. 

Characteristics of the minimalism movement include the use of materials such as glass, concrete and steel. Moreover, there is a focus on utilising natural light sources rather than relying upon overcomplicated and saturated lighting. This ethos of pared back design flowed into all aspects of the home, and is the foundation upon which the modern ''tiny home'' movement has been based. It has also flowed into public spaces, including iconic community spaces such as Federation Square in Melbourne, which encompasses modern minimalism with a deconstructivist twist:

Ultimately, minimalism can be whatever you interpret it to be. If you'd like to stick to traditional minimalism, you can consider the above characteristics of the original style and the historical context it originated from. Or, if you'd like to simply incorporate minimalist elements into your home, that's okay too! Lighting wise, you could consider the Pipe Lamp. Or, check out the Glass Ball Disc Wall Light or the Copper Pipe Pendant by NUD. No matter what you decide, this is a style that shows no sign of going away.

Mid-century Modern (McM): 19331965

The phrase mid-century modern is somewhat of a misnomer, as the start date of the period is around the early to mid-1930s. Nevertheless, this style has been recognised as one of the most significant design periods of the 20th century, with Denmark and Brasil generally understood to be the most influential contributors to quintessential mid-century modern design. Due to the contribution that Denmark made to this period, mid-century modern often overlaps with Scandinavian design; this is an important thing to consider if you want to incorporate both styles, as they transition together like a match made in heaven.

Mid-century modern design is characterised by an understanding of the importance of form and function; sleek, geometric lines; minimalism in terms of ornamentation; and the juxtaposition of contrasting tones and materials. There was also a diversity in terms of construction materials; so, while wood and glass were still utilised, more affordable materials such as plastic were used in their own right, rather than attempting to imitate a wood-like look. 

Iconic items from this period include the PH lamp series by Danish designer Poul Henningsen, as well as the Bubble Saucer Pendant Light by American industrial designer George Nelson.

Keen to buy the mid-century modern look? Shop our Fat Shack Vintage Artichoke Timber Pendant Light here. Or, if you're keen for some other mid-century lights, why not check out our Missouri Pendant Light, the Branch Glass Pendant, or the Kerr Sphere Table Lamp. Or, if you're still stuck, have a look through our extensive range of pendant lighting to get your creative thoughts buzzing.


Unlike other design styles, it's difficult to pinpoint and contextualise coastal design within a specific time period. And, coastal design tends to branch into other sub-styles, such as boho coastal, Hamptons, etc. So, we'll focus on these two sub-branches and how you can integrate these styles into your home.

Boho coastal is characterised by two converging themes: bohemian and coastal. Bohemian (or simply ''boho'') has existed in some form or the other since the 19th century. But, in the 21st century, boho represents rich oriental designs, free-spirited living, natural woven textures such as hessian and rattan, etc. In contrast, coastal design is exemplified through neutral palettes, lots of natural light, an emphasis on woven textures (e.g. hessian, wicker, rattan, etc) mixed materials (e.g. wood, stoneware, etc) and plenty of natural flora. Here are some great inspo-worthy home living photos that we think perfectly represent the boho coastal look:

Want to shop the look? The first image includes our Rope Base Table Lamp, the Cove Rope Pendant Light, the Wicker Ceiling Light in Rattan, and the Copper Railway Outdoor Wall Light. And, the second photo by @thehouseonbeachroad features our Industrial Warehouse Pendant Light. Or, if you'd like to look at our entire range, you can find our pendant lighting here.
So, what do you think about all of these historic lighting styles? Post your thoughts and questions in the comments section below!

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