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Modern ways to shed light

Many manufacturers of traditional lamps are today seeing the need to add modern designs to their lines. Michael Shapiro, president of the Beth Weissman Company, confirms this, stating, ''We are trying to offer lamps that are compatible with all current and emerging design trends and are showing art deco, postmodern, and modern lamp styles. But we still want most to develop lamps that have the longevity of classics, such as our all-time traditional and Oriental best sellers.''

Even the 50-year-old Stiffel Company is heeding the new demand for modern lighting. Gary Baughman, president of the Chicago company, says, ''We recognize the influence contemporary (furniture) is having on the market and have now expanded our line to include this category. We are also making some of our designs smaller in scale to complement the new, lower contemporary seating.''

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On the other hand, Stiffel, true to its reputation for traditional offerings, is this summer introducing a new collection of elegant table lamps made of lead crystal, hand cut in a variety of patterns including diamonds, thistles, pineapples, and deep facets. Silk shades include such couture touches as ruching and tiny seed pearls to edge borders.

Besides table lamps, the dominant silhouettes today are the all-purpose portable pharmacy lamp, the tall, slender torchier lamp, which has had a remarkable revival in the last few years, and the tidy wall-hung lamp with swinging arm. The popularity of all three styles is due to their minimal profiles. They don't take up much visual space or floor space, important concerns in today's smaller living quarters.

Mr. Shapiro of Beth Weissman terms the pharmacy lamp ''the most singularly useful lamp ever designed for the contemporary market. It can be used in so many ways - for reading, playing games, or beside a piano for reading music. It can be used to wash a wall with light, or it can be used as mood setter. It swivels, adjusts to many heights, and is easily portable.''

Mr. Shapiro credits the strong comeback of torchier lamps to the resurgence of modern furnishings and interiors, although the lamps are being made in traditional styles as well. ''The torchier was long considered to be old-fashioned and old hat,'' he says. ''For years they were scarcely made at all. But their indirect lighting is great for general illumination, and they certainly have a stately elegance about them.''

''Adding a new lamp or rearranging existing lighting,'' says Joe Minicucci, designer of Westwood lamps, ''is probably the simplest way to change the atmosphere of any room in your home.''

Mr. Minicucci contends that any room can easily utilize three or four types of lighting, each performing a separate function.

For instance, track lighting can be used to showcase wall paintings or to define the shape of a room or of separate spaces within it.

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Table lamps and floor lamps are both essential, he says, for reading, sewing, and other tasks. And so, he says, are up-lights, which are usually canister in type and sit on the floor beside or behind the sofa to dramatize large plants or pieces of sculpture, or to brighten once-dark corners. Ceiling and wall fixtures aid in general illumination.

Mr. Minicucci recommends experimenting with lamps. Instead of placing matching ones at both sides of the sofa, he suggests using a square table with a decorative lamp on one end and an ultrasimple floor lamp at the other end.

Or try purchasing one really important lamp for a room and allowing it to be a self-illuminating focal point, keeping the rest of the lighting relatively simple.

In buying any lamp, Mr. Minicucci advises that you first consider the size of the room and evaluate existing furniture and its placement. Determine exactly what you want the lamp to accomplish, decoratively and functionally. You are then ready to do some intelligent shopping.

Jimmy Smith, president of Sunset Lamps in California, contends that the next major influence in the lamp industry is already taking place: the use of energy-saving fluorescent lamps and quartz (or tungsten-halogen) bulbs. ''Europeans have used them for more than seven years to illuminate both large and small spaces,'' he says, ''and because quartz bulbs are so small, they stimulate new, sleek architectural designs in lamps.''

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