Shine a Light on the Modern

Stories in new Winter CA-Modern spotlight the finest in MCM-style lamps and shades
Fridays on the Homefront
Meet three MCM-style lampshade producers and a dozen unique lamp and shade products in a pair of new home improvement stories in the hot-off-the-press Winter 2020 issue of CA-Modern magazine. Pictured above: ‘Vernaculis II Giclee Pendant Lamp,’ one example of the approximately 100 color options from Lamps Plus’ Color + Plus Collection.

“Mid-century modern—it’s coming back!”

Many who trace their appreciation of MCM back to some time preceding the first season of ‘Mad Men’ have to smile when they hear this sage proclamation for the umpteenth time.

“I still hear it,” says stylistic San Francisco-based lampshade producer Rob Fine with a wry grin, adding, “‘Modernism is coming back!’”

Not that Fine is unhappy about this recurring observation. It certainly has helped create a demand for products from Fine’s company, Meteor Lights, and other lampshade vendors featured in a pair of stories by preservation consultant Adriene Biondo in the new Winter 2020 issue of CA-Modern magazine.

  Fridays on the Homefront
Photo: courtesy Meteor Lights

“Over the past half-century, as the popularity of post-World War II design has hit its stride, the market for classic vintage lighting has grown,” Biondo observes in ‘Swayed by the Shade,’ the main story of the pair.

“There’s nothing like an elegant mid-century lamp to provide the finishing touch in a living area, or a pair of fabulous 1950s-era lamp with swirling fiberglass shades to set a mood in a bedroom,” she writes.

Regarding the market for vintage lamps, Biondo continues, “Changes in materials and availability have fostered a comeback for the business too, with collectors, homeowners, and decorators looking to source suitable authentic-looking replacements.”

  Fridays on the Homefront
Rob Fine of Meteor Lights puts the finishing lacing on a shade.

For her sidebar story, Biondo compiled her dozen favorite vendors of the style, including full retro lamps and shade specialists like Meteor Lights and the other two profiled in the mainbar, Modilumi and Retromod Design.

Fine said in a subsequent interview that his fiberglass shades are all handmade from specific color and design choices selected by each customer. That’s been the plan ever since he started the company in 1996 because “the style really doesn’t lend itself to mass production.”

“I rarely do the same thing twice,” he said of a potential variety of design possibilities that he pegs in “the tens of millions…[and] I’m still always encountering different combinations of the options.”

  Fridays on the Homefront
Unique design from Meteor Lights. Photo: courtesy Meteor Lights

The Los Angeles native is effusive about the unique nature of light diffused through fiberglass, conceding, “Ironically, it gives you a naturalness even though it’s a synthetic material.”

The sidebar, titled ‘Let There Be Light…and Shade,’ includes Meteor Lights’ ‘Atomic Three-Tier Lampshade’ among its dozen modernist lighting styles, commenting that it “reflects the mid-century modern, Jetsons, Googie, biomorphic, and tiki-style lamps of the postwar period.”

“A lot of it is actually grounded in the political economy of the 1950s,” Fine says of the style of lamp that many of today’s modernists seek to light their home. He explains that, as American homes were built somewhat larger in the 1960s, short-shaded lamps of the ‘50s fell out of style and were replaced by ones with longer shades.

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