More common, and typically less expensive, are hanging lights made during the 1920s, '30s, and '40s, when companies such as Lightolier in New York City were mass-producing fixtures for the millions of new homes, as well as schools and commercial buildings, being built with central electricity. The styles of these lights run the gamut from a hammered-copper pendant with an amber-color bowl-shaped shade for a Craftsman bungalow to a flashy chandelier dripping with crystal teardrops for the grand foyer of a Colonial Revival.

My favorites are the clean-lined Moderne lights popularized after the Paris Exposition Des Arts Decoratifs in 1925, because nearly a century later they still look contemporary. I recently bought such a fixture, with a milky-white and clear glass shade shaped like an inverted wedding cake, for $125 at Zaborski Emporium in Kingston, New York. Now hanging in my bedroom, it's infinitely more stylish than the nondescript home-center light the previous owners of my Art Deco apartment had installed. It's also from the right design era, which is an important factor to consider when buying a salvaged fixture. For interiors without a discernible architectural style, choose lights that match the size and scale of the room. For instance, a flush-mount light will fit in far better than a large chandelier in a narrow hallway. Coordinating the color of a glass shade with furniture, paint, or an area rug will help marry your lighting and decorating schemes.

Once you've got the aesthetics figured out, the installation is simple enough (see how at right). No electrician—or lamplighter or candle snuffer, for that matter—required.

TOH Tip: You can tell a converted gaslight by its shades, which are open at the top and point upward to promote combustion. Shades on electric fixtures often point down for more efficient lighting and can be open or closed.

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