These Luxe, Affordable Lamps Are My Decorating Secret Weapon

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I want to tell you about one of my favorite budget decor items, but fist, let’s flash back to my first time attending a live auction 15 years ago. My friends had brought me to a barn sale in upstate New York as part of our weekend entertainment. Before the auction began, we were allowed to walk around and look at the lots of things that would be sold. I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of objects on offer. 

Once the bidding began, we sat in the bleachers in the cold, drafty room watching as bidders scored antique bureaus for half the cost of something from Target, art for even less — the prices were gobsmackingly low. I didn’t particularly need anything that March afternoon, but I was swept up in the excitement of the bidding and the deals. When the auctioneer brought a pair of carved marble lamps up to the block, I raised my hand to enter the fray, and not a soul bid against me. I got the pair for a cool $20! I hadn’t even gotten a close look at them when we’d walked around the preview, but I figured they were so cheap, I’d surely scored a deal.

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When I went to pick up my prize at the end of the auction, I had second thoughts about my hasty purchase. These lamps were a little old-fashioned. I mean that in an endearing way, of course, but I wondered: How were they going to look in my Brooklyn apartment, where almost all of my furniture was vaguely mid-century modern with a smattering of IKEA to round out the collection? My friends assured me they were great, and I tucked them into the back of my station wagon. 

Back at home, I set up the lamps in my living room, and something magical happened: They elevated the whole room. Instead of looking too fussy, they looked effortless — chic, even. The room gained more of a collected-over-time look. My big-box store lamp landed on the stoop for someone else to take home.

A year or so later, I spotted a similar pair of alabaster lamps at a yard sale. Much more diminutive in size than my first pair, these possessed some truly awful glass shades that made them look decidedly uncool. By then, though, I knew the bases were classic style chameleons. They were also the perfect size to place on a dresser. I think I spent another $20 on these, and then bought shades to refresh their look for another $25. 

More than a decade and two moves later, I still have those two pairs of vintage stone lamps in my home. After using them in many rooms and noticing them in other homes, I believe vintage alabaster or marble lamps can elevate any room. Part of their design power lies in purchasing a pair. With two matching lamps, a room feels even more finished — like something picked out by a decorator — not just something you stumbled upon at a yard sale.  

If you don’t have a local vintage shop, you can buy similar lamps on eBay and Etsy for a little more (but still usually less than $100 a piece or even $50, if you really search); a quick search revealed this $80 stunner on Etsy. Your keywords beside “lamp” should be “marble,” “alabaster,” “carved,” and, if you subscribe to my idea of symmetry, “pair.” Don’t get dissuaded by a hideous shade; a replacement is just a click away, and you’ll still have spent less than you would have on a new lamp. 

Still not convinced vintage marble lamps are a must? Let Nate Berkus persuade you. He’s definitely on “Team Vintage Stone Lamp,” and I am, too.



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