published Saturday, November 5th, 2011

Lamp designs can set the tone for a room

Interior designer Mary Jane Tallant Fitzgerald credits much of her current passions in life to this small vintage lamp that decorated her room as a child.
Interior designer Mary Jane Tallant Fitzgerald credits much of her current passions in life to this small vintage lamp that decorated her room as a child.
Photo by Alex Washburn.

While they range in style from classic to whimsical, all lamps are practical and help to brighten any space.

Local interior designer Mary Jane Tallant Fitzerald, owner of Tallanted Interiors, said a lamp from her childhood influenced her passion for design. The small, bedside lamp features a young boy and girl joyfully dancing in front of a welcoming gingerbread-like house.

“My mother did not want to part with it, [but] I have it now,” Fitzgerald said. “[The lamp] had a lot to do with who I am. I believe this lamp is where the seed was planted for me to become a designer.

“The colors shaped who I’ve become. That’s why I believe the design of a room is so important. You must be surrounded by what you love.”

Fitzgerald’s home is filled with decorative lamps.

One of her favorites is a lamp base with a rabbit design.

“I call it the ‘I can be anything lamp’ because you can change a look with the lamp,” she said, explaining that the “bunny lamp” is whimsical and fun.

She has it placed on a stack of books to allow for proportion and height, she said. The lamp also helps to establish a theme of a room.

To offer a subdued light, Fitzgerald spruced up a rooster lamp.

“The rooster lamp came from Home Goods about 10 years ago,” she said, noting that she added a rooster ornament she found at a local lighting store, and feathery trim to the shade. “It is sitting on books to give it height,” she said. “It’s a fabulous one-of-a-kind lamp.”

Fitzgerald said she has a passion for lamps.

“I am always buying lamps, swapping shades, covering shades with up to four different fabrics and adding trim — that’s what makes an ordinary lamp extraordinary,” she said.

Devoted Tennessee and McCallie School football fans (son Walker plays football at McCallie), the Fitzgeralds have a University of Tennessee themed playroom. Included in the decor is a football lamp.

“We are extreme Vols football fans, so it lights up that collection,” she said. “The shade is interesting because (it’s) laser cut to show footballs when the light shines through.”

Another lamp high on her list of favorites is a St. Andrew’s lamp she bought in Scotland.

“It has a very special meaning to me, so I made one of our guest bedroom’s have a golf theme,” she said. “And my boys are golfers.” The lamp sits on a stack of golf books and business books. “They are color coordinated and proportionate — very important.”

An annual must-have for every home is an oriental lamp, Fitzgerald said. “It adds character and dimension,” she said.

While Fitzgerald said she routinely dresses up lamp shades with fabrics and trims, she sometimes adds jewelry to the mix.

“I love giving it that little extra touch,” she said. “I do it quite often with velvet ribbon and old beautiful pins. I just try different types of pins until I find what I like.”

Vintage lamps add character to a home, she said.

“Tole lamps with metal shield shades are interesting,” she said. “The shade is like an old fan or shield but the light is really good and comes out the bottom and top. They are great on my piano.”

The cost of a lamp does not have to be a budget breaker, she said.

Fitzgerald’s coral-like base lamp from Home Goods with a linen shade represents a modern design trend, she said. It cost $50.

Fitzgerald said she does not like twisted, compact fluorescent bulbs.

“Don’t get me started about the new bulbs — a bulb in the lighting world is called a lamp,” she said. “I hate them. The light they put out is terrible. Just give me a soft 75-watt incandescent or a three-way soft, of course, and I’m happy.”

about Karen Nazor Hill...

Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...

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sandyonsignal said...

Mary Jane is the best decorator around. She listens to her clients, works with what you have and what you love. She's a lot of fun and brightens the room when she walks into it. You can see it from the photo above, she's a warm person.

She has helped us many times over the years, our home is an expression of who we are. We have kids, cats, dogs and all are part of the family, so we need it to be casual and still look nice. No way can we do formal and stodgy. Also, husband loves Arts and Crafts style, I love country french. Mary Jane enmeshed it all and got it to work. She is excellent with colors too. I don't know how she gets it all to work, but she does. Our stove is mint julep, our kitchen island is pumpkin and a milk paint, and the cabinets are quarter sawn oak. It looks great. She is truly talented, um Tallanted.

November 5, 2011 at 8:13 a.m.
sandyonsignal said...

P.S. I don't like those bulbs either, but we have them in all of our rooms because they are better for the environment. Someone needs to develop a better low-energy light. Mary Jane? Anyone out there? I'll buy it.

November 5, 2011 at 8:23 a.m.
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