Cool, crazy lamps

Cool, crazy lamps

Long gone are the days when you could think of a lamp as a colorless combination of bulb, base and shade. As Ashland's Ala Kalika shop demonstrates, you can use one or two dazzling lamps from Asia to turn your house into a fun, playful explosion of shape and color.

A swervy, 4-foot-high, standing lamp called "the wave" is made of petrified cocoa leaves, each a sweet pastel color, woven to rattan binding in a four-sided affair meant for cooler, compact-fluorescent bulbs that won't toast shades.

The leaves aren't really petrified like fossils, explains co-owner Mark MacDougall — just dried, colored and firm enough to be used as panels 4 and 6 feet high.

It's $290, and this is a recession, right? But it's going to change a whole room, something a couch or carpet often can't do — and should last for decades.

The effect is stunning, and the lamp can be used anywhere — floor, table, bookcase — where it will serve as an automatic conversation-starter, "a way to make a statement and bring a change in ambience without spending that much money," says MacDougall. "And it brings such warmth into a room."

There isn't a conventional idea in the whole store located on the Ashland Plaza at 40 N. Main St. Instead, you're dazzled by a spectrum of "omg" moments as you realize how any one of the lamps would bring a major shift in the delight level of each room.

Take the silk lamps from Thailand, stretched on wire frames to pose as flowers, leaves or sea horses, able to sit on tables or hang — yes, hang — on the edge of a table or shelf. That's what the delightfully curved, "sea horse" lamps do, and they can be quickly moved around to hang anywhere you like. They're $160.

Four-sided, Thai "sea lamps" illuminate through textured sheets of flowers, leaves and fruits in many colors — about 2 feet high — and go for a wallet-friendly $20. Hanging globe lamps from Vietnam, with tassels, cost from $30 to $45. Gecko wall lamps, with the creature's head in the lampshade, cost $83.

Especially popular are the standing, full-height, "jellyfish" lamps, which live up to their name with a multicolored medusa shell and dangling tentacles with marble-studded wires. They're eco-friendly and go for $300.

Many, like the paper, star-shaped lamps from India, are mass-produced with tags of $20, but many more should be considered actual art objects, such as the giclees (sprayed digital images) on silk shades with ceramic bases by Barbara Wood from New Mexico, signed and numbered and hinting at desert themes.

The medium-tall, four-legged, floor lamps, says co-owner Peter McCusker, are light and easy to move around.

"They're all designed as mood lighting, to create a theme that the whole house can coordinate with," he says. "There's a lot of silk, an Asian feel, but not too overtly — and you'll be talking with guests about their beauty, origin and the fact they're fair-traded (living wages for all workers) and ecologically friendly."

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