Preservation Magazine, Winter 2023

How Filoli's Curators Solved the Problem of a Tiffany Lamp

Filoli's floor lamp.

photo by: Lucas Saugen

The Tiffany Studios floor lamp that currently stands in a corner of the Gentleman’s Lounge at Filoli in Woodside, California, is not the one that helped illuminate William Bourn’s poker games in the early 20th century. The contents of the house, built in 1917 by William and Agnes Bourn as a private residence, had largely been auctioned off before the estate became a National Trust Historic Site nearly 60 years later.

When Filoli’s curatorial team started restoring the lounge in 2020, they had only two historic photographs of the room to go on, plus a swatch of the original wallpaper and an inventory drawn up after the Bourns’ deaths in 1936. The inventory helped identify artwork from the couple’s original collection. But although it mentioned a Tiffany floor lamp in the lounge, it didn’t name the specific design—and the lamp didn’t appear in the photo.

So the curatorial team drew on their knowledge of the Bourns’ choices elsewhere in the house to figure out the best match. “They seemed to go for understated beauty,” says Julie DeVere, Filoli’s former director of museum collections. Donor Brad Parberry ultimately selected a Tiffany floor lamp from the early 20th century that features Tiffany’s “Pine Needle” pattern.

Placed next to a pair of brown leather vintage-style club chairs, the lamp rests on three lily-pad feet, its bronze stem rising to a green opalescent slag-glass shade. “The room has so much green in it, from the vining on the wallpaper to the tops of the poker table and pool table,” DeVere says. “It looks like it should be there.”

By: Ron Nyren

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