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Shoji lamps are glowing boxes of bamboo and paper, constructed with thin, wooden slats holding rectangles of white rice paper to diffuse the light bulb's glare. Unlike most lamps, the lampshade and body of a shoji lamp are integrated into one rectilinear unit. Inspired by Japanese shoji screens, the lamp glows serenely and exudes natural calm that resembles sunlight where windows aren't possible.
Table, floor, and hanging lamps are created in the shoji style. There are four materials necessary to every Japanese house: paper, wood, earth, and reed. A lamp contains two of them. Fibrous papers, such as rice or mulberry paper, turn a regular incandescent bulb into a softened, white object. Japanese handmade papers called washi are perfect for this application. Washi don't have the opacity of wood-pulp paper; therefore their translucence diffuses light. Often bamboo lattices the frame. It might be so thin that light can shine through, showing off the grain's intricate patterns. A subtle design element varies with the color and grain of bamboo.
In Japanese interior design, shoji screens fulfill many important roles. First, they can give privacy without enclosing a space, when living space is at a premium. Light and air flow freely with these divisions for proper ventilation. Also, hinged lattice screens are light in weight, so they fold and move easily. This allows a static space to be ever changing and adjusting without becoming stale. Washi breathes, because it is a non-synthetic fiber, distributing humidity. This resilient paper even acts as an insulator. While not all of these functions of the screen translate to the use of a shoji lamp, they still represent the essence of Japanese design.
Elegance, harmony, and nature reinforce Japanese aesthetics and values. As the West becomes frazzled, they increasingly seek furnishings that make the home seem open and peaceful. Either as an accessory in a Western home or integrated into a traditional Japanese room, the shoji lamp brings minimalism and flexibility.