“French wired” means that the cord of a lamp is connected directly to the socket, rather than being threaded down through and exiting out of the base.
Although this method of wiring was common with all styles of lamps a century ago, French wiring is used today with fixtures whose bases are clear or shaped so that there is no other way for the cord to be concealed. A tube or pipe running through the see-through base, for example, would detract from the ethereal effect which the lamp designer was trying to achieve.
Consumers who are shopping online should be advised that many product shots of lighting fixtures do not show the cords. If the wiring method isn’t specified in the product description, keep in mind that any delicate and/or transparent base such as the one shown here by Hudson Valley is likely to be constructed with French wiring. Be sure to inquire before buying if you think that you would be turned off by the sight of a cord dangling directly from the socket.
Q. Can a French-wired lamp be retrofitted?
A. Sometimes. But it depends on the shape of the base and what it’s made of. Even if the cord can’t be re-routed, it can be changed if its color is dark and conspicuous — something often seen on vintage or antique lamps. At The Newburyport Lighting Company, we offer lamp repair and rewiring services along with an extensive supply of shades which can give an old fixture a new look, so please feel free to bring in your lamp for a free evaluation.
Another option (if the lamp can’t be rewired) is to place decorative objects in a grouping around and especially behind the lamp so that the cord can be partially concealed.