Contrary to what you might expect, pharmacy floor lamps are not actually floor lamps for pharmacies. In fact, most pharmacies don’t even use floor lamps anymore, opting instead for a combination of bright overhead and desk lighting.
Nonetheless, pharmacy floor lamps do have their origin in the pharmacy. Those whose jobs involved mixing together precise amounts of potentially dangerous substances needed to have bright light with which to work. Moreover, because pharmacists stand up while working (there are a number of reasons for this), they needed precisely calibrated light that wouldn’t get in their way.
As a result, what is now called a “pharmacy floor lamp” can perhaps be better called an adjustable floor lamp. Usually, a pharmacy floor lamp will have two swivels. The first will be at the very top of the stem of the lamp, so that you can turn the head in different directions. The second will be half-way down the head of the lamp as an “elbow”, so to speak, allowing you to swivel the head in both directions. The combination of the two allows you to focus the light on any spot under the radius of its head, giving it flexibility.
Other pharmacy floor lamps mimic this flexibility by having a swivel. That is, rather than simply having an arm at the top, it has a bar that goes across the top and can either be rotated, raised or lowered. Just like with the double-jointed head, this allows you to shine the light in any area that can be reached by the lamp.
Pharmacy floor lamps provide flexible and directed light. As mentioned above, it is flexible, because of the swiveling head. It is also directed, pointing downwards, and generating a beam that is fairly strong. Most pharmacy floor lamps have heads that are opaque, meaning that very little light escapes except downward, providing almost no ambient lighting for your room. Many pharmacy floor lamps actually use halogen bulbs, which provides even more directed light than incandescent or fluorescent bulbs would.
Perhaps the most common use for pharmacy floor lamps is as a reading lamp. Because these floor lamps can be placed behind a chair, but can still have the arms go over the back of the chair, it is quite easy to provide solid, directed reading light for whatever material you happen to be enjoying. In many ways, a pharmacy floor lamp is better than a table lamp, whose downward light usually doesn’t reach all the way to the chair and, if it did, would look awkward.
Another use is for ambient lighting. This might sound strange, as I just said that directed light makes poor ambient lighting. This is true, so long as it is not diffused off of anything. Because pharmacy floor lamps are so directed and so flexible, they are wonderful for splashing light off of walls, generating attractive light objects and creating ambient lighting for the entire room.
The flexibility allows these light objects to be generated at exactly the angle that you want. So, for example, you could create a beam of light that runs directly parallel to the stairs, or on that runs perpendicular to the ceiling. Really it is up to you. Because the beams from pharmacy lights are so strong, they produce clear light objects and attractive ambient light when reflected.
A pharmacy floor lamp, therefore, can serve many different roles within your home. It can serve for reading or for ambient lighting. The only thing you won’t be using it for is for a pharmacy!