Whether you choose modern or antique table lamps for your home depends very much on your existing interior styling and personality. However, that said, your existing styling doesn't necessarily need to dictate the type of table lamp you choose as often an accessory in contrast to surrounding furnishings can add a really electric touch to your home.
Let's have a look at antique lamps. Some antique lamps are made with brass or wrought iron stems and often topped with fabric type lamp shades. However antique lamps can also have bases made from ceramics or porcelain. Antique lamp bases from China and Japan very often feature ceramic or porcelain bases. Another familiar style of antique lamp is the directors desk lamp which has a glass (often green glass) verandah style head and a brass base. The sort of lamp you might find in your state library.
Another popular antique lamp is the leadlight lamp. These are very intricate and ornate lamps and often very colourful. These lamps are really very beautiful and can work in a contemporary design as well as an old world styled space. The Parisian influence in antique table lamps is evident by their embroidered fabric shades often found with tear drop crystals or tassels hanging from the bottom of the shade. These are very often found in reproduction specialty stores.
Modern table lamps are generally much more minimalistic in design than your antique lamps. Due to their newer and more advanced design that are very often more functional than a period piece. Their lines are often very simple utilising arcs or angles to set of their heads. Due to the fluid nature of these designs the bases are often made from smooth metals such as stainless steel or brushed stainless steel for a more demure look. Their heads or shades can often be made from glass or other smooth, simple and elegant compounds. These modern designs are very often works of art in their own right and can be ultra modern or just downright kooky. Some modern pieces use unexpected designs for their bases such as petrified rope or a base in the shape of an animal. The options are endless.
Due to their recent design and use of state of the art materials and technology, the end result is often very much more functional than an antique piece. So as far as a reading lamp goes, you might find a modern lamp to be more functional than an antique one. Many modern table lamps are touch lamps whereby they will switch on if you touch any part of the lamp; no more searching for the cord and/or the button to activate your lamp.