Saying that a lighting fixture or piece of furniture looks "European" is the same as saying something tastes like chicken. It's too general to have much meaning and always sounds suspicious, because everyone knows the only thing that <em>really</em> tastes like chicken ... is chicken.
People at all familiar with Europe can tell you that a) it's pretty big, and b) it's extremely diverse in terms of its various histories, styles and sense of design. To say a lamp looks very "European" is to say it looks English, or Italian, or Spanish, or German, etc. The problem is, all of those countries have design elements and styles that are often nothing alike, particularly across different historical periods.
It's not like saying something is American. Nebraska may not be the same as California, but they're far more similar than Albania is to Iceland. Europe is composed of 50 countries (as of 2012) and has about 30 different languages. They may all be European, but if you call a Scot an Irishman you better have a face made of metal.
So, in an attempt to clear up the "European" misnomer, here are some relatively safe associations that can be made when it comes to styles that hail from a few select countries in this madcap continent.
Although contemporary <a href="http://www.atgstores.com/illuminating-experiences_m182.html" target="_blank">Italian lighting</a> and <a href="http://www.atgstores.com/domitalia_m2600.html" target="_blank">furniture</a> has pushed fully into the modern and post-modern movement, traditional Italian style relied on extremely ornate designs that were often inspired by patterns found in nature, particularly with regard to flowers and plant life. Of course, this Roman influence can be seen in many European modes of design over the years (centuries, in fact) thanks to their conquest of the region, and this design is arguably the most "European" when people use that term; however, to reduce every cultural design movement in Europe to Roman precursors seems like an insult. For example ...
Germans are known for their minimalism and efficiency in contemporary design, which stems from a modern movement that arose from neoclassicism after the Romanesque period. Put more simply, Germany has followed a trend that shifts away from excessive design elements and focuses on strong, solid lines and crisp functional design. There are always exceptions, of course, particularly in traditional Bavarian furniture and architectural design, but <a href="http://www.atgstores.com/holtktter-international_m226.html" target="_blank">German lighting</a> and furniture are typified by bold simplicity.
<strong>English Style </strong>
Much of the modern <a href="http://www.atgstores.com/savoy-house_m465.html?linkloc=newSearchRedirect" target="_blank">English style in lighting</a> and furniture often follows one of two paths that are split between a history of extravagant tastes among the ruling class and the staunch practicality of English peasantry. The former was influenced by the English Renaissance period of design that emphasized great amounts of elaborate detail, while the former utilized available materials to make strong and reliable designs.
Spain is unique among its Western European neighbors thanks to the converging art and design influence of the medieval Muslim Moors, the Romans and the Netherlanders (Flanders) during the beginning of the Spanish Renaissance. The result is a wild cornucopia of styles that is noticeably different from many other European locales. The jumble of influences can still be seen in many <a href="http://www.atgstores.com/estiluz-sa_m298.html" target="_blank">Spanish lighting</a> and furniture designs that combine fine detail with natural shapes and materials.
<strong>In summary ... </strong>
When someone says your table or chandelier looks "European" what they really mean to say is that it doesn't look American, and may quite possibly be Italian. Just kidding. They probably don't know what they mean at all.
Visit <a href="http://www.atgstores.com/" target="_blank">ATGStores.com</a> to browse millions of lighting and furniture options, most of which can be vaguely described as "European," especially if you're squinting.