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Buyer's Guides - Table Lamp Buyer's Guide: How to pick 'em

Table Lamp Buyer's Guide: How to pick 'em

Posted on March 31, 2015 by Cody Baertschi | 0 comments

Table lamps are as important as art on the walls, and rugs on the floor. When combined with the right shade, these accent pieces are practical focal points essential to any space where people tend to hang out. 

What you'll find in this guide:

SIZE MATTERS - room size dictates the size of the lamp.

SIZE MATTERS - table dimensions dictate lamp size.

Bed Room Tips

Living Room Tips

Office Tips


Of course, there's a lot to consider, here's the whole enchilada of what to consider when buying a table lamp:


SIZE MATTERS - room size dictates the size of the lamp.

Find the height, shape, and overall size of your table lamp to keep it proportional to the size of your room. A lower ceiling should have a relatively shorter light, where as - you guessed it - a tall ceiling can accommodate a taller table lamp.

Here's an example: 

Let's say you have a large room over 16' x 20' with 10' ceilings. This spacious room is best suited for a larger scale table lamp, likely above 30" high.

Smaller spaces, such as a den or lower-ceiling rec-rooms are better with conventional table lamps - usually 20-26" high.

Another height note to consider:

Keep the light bulb from shining in your eyes. Check other lamps you have to see if the bulb is in your sight line at a given height.

SIZE MATTERS - table dimensions dictate lamp size.

The size of the table may seem a bit more obvious, but there are some good rules of thumb that a certain Goldilocks would appreciate.

Be sure to pick lamp that is not too large to take up all of the space on the table. On the other hand, do not choose a teeny lamp that will be dwarfed by a large table.

Table lamps for the bedroom:


A good rule of thumb is to have the shade width be from half to near the full edge width of the side table. It should never reach beyond the edge. This rule of thumb is an aesthetic concern as much as a risk of the lamp falling to the ground.

how to measure bed side lamps


Dresser lamp choices are made best with the dresser’s height in mind. Tall tables (greater than three feet) should have lamps no higher than 24”. This concept is to accommodate the practical use of the lamp, the aesthetic proportion, and the balance of a fragile item that’s up high.


A short dresser doesn’t mean reach for the stars:

If the dresser is short (say 30”), keep the lamp at a similar measurement. You can go up to 36” if the lamp is stable when the dresser is inevitable bumped.

The word to remember with sizing is proportion. Measure twice, cut once is a good adage for wood, and perhaps measure twice, buy once is a great way to think about your lighting purchase.

Table Lamps for the living room:

A lot of the rules of thumb indicated for bedrooms are applicable here. Being spatially aware and leveraging proportion is still critical. 

The highlight of table lamps for living room use as they serve as conversational lighting. Nothing kills a good chat like the unfortunate light on your conversing partner (or adversary if politics get brought up, again). 


Conversational lighting is a highly important consideration in living rooms:

According to Amy Bickers of Gabby, "A report on physical space and social interaction found that it is best to choose furnishings that do not convey status within a group. This concept will maximize social exchange so that it doesn’t seem as if one person is in charge or at the center of attention." Regarding table lamp usage, keep the lighting balanced and equal among guests to keep the focal point neutral.

If the side table is small, but the need is still there for an adequate reading light, consider a floor lamp. 

Table lamps for office:

Desk lamps are a whole different beast. They start at practicality and live there. If a desk lamp isn't practical, it isn't in a busy work space. 

Like dressers, wide or tall file cabinets often see a table lamp. Also like dressers, tall cabinets (greater than three feet) should have lamps no larger than 24”. Nothing kills productivity like an off balance fragile lamp plummeting to the floor from a place up high.

Designer's note:

Put your best foot forward. Table lamps for office should match the aesthetic, and the most impressive should be the first (and most often) seen by clients and customers. 

For the complete picture on office lighting that helps you work, check out our comprehensive blog post on TASK LIGHTING.


Placement tips


    • You can place many lamps in one room to get rid of shadows as well as dark areas.
    • A reading lamp should be alongside your shoulder.
    • The lamp shade bottom should be even with your head.
    • If your lamp is quite tall, you need to move it back at least two feet away.
    • Regarding desk lamps, you need one that provides enough light on the work surface.

COORDINATE - let the room's other items help you.


You've got a taste, and that taste is on display within your space. Take a good look, find the common elements - colors, shapes, sizes, etc. and work on matching those.

The above image shows a lamp too close to the edge, but it does show a color balance of off white, egg shell colors. The wall is a tone or two darker than the cream in the shade, while the chair is a lighter, off white color. 

This step is important:

Make sure that the cool new table lamp you buy won't be the out of the place elephant in the room. 


If you already have a lamp base without a shade:

Fret not, we have a guide for that too, where you can actually figure out the exact right size of lamp shade you need based on the size and shape/style of your lamp base. Consult the section of our lamp shade buyer's guide regarding how to measure a lamp shade for tips on what size shade you'll need depending on your lamp base size.

Once you have an idea of the size you may need, consider the shape of the lamp base to help you decide what kind of lamp shade to look for. See our section on How to match the shade shape to the lamp base for simple tips about matching the lamp shade shape to the style of the base. While it may be easy to just throw a typical empire shade onto your lamp, it will look better when the shape of the lampshade complements or balances or brings out the shape of the base.

It's recommended to read the full lamp shade buyers guide.


      QUALITY MATTERS - as usual, you get what you pay for...

      Your home can benefit from the table lamp that is exquisitely made with the finest materials and craftsmanship. Thus, look for high-quality lamps that can offer you functionality and beauty, plus a long life.

      When you bear in mind the factors mentioned above, you will surely have better chances of ending up with a lamp that serves the purpose and provides more benefits both for you and your home.



      When you taken the preliminary measures mentioned above, you can proceed to step two: Buying your lamp.

      The moment you set foot in a light fixture shop, you have to know what are you looking for, based on the things you already know about the lamp you want. You have also to pay attention to the following:

      Lamp design - Select a table lamp that will complement the decoration or motif of the preferred room. Be sure to pick one that melds with the other elements of design and with the pieces of furniture so that space will look well-put-together.

      Pick the fabric of the lamp shade that meets your needs - For this, you have to look for a lamp with a lampshade that serves the purpose.

      This means that if you want a table lamp as a task light for reading, you have to pick one which can provide you with enough light. On the other hand, if your main purpose is for decoration, you can pick the shades made of rich and textured fabrics.



      There are more guides for other stuff as well: lighting buying guides

      Where to buy lamps online

      Websites selling lighting assortments are enumerable, but at LampsUSA we've been selling lighting online for decades. 

      We've made it easy for you by ensuring we have all of the popular and even obscure sizes and shapes in stock. Our prices are very hard to beat and our 120% lowest-price guarantee ensures you're getting the best deal.

      Contemporary Traditional  Art-Glass  Rustic Lodge  Mission Prairie 
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