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A Buyer's Guide to Table Lamps

Last Updated on March 31, 2015 by Steve Brielmaier | 0 comments

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Table lamps are as important as the art on the walls and the rugs on the floor. When combined with the right lampshade, these accent pieces can be practical focal points- essential to any space where people tend to hang out. Don’t just pick the first table lamp at the yard sale. Consider the size of the room, the table, and the location of the lamp before choosing. Before you even start shopping, you should measure the room it’s going in and the table it’s going on, and consider the style of the rest of the decor in that room.

Size matters - room size should dictate the size of the table 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:

Bedside lamp tip:

A good rule of thumb for bedside table lamps 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.

Another factor to consider is the height of the lamp. The bottom of the a nightstand lamp’s shade should be above your eye line as you are sitting on the bed. You don’t want a bright light shining in your eyes as you get ready to sleep!

nightstand lamps for bedroom

Dresser lamp tip:

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”. Think small table lamps here. 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.

End Table Lamps for the Living Room:

A lot of the rules of thumb indicated for bedside table lamps are applicable here. Being spatially aware and leveraging proportion is still critical. According to Decoist, The base of the lampshade should be about level with your eye line as you sit on the couch.

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).

Table lamps for living room traditional

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 side table lamp usage in the living room, keep the lighting balanced and equal among guests to keep the focal point neutral.

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

Table Lamps for the Office:

Desk lamps are a whole different beast. They start at practicality and live almost entirely there there. If a desk lamp isn't practical, it isn't in a busy work space. That said, there are plenty of ways to mix form and function when it comes to a desk lamp. Desk lamps should direct light downwards, to illuminate documents, keyboards, or artwork. Their bulbs should be bright enough to work from, and their bases shouldn’t take up too much precious work space on the desk or table top.

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.

Coordinate table lamps with your decor

end table lamps

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, eggshell 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. For example, a crystal table lamp can be a great, modern touch, but if the rest of your decor is traditional, it might look out of place in place of something like a Tiffany style table lamp.

If you already have a lamp base without a shade:

Fret not, we have a guide for that too. In our comprehensive lamp shades guide, 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. Table lamp shades come in all shapes and sizes, so be sure to 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.
Bedside table lamps
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.

Buy with confidence

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. Whether that’s a crystal table lamp, a Tiffany table lamp, or a stick table lamp, 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 needsEven a beautiful table lamp can be marred by a poor choice in lamp shade.

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.


Interested in more lighting guides, tips and tricks? Head over to our extensive buyer’s guide section to learn more: lighting buying guides

Where to buy lamps online

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

We've made it easy for you to buy a table lamp 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.

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