Picking the Perfect Lamp

Five lamps of different styles

Lamps are like jewelry: they’re not the main attraction, but they can make or break the look. Their light keeps us from tripping over furniture in the dark or wearing mismatched shoes, but what about the roles of design, décor, and balance? The key is to find the ideal combination of looks and functionality. We’re here to help you pick the perfect lamp(s) for your apartment with some guidance on size, style, and brightness.

Size

Before shopping or thrifting lamps, take measurements of the floor space, end table, or nightstand you’re looking to furnish. If planning for a table lamp, measure the table height and circumference; your lamp should be no more than 1.5 times the height of the furniture it rests on and the lampshade should not overlap the table. Also consider the weight of the lamp – something lightweight works well for less-traveled spots of the apartment, while heavier options are better for high-traffic areas…and places small children may be spending time. Height tip: the bottom of a table lamp shade should be roughly at eye level when you’re seated, whether in an office chair, on a couch, or in bed. This enables you to work, read, or socialize without an exposed light bulb blinding you.

Style

The look of your lamps ultimately depends on personal preference and the décor you already have in place, but as a rule of thumb, clear bases add less visual weight to a room, while wood or metal bases provide texture and richness. Crystal adds a touch a glamour, painted porcelain creates a luxurious feel, and exhibit lamps are clear bases with an opening at the top, to add decorative objects (like shells, glass, etc.). Along with a base that suits your style, you’ll want a lamp shade that matches the style of the base and the décor of the room. If your room primarily has neutral colors, pick a shade with a bold patter or color to spice things up. If you already have a lot of strong color in the room, choose a neutral shade.

Brightness

Think about the primary function of the lamp you’re looking for: mood lighting, reading, lighting the full room, etc. For purely decorative lighting, an opaque fabric shade will do the trick, illuminating from ceiling to floor rather than outward. For reading or darker rooms that need brightening, you may want a translucent lampshade that diffuses light. High-quality paper or fabric shades are ideal in this case. Not satisfied with the current brightness of your lamp(s)? Here’s a tip: safely increase the amount of light in your lamp with a fluorescent or LED bulb. These modern bulbs use significantly less wattage to produce the same amount of light, so you can put a higher wattage bulb into the lamp and it will produce even more light than a regular bulb while still being within the wattage rating of the lamp.