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Table Lamp Tips: How to Pick the Right One

Updated: Jun 15, 2021

Lighting tips abound on the internet. But a bit less often found are resources that help improve your understanding of the importance great lighting tips have on your health and well being. Lighting is a vital component of any well-functioning room, sure. But as much a necessity as your home’s lighting is, the perfect lighting tips aren’t only about just choosing the right lamp for your space. Choosing the right lamp, and lighting more broadly, can elevate this utilitarian need to creative, calming and deeply satisfying places.

Did you know that light sends time-of-day signals to the rest of our body’s circadian rhythms, which is our internal 24-hour clock? Believe it or not, many studies have proven that light influences our mood too. So, choosing the way we light the places we occupy most is essential for our health, more than even our interior design sensibilities. But setting aside the impacts light has on our psychological well being, there is as obvious a role lighting plays in how we use our spaces. A living room, for instance, needs a warm, cozy light both bright enough for reading that novel you’ve been promising to get to, but also invites you and yours to cuddle under a blanket as well. Conversely, but equally important, an office needs brightly-lit task spaces that provide ample light to deliver on that pressing deadline, but also gentle enough to keep your eyes from suffering the fatigue commonly associated with poor work space lighting.

Lighting tips, as it turns out, are not just about advising you on a nice table lamp or lamp shade design, now are they? No. It seems that the best lighting tips therefore comprise advice on choosing lighting pieces as if they are as important as any other element of the house, and deserve the requisite time and attention to get right.

So, let’s get this right.

Great Lighting Tips

The truth is that layering your lights in each room is one of the best things you can do to make your home an efficient and fulfilling living space. Applying a layering approach to your lighting is the best lighting design tip you’ll ever get because it’s expressly designed to achieve a mood and tone of the space that from there, helps define the space’s uses and its benefits to you, yours and the home’s personality overall.

The best light layering techniques thoughtfully define each room's main purposes and from there, inform the space’s lighting design needs. For example, in a bedroom you may want a fancy chandelier over the bed to achieve the overall design mood and ambience you have in mind for the space. As pretty as this is however, this lighting design will struggle to satisfy your desire to read in bed. Likewise, such a bedroom lighting plan will make it difficult for you to select the perfect outfit in your closets. So in this scenario, layering our lighting smartly, stylishly, we would use a ceiling light, and then layer-in task lighting, such as a table lamp, sconces and perhaps even recessed lighting. Combined, these thoughtful points of light accomplish both the functional goals of providing for reading and wardrobe, without compromise to warming the atmosphere of such an important emotional haven as one’s bedroom.

A table lamp is a great way to add task lighting to a nightstand in your bedroom, or a side table in your family or living room, without sacrificing the charming design scheme for which you are aiming. If you’re on a limiting budget and want some big design bang for your buck, a great lighting tip is to use the table lamp to emphasize the room style you aim to showcase in your home. A couple of lighting tips to always keep in mind are to be mindful of the size and shape of the lamp shade, the color of the lamp shade and of course the materials used to manufacture the base of the lamp.

Tips for Purchasing Lighting

Before you purchase your next lamp however, there are a few table lamp and lighting tips that deal directly in purchasing your lamps. The most important factor is scale. As a matter of fact, scale is probably one of the most important factors in any facet of interior design. Each piece of furniture, accessory, artwork, lighting, every single item contributes to the whole picture of your room. You want to showcase those special pieces that you adore and speak to you the most, and they need their space to shine. They will not be highlighted if they are overshadowed by another item that is fighting for visual space. You can think of each area as a vignette, and build them into the whole room design. Think of your end table as its own vignette. Your table is the base and anchor, the lighting and any accessories that sit atop of it are the pretty details that add depth. When it comes to the table lamp, the thing to consider is the size and height of the table it is resting on. You want to make sure you look at not only the base dimensions on the lamp, but also the shade dimensions. A shade may, in fact, end up being a lot larger than your table or console, and cause an asymmetry in your space’s design scheme. To prevent such unequal design components sharing the same space, make sure you measure the length and width of your table and compare it to the shade. A great interior designer works with reputable lighting vendors who together can help guide you through the selection and purchase of your lamp and shade decisions.

Ok, so you have found a good width, but you’re not done yet! Let’s look at the height of your table compared to the height of the whole lamp, because the perfect height is also a matter of avoiding an imbalance between the table’s height and the lamp’s. A good rule of thumb is to at least have a lamp height that is a little more than 2/3 the height of the table. For instance, if your end table is 30" tall, you’ll want to avoid a lamp that is smaller than 20" tall because it will look dwarfed and not proportionate to the height of the table.

But achieving the ideal height of your lamp and table ensemble isn’t without its hazards too. Typically, the lamp can reach the same height as the table is tall, providing the lamp is heavy enough and is made of sturdy enough material that it won’t tip over when let’s say you bump into it with the vacuum cleaner. The last thing you want is for your lamp to tip over and break after you put so much effort into buying the perfect one. You also want your investments to last long! So be sure that when you’re matching the table’s height with the lamp’s, you’re doing so with sensitivity to functionality too. Remembering that the elegance of interior design is really only fully realized when we combine both practically of function with artistry of form seamlessly.

Now we’re getting somewhere with our lighting tips and our space’s lighting is beginning to take shape!

Next comes your lamp shade width. In most circumstances, a vendor will sell their lamp with it’s appropriate shade. The thing to keep in mind is to make sure it is not as wide as the table; a few inches less than the narrowest depth of the top is usually a good bet. By now, your head is probably spinning with all these important tips I am throwing at you. Since most of us are visual learners, I have demonstrated in the sketch below how different lamp heights look with the same sized table.

You can see how the smaller lamp, at 20", appears to look just fine. But when given the option of a taller lamp, you can see how it looks more balanced with the scale of the table. The key to good design: always make sure everything gets a moment of appreciation. Of course, there is always an exception. I always suggest to my clients that the first task is to make sure the function is there, and then we can add in the pretty elements. If your space is limited, and you have a smaller table top surface which also needs to house an alarm clock, perhaps a dish for your jewelry, a candle, a book, etc, then you need to opt for a narrower lamp base. Again, proportion is key!

Ergonomic Lighting Tips

Another important task lighting tip deals in knowing physically where you will need the light lit. For example, if you like to wind down from a busy day with a glass of wine and a good book in bed, you need this comfort lighting to strike the book properly. In this case, the perfect place for the lamp shade aligns with your shoulder. This way, the path of the light functions well for reading, without intruding upon this equally important relaxation ritual. Try it yourself! If you already have a night stand, go ahead and sit in bed, and measure approximately where your shoulder compares to the table top. Does the light lend to both your functional and habitual bedtime priorities? The right interior designer takes the time to not just go over colors and styles and schemes. She also gets deeply acquainted with your lifestyle, and introduces interior design components that make existing rituals more satisfying, while leaving improved spaces to introduce new ones.

Finally Tying In Your Space’s Scheme

Every element in your room needs to exist in harmony and no lighting tip is complete without addressing this. Like a symphony is only as beautiful to the ear as the sum of its contributors, your home is only as perfect for you as its parts make it.

So before you click "buy now," or rush through your next design consultation, let’s discuss the headboard in your bedroom, or the sofa in your living room. You see, these components act as the centerpieces from which your lamps are given their fullest potential to shine. Once you’ve selected the perfect sized lamps and lamp shades, you don't want to risk shoehorning these exciting additions into a space that ends up looking crammed and stressed. Remembering our goal to achieve our perfect mood, it’s critical to use negative space, also known as open space, to achieve the mood lighting your mind, body and soul deserve. Therefore, you and your interior designer should seek to achieve movement and space between design components. I always take a step back and look at my clients’ walls to make sure I feel there is good flow between components. A quick tip for marking the space is to ask your designer to outline the potential destinations for your components with blue painters tape. A simple visual aid like this will help you imagine the space occupied by the items you’re exploring.

You’re Ready to Design

Now that you’re equipped to pick out that perfect lamp, it’s time to select your design.

How exciting!

As an interior designer located at the Jersey Shore, I get many requests for coastal inspired lamps. So if this happens to be your style, you’re in luck because I have put together a few of my favorite coastal feeling table lamps!

If you are looking for other design styles to complete your home, or you are feeling overwhelmed by all these details and you prefer to benefit from my interior design eye, schedule your discovery call with Victoria Rue Interiors today, and together we will make your house your dreamscape!

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