Buying a Table Lamp or Floor Lamp

You spent weeks intensely window shopping and surfing online, before you finally found the perfect lamp. But now that you have it at home, it doesn't look or feel quite right. It looked so cool in the photos on the website, so why doesn't work now? Manufacturers and retailers aren't stupid (well, most aren't). Beauty shots are meant accentuate the best visible characteristics of products, either by isolating them on a solid background or placing them in complementary decor. Photo stylists with a strong understanding of interior design and proportion ensure that everything coordinates. So, of course the lamp looks amazing in the photograph. Stylists also have an extra advantage - they don't have to consider the functional requirements for the lamp in the room, just the aesthetics. Do you need an advanced degree in rocket science to choose a simple table lamp? No, but you should be aware of a few things as you evaluate different lamps.

Location, Location, Location
Where are you planning to put the new lamp? Is it going to go on a table or on the floor? Will be in a high traffic area?
Table lamps are the right choice for placement on tables and floor lamps for the floor...shocker. If you're buying a lamp for an end table or desk, it's important to consider the strength and durability of the table. If the table is delicate or the top is easily scratched, you might want to consider a lighter weight lamp with a round or padded base. Obviously, the sturdier the table, the heavier a lamp it can accommodate.

Arteriors Bronte Lamp
High traffic areas can spell trouble for top-heavy lamps with wide overhanging shades. Be sure that the shade doesn't extend beyond the edge of the table. Not only does that make the lamp dwarf the table, but it also makes it more susceptible to being bumped into by passersby. A heavy base is less likely to be knocked over and should be used in areas where kids roam.

Form vs. Function
How are you going to use the lamp? Is it for general lighting or subtle ambient lighting? Is it a task light or an accent light to highlight something special? Whether it needs to be functional or just pretty makes a big difference in the type of lamp you should consider.

Go Home Head Honcho Lamp
Torchier lamps and other styles of floor lamps can provide a decent amount of general light to illuminate a room. Multi-purpose reading lights should cast enough light to allow you guessed it, read. They should produce a minimum of 100-150 watts of light. Many on/off lamps with a single socket use a light bulb with a maximum of 60 watts, so look for reading lamps that can handle higher wattages and three-way bulbs. If you prefer a stronger task light, look for something glare-free with tungsten, fluorescent or halogen bulbs to minimize eye strain.

If you simply want a lamp that complements your existing decor, ignore the previous paragraphs and get yourself something pretty...ooh, sparkles! A dramatic pair of Foo Dogs lamps from Barbara Cosgrove are a great way to enhance a Chinese or Asian style room.

Authentic Models Coast Guard Patrol Spotlight Floor Lamp

Size Matters and so does the Shade
Have you ever sat down and been blinded by the exposed light bulb in a nearby lamp? Unless you enjoy frying your corneas (I supposed there may be a few masochists out there), it can be painful and more than a little annoying. As a rule of thumb, the bottom of the shade should be more or less at ear/cheek level. So unless you hang out with a lot of basketball players or jockeys, use a five to six foot tall person as a gauge. If you're planning to read by the lamp, make sure that the height of the lamp and the angle of the shade allow for the light to pass over your shoulder and onto the page you're reading. This will probably require you to measure the height of the table, as well as the distance from the floor to your ear while seated. And you thought that you'd never use trigonometry again.

Barbara Cosgrove Patterned Porcelain Table Lamp

Traditional table lamps have avoided looking top-heavy, with their shades no more than two-thirds the height of the base (covering the harp and neck metal underpinnings). But more contemporary lamps adhere to less stringent constraints and even welcome design with atypical proportions. As far as shade shape goes, it's wise to follow the shape of the base, lest you face the whole square peg/round hole dilemma. A white or translucent shade allows for greater diffusion of the light, while darker colors and more opaque materials provide a subtler ambient glow.

For insight on selecting the right kind of light bulb for your lamp or fixture, take a look at our lighting guide.

I'd say that I hope this article shed some light on the subject of buying lamps, but that would be too corny.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This was very helpful! Thanks! I bought a lamp for the top of a dresser, and something looked off. After reading your piece, I think the lamp might be too tall for the dresser (it's actually a tall chest of drawers). The lamp shade is above my head! ..not ear/cheek level. Thanks!