Unless we’re professionally trained or just have that “certain knack” we all have our decorating weak spots. One of mine happens to be “lighting.” In fact I hesitate to make lamp purchases because I’m so unsure of myself; so much so that at the moment my beside lamp is a pretty little Laura Ashley base, sans lamp shade. When I read at night it feels like I’m in some sort of interrogation room. My husband’s lamp isn’t much better — he has a handpainted floral lamp that looks great in our daughter’s room but doesn’t quite stand up to the sleek look of our Restoration Hardware bedding. So it’s timely that one of our regularly contributing experts, Belinda Albo, should be writing this week about lamps. I’ll learn something and finally replace our funny lamps with something more appropriate — like, say, a lamp with a lamp shade!
When choosing the appropriate lamp for your room, you must first determine the purpose of the lamp. Does the light need to provide the main, general light for the room, or for task and ambient uses only? Is it for reading or for adding soft light in dark corners? Different lights offer various intensities of light power. Some lamps are tri-lights, which provide a choice of three different levels of light. The light can be very bright or be adjusted to give off a soft glow.
The shade and style of the lamp should also reflect the decor. Modern interiors look best with silver or chrome finishes and white cotton unpleated shades. More traditional rooms set the stage for antique gold finishes or vase shaped bases, and pleated or bell shaped shades.
If you are looking for a lamp to place on a low side table by a sofa or chair for reading, a longer neck variety works best so that the the light can shine down onto your reading surface. For table lamps, a good rule to follow is this: the distance from the bottom of the shade to the floor should be anywhere from 36” to 42”. The total size of the lamp should also complement the room in scale. If the side table is small, use a smaller scale lamp, or use wall surface lights. Lamps that have a shorter neck or body work best, if you are placing them on a surface that is 48” off the ground or more. If the lamp stem is too long, you will be looking directly underneath the shade, which is what you want to avoid.
The taller the lamp the more space it needs.
Belinda Albo: interior designer and author is available for your lighting design consultations.