How to Choose a Lamp for Any Room

lamp in the kitchen

Most of us don’t put too much thought into lighting our homes.  Flip a switch, turn on a lamp, flop on the sofa, and relax, right?  Well, not always.  If you’re anything like me you can’t really relax when harsh overhead lighting is screaming at you.  How do you choose the perfect home lighting?  Add some lamps, of course! Read on to learn how to choose the perfect lamp, but before you do, be sure to check out the five different types of lighting, and the different lamp styles and their uses. 

Create a Basic Lighting Plan

 It is important to identify your lighting needs and preferences for each living space in your home, rather than adding fixtures willy-nilly.  You will end up with odd shadows, dark corners, and squinting.  Layer your lighting, and be sure to consider the mood you wish to create in the evening. With thousands upon thousands of options, choosing the right lamp can be  overwhelming.  Let’s simplify things a little and “chunk it”.  First things first:  create a basic lighting plan. Be certain to consider your lighting needs as a whole, and then begin choosing your lamps. Check out Bob Vila to learn how to create a basic lighting plan.

The 5 Types of Lighting

Be sure to consider the different lighting types:

  1.  Natural (daylight or lighting that simulates natural light)
  2. Ambient (regular room/overhead lighting)
  3. Task (working at a desk, crocheting/knitting, reading, etc.)
  4. Accent (highlight artwork, a niche, a mantle, etc.)
  5. Decorative (pretty fixtures or small lamps that do not provide a lot of light).

Lamps of All Shapes and Sizes

As we all know, there are all kinds of lamps.  We will narrow our focus to some of the most popular types:  

Floor Lamp

Floor Lamps

Introducing a floor lamp to a dark or empty corner is a great way to add style and functionality, especially when placed behind a chair.  Consider the height:  your floor lamp should be considerably taller than the chair but not so tall that it blocks important features in the room, such as a bookcase or accessories.  A good rule of thumb is to choose a lamp that is somewhere between 58” and 64” off the floor to the bottom of the shade.  When seated, the shade should be well above eye level.

Table Lamps

Table lamps are practical as well as functional, and offer softly filtered light that is much less harsh than overhead lighting.  Table lamps should complement your style, but can also be a fun way to mix things up.  For example, a table lamp should fit the scale of your table and surrounding furniture, but you can incorporate a more streamlined, contemporary-style lamp with a drum shade to give a cottage or farmhouse a slight change of pace.  Poorly chosen, the wrong lamp can look out of place, but with a little attention to color, shape, and importantly, shade style, an interesting table lamp can really impact your room.

Desk Lamps

Desk lamps, usually chosen for task lighting, can also be quite beautiful.  Again, the style should complement the surrounding decor.  A beautiful feminine office space with lush chairs and pretty fabrics likely calls for an equally beautiful desk lamp, while a library or banker’s lamp may be in order for a more masculine study.  Stylish but utilitarian swing-arm desk lamps allow you to bend the arm so you can direct light where you need it and help reduce eye strain.

blue master bedroom

Bedside Lamps

Matching bedside lamps should anchor your bed, assuming you have some symmetry, and should be generously sized if they are taking center stage on your nightstands.  Smaller lamps placed in a vignette are also good options.  Your lamps do not have to be matched pairs, but they should complement each other in style and size.  Be careful to choose lamps that are the correct size for reading in bed; too high and the light will shine in your eyes, and too low, the light will be too dim for you to comfortably see.

Decorative Lamps

Lamps that are chosen for aesthetic purposes do not necessarily provide a lot of light, but that is just fine as long as you are not relying on them as your main light source.  Decorative lamps can be placed just about anywhere you would like a little light and a lot of style.  At HartLand we have a cute medium-sized lamp on the corner of our kitchen counter.  It provides a nice soft bit of light and is just so pretty!

Buffet Lamps

Buffet lamps are tall, thin lamps that are typically chosen in pairs to add balance and/or symmetry to a buffet or server.  They are usually placed on either side of the buffet, and look fantastic in a dining room or dining area.  

lamp in a living room

What Kind of Lamp Do I Need in the Living Room?

How do you decide which lamps are best?  How do you decide if you even need a lamp in your space? How many lamps do you need?  The answer is simple.  If you have room for it and can use a little extra light, add a lamp!  A good starting point for living room lamps is to determine the correct size.  Check out the blog post from Olive and June to learn some great tips.

Living room lamps are also often found in pairs:  at the ends of a sofa, between chair sets, between two chairs and at the end of one sofa, in the “L” between a sofa and a loveseat, etc.  The key is to evenly distribute light around the room.  Try using matching table lamps and adding a floor lamp in a different, but complementary style.  In our opinion, a comfortable living room should have around three lamps as part of a layered lighting plan. 

Your lamp style should also complement your decorating style.  As we mentioned above, change things up, but find commonalities between different fixtures in your space.  Here are some HartLand examples:

Lamp Ideas for Open Concept Living Room/Kitchen/Dining Banquette

  • Our two farmhouse island pendants are bright white with galvanized bolt detail at the tops.
  • Our dining banquette chandelier is an antique white in a distressed finish.
  • Our gourd-style table lamps are bright white with white linen drum shades.
  • Our floor lamp behind the periwinkle floral chair is turned white wood with a white linen drum shade.
  • Our wall sconces on the fireplace are antique nickel.
  • Our swing arm sconces that flank the rangehood in the kitchen are antique nickel.
  • Our countertop lamp is distressed blue and white with a white linen modified drum shade.
  • Our powder room with the beautiful aqua farm sink has a small chandelier that is visible from the living room.  That chandelier is bright white.
  • The hanging fixture in the mudroom, which is visible from the kitchen and living room is a smaller, similar version of the island pendants, but with a galvanized cage detail around the light bulb.

As you can tell from the above descriptions, most of our lighting fixtures and lamps are slightly different from each other, but have common colors, styles, or lampshades.  The result:  a beautiful mix that is interesting to the eye.

Master Bedroom Lighting

HartLand lighting in the master bedroom is mixed as well.  When I asked Cheyenne her opinion about my three different lamp styles, I really liked her answer:  “They make sense in each area.  Each one serves a different purpose.”  I have two large, blue stacked gourd lamps on my bedside tables, which mimic the style of my living room lamps, yet are still different.  I have the tabletop version of my living room floor lamp on the table beside my reading chair, and a mercury glass gourd lamp on one side of my dresser.  The mercury glass lamp base coordinates with the mercury glass finials on my drapery rods.  The white table lamp coordinates with my antique white chandelier and wall sconces, and the blue gourd lamps are the perfect complement to our blue and white color scheme.  All of the lampshades are bright white linen.  The overall effect is cohesive, yet interesting.

Choosing the Best Lamp Color

People often wonder what color lamps they should get for various spaces in their homes, including the bedroom, living room, office, kitchen, reading nook, game room, and entryway.  Take our advice and repeat colors.  If you have black drawer pulls in the kitchen, try adding pendants with some black over the island.  If you have white chandeliers, use white lampshades.  White-on-white lamps, with or without distressing, is always a classic look for a cottage or farmhouse.  Industrial farmhouse?  Choose lamps with the same iron elements.  If you just love shabby chic, choose flouncy lamps with beaded shades and scroll details to match the detail of your home.  Floral lampshades in soft colors are always beautiful in an English cottage.  If you love traditional, choose the delft blue of your pottery for a lovely corner lamp on your kitchen counter or dining room buffet.  The point is, choosing lamps should be as simple as accessorizing the rest of your home.  Take your color cues from what you have around you and repeat.  

Avoid “Theme” Lighting

Tip for choosing lamps:  Avoid “theme” lighting.  If you have a coastal-inspired home, keep the life preserver in the boat, rather than as your lamp base.  Choose a subtle coastal- style fixture instead, like caged dome light or a glass pendant wrapped in natural jute.  And chose just one or two of these and don’t fill your entire house.

Where Can I Buy the Best Table Lamps

Beautiful table lamps are readily available in many places.  Some of our favorite online shops include:  

Contact From the HartLand for a Home Lighting Consultation

Still having difficulty?  We’re always here to help you.  Contact us for a design consultation to make all of your decorating dreams come true.  Thank you for spending time with us today, and we hope we were able to help you learn a little about choosing just the right lamp for your home.  Until next time…

From the HartLand with Love,

Monica, Brittany & Cheyenne

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