Lighting is an important piece of décor for any modern home. They are both decorative and functional, so a lot of care goes into picking them out. You need something that’s going to perform its task of lighting your space as well as something that looks good doing it.
If you’re finding it difficult to pick out the perfect light source for your home, let this guide take you on a journey through the wonderful world of modern lamps. From the different types of lighting, to choosing the perfect lamp shade, and even where lamps fit best in any room of your house — this is your complete guide to buying lamps for your home.
The Basics of Layered Lighting
Lighting a room is best done in layers. Most spaces need at least three types of lighting to brighten them up properly, set the mood, and make them functional spaces. Types of lighting vary from general to extremely specific and are placed depending on what the room is being used for the most.
An office needs focused light on the desk for work-related activities. The bedroom requires softer light by the bedside that can easily be turned off when it’s time to sleep. And every room needs enough ambient light to allow you to move around without running into anything.
The five types of lighting are:
- Natural lighting - The sunlight that naturally fills a room during the day.
- Ambient lighting - The overall lighting of a room, usually fixed to the ceiling in an effort to light the entire room equally.
- Task lighting - Lighting put in place to illuminate a specific task such as reading, working, or preparing food that requires a brighter environment.
- Accent lighting - Lighting that focuses on an object or architectural detail in the room, or lighting put in place simply to set the mood.
- Decorative lighting - Lights put in place purely for what they add to the decoration rather than what they add to the lighting of the room.
Deciding what type of lighting you need will help you choose a lamp to fulfill that function. Some lamps are better at task lighting while others are additional ambient lighting. But all lamps help add to the layers of light in your space.
Types of Lamps
After you know where your lamp will sit and what function it will serve, you can decide what kind of lamp will best suit your needs. In this guide, we will look at the following four types of lamps: floor lamps, table lamps, desk lamps, and wall-mounted lamps.
Floor lamps are the tallest of the lamps. Their size means they sit on the floor, often behind a chair or sofa or in the corner of the room. Modern floor lamps usually function as additional ambient lighting to brighten the room overall, but are also useful as task lighting.
Different types of floor lamps include:
- Traditional shaded floor lamps - send the lighting downward for an extra dose of ambient lighting.
- Torchiere floor lamps - point directly toward the ceiling so that the light can reflect and fill the room.
- Arc floor lamps - feature a wide curve in their neck that hangs the light directly over your seating area.
- Tree floor lamps - have multiple
Most contemporary and modern floor lamps feature a slender body held in place by a heavy base to ensure it doesn’t move when people walk around. But there are also tripod-style floor lamps that sacrifice space for greater stability.
Thoroughly measure your space so you don’t end up with a lamp too big, small, tall, or short for its purpose. The bottom of the lampshade on traditional lamps should be at eye level with anyone sitting down in the room. And make sure your lamp has a nice sturdy base that won’t tip at the slightest brush, especially in high-traffic areas.
Table lamps, as the name implies, sit on an side table in the living room or bedroom, or a similar surface such as a console or desk to add extra lighting to a small area of the room. Table lamps are the most-used lamps in homes because of their portability, versatility, and style.
Different types of table lamps include:
- Accent lamps - add to the overall decoration of a room to help reinforce style choices while increasing the ambient lighting.
- Reading lamps - direct bright light toward your book in the living room or the bedroom and often come equipped with the ability to dim or brighten at will.
- Buffet lamps - tall, thin lamps that up the brightness of the food served in your dining room without getting in the way of eager hands.
Table lamps are a staple feature in just about every modern designed home. They are natural pieces of décor to pick out for living rooms, bedrooms, offices, and even dining rooms.
The bottom of the lamp shade should come to just about eye level when you are seated so you’re not looking directly into the lightbulb when you glance in that direction. Pick a table lamp that fits the table it's sitting on and make sure to situate the lamp so that the shade isn’t overhanging the edge of the table.
Desk lamps can easily be lumped in with table lamps since they sit on a table or desk. However, they provide a very specific purpose of task lighting, usually for reading, school work, or working from home. These lamps come equipped with long necks that can be adjusted to point the light at whatever you’re focusing on at any given time.
Different types of desk lamps include:
- Gooseneck lamp - has a flexible neck that moves around at any angle of your choosing.
- Swing arm lamp - able to swing around, move up and down, and rotate around its base.
- Clamp-on lamp - clamps onto the edge of the desk to save valuable desk space.
- Magnifier lamp - features a magnifier that further focuses the light for extreme precision.
Desk lamps are known for their ability to move around so you’re never left without enough light to do your work. They are great for reducing eye strain when reading or writing.
When choosing a desk lamp, keep in mind the size of your desk. You don’t want to take away valuable working space if you don’t have to. Even small desk lamps can provide you with plenty of light to get the job done. And, when in doubt, pick a lamp that clamps on to free up as much space as possible.
Wall-mounted lamps are another form of ambient or task lighting that simply hangs on the wall rather than sitting on the floor or a table. They are perfect for areas where you really need more light but don’t have the space to devote to it. Most of the time, wall lamps are mounted around seating areas.
Different types of wall-mounted lamps include:
- Sconces - decorative lighting that illuminates a very small portion of the room very close to the wall either upward or downward.
- Swing arm lamp - feature a long arm that swings and bends to accommodate a larger space where you may need direct lighting.
- Accordion arm lamp - aesthetically industrial lamps that move closer or further away from the wall on a folded, accordion arm.
These lamps give you a greater ability to highlight artwork or add some much-needed brightness to places where traditional lamps can’t be placed.
Picking out a wall-mounted lamp is generally pretty easy since they are all compact and can tuck against the wall when not in use. The same rule about eye level height applies here so that no one in the room is blinded while sitting down and you have close enough light for tasks.
How to Choose the Perfect Lampshade
Now that you know what kind of lamp you want, and have perhaps already chosen the base of your lamp, it’s time to look at lampshades. Choosing the perfect lamp shade for your lamp can be as easy as picking out what you like the best or what comes already paired with the base.
However, if you don’t like the suggested lampshade or you prefer to mix and match your own style, this section will help you find the right fit.
A lampshade that’s too big or too small can throw off an entire room. You might not realize it, but it puts everything in a weird light. These are a few helpful tips that can help you choose the right size lamp shade to fit any base.
Lamp shades should be long enough to cover the entire top of the lamp, bulb, and socket. No hardware should be visible when you’re looking at the lamp from the side.
Measure the height of your table lamp base and choose a shade with a diameter that’s about the same size. Floor lamp shades should be at least 18” wide or they run the risk of being too small.
Use your common sense and visual preferences to size your lamp shade by eye.
If you’re fitting a table lamp, the shade shouldn’t overtake the entire table or hang over the edges for safety reasons. When picking lamp shades for your floor lamps, ensure they aren’t too big for the space you’re putting them in.
There are many different shapes of lamp shade. Which one you choose comes down to your preference in style. Some shapes complement some interior decorating styles better than others. But it’s all down to what you think looks best in your space.
Some of the most common shapes of lamp shade are:
- Drum - a round shape with perfectly vertical sides that disperses light upwards and downwards equally
- Oval - an elongated round shape with a smaller top than bottom that sends more light downward
- Geometric - shades with sharp lines and angles that look square, rectangular, or hexagonal
- Empire - a classic shade that looks like a cone with a smaller top than bottom that sends more light downward
- Coolie - a more dramatic version of a cone with a much larger bottom than a top that disperses a bight downward light
- Bell - a softer cone-shaped shade with sides that curve inward for a traditional vintage look
While most lamps will look perfectly fine with an empire or drum shade, your styling choices may call for something a little different. Modern lamps with geometric shades are striking while older-looking lamps benefit from a softer bell shade. Each shape brings something different to your space, so don’t be afraid to try out more than one.
The material of your lampshade heavily depends on what it’s going to be used for. Ambient lighting benefits more from softer materials that allow light to pass through while task lighting is better off with something that reflects the light instead.
Lamp shades are usually made with hard backing material or soft backing material.
Hard-backed shades are lined with plastic or something equally as firm that reflects the light and sends it directly out the top or bottom. Soft-backed shades are lined with something like paper or linen that is more flexible and lets light out through the shade.
Along with the backing, you have to choose what you want on the outside of your lampshade. There are plenty of options that all have their own unique capabilities.
Some of the most common lampshade materials are:
- Cotton - a cost-effective fabric that can come smooth or pleated and in a variety of bold colors
- Linen - a long-lasting fabric that is softly textured and offers a more casual look
- Silk - a more elegant fabric that filters and scatters light through its threads
- Parchment - a lightweight paper that looks clean with the perfect surface for colors and patterns
- Plastic - a great material for a variety of color choices and opacities with a tendency to get scratched up over time
- Glass - opaque, clear, or colored glass offers different looks that can range from contemporary to vintage
- Metal - perfect for that industrial look but heavier than other materials with a tendency to get hot
The martial of your lamp shade can drastically change the look of your lamp and the vibe of your space. You can make light harsher or more diffused depending on the weight and color of your shade material, so it’s up to you to decide which suits your room the best.
Colors and Patterns
Lamp shades are a great way to add a pop of color to your space by including an accent color. Or they make a nice place to add calming neutrals that keep the eye flowing. The color of your lampshade is entirely up to you and your preference.
It’s good to keep in mind that the shade of your shade will affect how the light comes through it.
Darker colors let less light pass through than lighter colors. If you have a black lampshade, you will have far less ambient light in the room than a white lamp shade provides. This difference is important to keep in mind when you’re picking out your colors or any patterns you want on your lampshade.
Which Lamp Is Best for Each Room in Your Home?
Looking around your home, you might already know intuitively which lamps fit best in your available spaces. But it’s not always so easy to pick out the perfect lamp for a room just because you know you want one there.
Depending on what room you’re trying to brighten up, here are a few solid options to choose from.
The living room is the perfect place for floor lamps. In fact, they’re pretty much the only room in the house where floor lamps make sense. That’s not to say you can’t put a floor lamp in your entranceway or bedroom, but they fit best where people spend the most time.
Floor lamps light up your sitting area with more ambient lighting so everyone can see each other with perfect clarity.
Table lamps are another brilliant choice for the living room. Place them on end tables on either side of your sofa or next to your favorite armchair. They make it much easier to curl up and read a book or see the remote when you need to skip to the next episode.
The bedroom is another place that’s perfect for table lamps.
No one wants their overhead lights on at all times in the bedroom. This is especially true if you’re relaxing at night trying to watch tv or read a book before going to sleep. Table lamps on either side of the bed make it easy to turn off the light when you’re ready to call it a night instead of getting out of bed to flip the switch.
Office or Library
The place where you do the most work is a fantastic place for a desk lamp or wall-mounted lamp. They provide the best-focused task lighting to prevent you from squinting at words on a page for hours. Depending on how much desk space you have, one or the other will do nicely.
You can’t overlook entryways and hallways when looking for a lamp. Corridors in particular tend to be pretty dark without any windows for natural lighting. Wall-mounted lamps, especially sconces, are the perfect way to light up these dim sections of your house without running the risk of anyone tripping over them.
Of course, an important tip is to find a style that matches your taste and your current decor. Mid-century, Scandinavian style lighting, Japandi, or organic modern lamps can all be found in our curated selection.