How to choose table lamps

Table lamps are the perfect accessory tool when finishing a room as they are practical but can be very beautiful and a statement piece in the scheme.  The way that we feel when we walk into a room is often governed by how well it has been lit.  Lighting a space well is no mean feat and I always recommend a lighting specialist to clients when they are building a new home.

Lighting should be added in layers to a room so that you have good overhead (ambient) lighting in the ceiling, task ceiling lighting in the form of pendants for over tables and kitchen benches, wall lights to create a mood and highlight artworks, possibly floor lighting on stairs and in hallways and finally accent lighting in the form of table lamps. 

Before you move on, exhausted at the thought of all these choices, let me show you how to choose table lamps.  There are some beautiful lamps that are perfect to bring a finishing touch to a room and often give you the starting point for the type of lighting that you want to take through your home.

Metallic Table Lamps

How to choose table lamps

Table lamps become part of your colour scheme so you need to remember this when selecting both the base and the shade.

When you are putting together a colour scheme for a room you should consider the type of metallic that you want to add as an accent.  Often table lamps have metal bases so you need to consider whether you want to include touches of gold, silver, brass etc.  Although you can mix metals up a bit – you certainly don't want anything too contrived – it's best to have a main metallic element.  Which one you select can really change the look of a room.

For example, gold with navy blue gives you a much more traditional and classic look than navy blue partnered with a sleeker and more contemporary silver.  The main colour can be the same, but the mood and entire look of the scheme can be altered with the metallic you select.

Ceramic Table Lamps

How to choose table lamps
Image: Anthropologie

If you like the idea of something a little less formal you might prefer to opt for a ceramic table lamp.  One that is hand-painted can make a beautiful statement in a scheme.  I suggest partnering table lamps like these with simple accessories so that the base remains the standout piece.  A base likes this calls for a simple lampshade and the black one above balances and connects to the base perfectly in terms of both colour and shape.

How to choose a table lamp

If you prefer a little more colour, then a ceramic lamp base in a navy blue and white looks great in a room with the same colour scheme.  The table lamps are still a standout piece but blend effortlessly with the rest of the room.

How to choose a table lamp
Image: Canvas & Sasson

If you like the idea of a ceramic lamp but prefer one that is a block of colour then you are in luck as these are very popular at the moment.  They can bring a great splash of colour into a room and are easier to partner other accessories with.

Notice how the touch of gold in the lamp links with the studs in the chair and the accessories in the vignette.  You can really have some fun with a colourful ceramic table lamp and for those of you who are reticent about using too much colour they make it easy to introduce just a splash to lift a colour scheme.

How to choose table lamps

The black and white table lamp shown above is an absolutely inspired choice as it perfectly pulls together the black and white colour palette in this bedroom.  The ethnic design partners beautifully with the tactile animal skin style wallpaper.

Can you imagine the room without it?  See how important it is to know how to choose table lamps…

I think there would be a big hole without it.  So when you are considering a table lamp as a finishing touch, look carefully at the style of the scheme and the colours to see what will work the best.

Table Lamps for a Bedside

How to choose a table lamp
Image: Unique Fabrics

A bedside table really isn't complete without a table lamp.  Remember what I said in the beginning about lighting options being layered?  This is really important in a bedroom.

Wall lights are often used instead of bedside lamps, leaving the bedside table clear for other items which is a good idea but I actually find that I like both options as a wall light is often placed to give more overhead lighting whereas a table lamp will give you softer lighting at eye level.  Using both, in addition to practical ceiling lighting, gives you all the options for great bedroom lighting.

Related: What's on your bedside table?

How to choose table lamps

The Right Shape for a table lamp

How to choose table lamps
Image: Unique Fabrics

Here is another great example of a beautiful green ceramic table lamp.  This one not only links beautifully to the colour in the room but it also relates really well to the design in the wallpaper.  The pattern repetition in the decorating accessory ties the wallpaper in perfectly – it's subtle but very effective.

So when you are considering the shape of the base, bear in mind other dominate shapes that are in the room scheme.

Related: 7 Fabulous wallpaper ideas

The Right Lampshade

How to choose a table lamp

In addition to considering the type, colour and shape of the base, you need to consider the right lampshade to go with it.

Often table lamps are sold with a shade to match but sometimes you have to make this decision for yourself.  The white shade on the hallway table above has been chosen with the dark background colour in mind.  This is a sophisticated monochromatic scheme which relies on the tonal variation from light to dark to bring drama rather than the addition of any strong colour.  The block of white in the lampshade contrasts beautifully with the dark wall and makes the table lamp the star of the vignette.

Related: Monochromatic colour schemes – Black and White

How to choose table lamps

The colour of the lampshade should also relate to the base, whether it is the same colour or a complementary one. 

If in doubt you can stick to a neutral and you will find that a linen coloured shade works with many types of base.  The linen lampshade here is the right tone to pick out the burnished detail in the blue base so works really well with it.

The actual fabric that the shade is made from is important too. 

A completely opaque shade will direct the light onto the side table to give you an accent or a pool of light.  This can be very effective if you want to draw attention to a beautiful bowl or other accessory on the table.  This is also a good style of lampshade to have if you are planning to use it to read by,

However, if you would like your table lamp to throw more light into the room then you need a more transparent shade to diffuse the light.  These are good for conversational settings.  When you buy a lampshade ensure that you see it displayed with a lit bulb inside so that you can assess how the light will fall from it.

How to choose a table lamp
Image: The Every Girl

The size and shape of a lampshade is also really important as it must relate to the size of the base. 

If in doubt, I think that a slightly larger shade rather than a smaller one is a better choice.

Bulbs for Table Lamps

I always recommend a warm light for a table lamp as they are designed to enhance the atmosphere of a room.  If you intend to read by a table lamp then you will need a brighter bulb and of course you need to consider this carefully for a bedside light.  I believe that cool lights should be reserved for specific task lighting, like desk lamps, so my rule of thumb is to always opt for a warm light bulb for a decorative table lamp.

I have lots of inspiration in my Pinterest account to help you to choose table lamps and as always I would love to have your feedback, comments and questions in the section below.

How to choose table lamps

One thought on “How to choose table lamps

  1. Caren says:

    Thanks so much for the lamp piece. I now have a corner that needs a lamp and table. Just given a little pine table and wondering if it should be painted or left pine. The furniture in the room ( bedroom) if Mission chalk painted seafoam green with seaglass knobs. Blue faded Oriental knock off rug, beach house. I can see the table and lamp should all be complementary.

    Cannot paste the picture unfortunately. Will send in an email but I note you team distressed with the finished.


    Thanks for all your help sent in previous emails for the main living areas! I have sent those pics separately. If you like them please take some credit as you benefit us so much with your teaching and feedback!

    Thanks again

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *