Looking for a new lamp? Before you start shopping, you should be aware that there’s a lot more to the trusty old lamp than may meet the eye. Once you shine a little light on this subject, you realize you can choose from lots of different types of lamps. Depending on where you want to put your new lamp and why you need it, some options may fit your circumstances better than others.
Even though you may be tempted to take a perfunctory approach to picking a new lamp, spending a little extra time learning about the types of lighting available is a pretty darn bright idea. Whether you need to find the perfect lamp to accomplish a specific task or set the mood in a certain space, we’re here to help you find the best option to fit the right applications and uses for your home.
What to Consider
Selecting the perfect portable lighting fixture requires asking yourself a few questions. First, in what room will you place your new lamp, and do you need it to light up the entire area, or would you prefer a more targeted light to illuminate a workspace or reading nook? Do you want a lamp that lives on the floor or do you have a desk, table, or other surface where you want to place it?
From there, you can get a little more specific, determining whether you need something with a lot of stability (always a good idea in a high-traffic area), whether you want it to be adjustable (either in terms of amount of light or where the light shines), and what you want it to look like. When it comes to lamps, size matters, so keep the dimensions of the room in mind as you shop. Other details, like whether the lamp has a USB outlet or offers storage, can be narrowed down as you see which lighting products align with your needs.
Is a buffet light the best bet for your needs, or would a swing-arm serve the purpose with greater ease? Allow us to shed a little light on the subject.
- Table lamps, which are typically placed on a table of some sort and can be used as a filler light or, occasionally in smaller spaces and in conjunction with other table lamps, as a main source of light. Most come in under 32 inches in height and are easy to move from one surface to another if you decide to change up your décor.
- Floor lamps have a base on the floor and typically stand next to large pieces of furniture, which helps prevent them from being jostled. There are many different styles of floor lamps, and while some are designed to light up an entire room, others work best for providing reading light or a soft glow.
- Desk lamps, like table lamps, are placed on a desktop or table — or clamp to an edge. A desk lamp falls under the task lamp category and highlights a specific area with targeted light, which is particularly helpful in a workspace or area where someone does a lot of reading.
Let’s check out the different types of lamps below. Take note of each one’s advantages and disadvantages, plus where you probably want to use them.
Does your dining room need some focused lighting, or are you looking for a lighting solution that brightens up a space without taking up too much room? Buffet lamps are a slender and tall type of table lamp that often measure 32 inches or taller.
Traditionally, they’re used in dining rooms — on buffet tables, dining tables, sideboards, or end tables — because the elevated shade doesn’t get in the way of eating or serving food, and the thin shape of the body prevents it from crowding the tabletop. Those same features can make buffet lamps a nice choice for an office, since they can serve those same needs on a desk with their focused light and insignificant footprint.
While a buffet lamp is a versatile choice, be aware that it will not cast a glow throughout your entire living room. The focused light that makes it such a great choice for the aforementioned areas means it won’t work well as the main lighting source in a larger space.
Another slender lighting solution, the arc lamp is aptly named for the long, arc-shaped arm that curves up and away from a base on the floor. It may also be referred to as an arched floor lamp. While they always have a single base, they sometimes have multiple lights on separate curved arms.
Whatever you call it, this type of lamp is an excellent option if you need a functional overhead light to provide illumination over a sofa or chair in your living room or sitting area, particularly if you can tuck the base into a corner behind or beside your furniture to keep it out of the way. Due to the curved nature of the arm, the base and body are easy to keep out of the way, so an arc lamp can provide a lot of bang for your buck in terms of how much light it offers compared to the real estate it requires in your room. But don’t mistake that functionality for a lack of form — these lamps range from simple, practical designs to seriously artistic additions.
An arc light is not an ideal choice for a space where it could be knocked over; that elegant arm extending away from the base makes it a less stable option than a standard floor lamp. If you do not plan to set up your new floor lamp in a corner or out-of-the-way nook, the arc light probably isn’t the right pick.
Also known as a banker lamp, the piano lamp is a small, squatty table lamp with a downward-facing, oblong shade designed to project light directly onto a specific area, like sheet music and keys. Sometimes a piano lamp will have a swing arm, making it easy to move the light without moving the lamp.
The biggest advantage to a piano light is that it illuminates a workspace without creating a blinding glare should you look up from your work toward the lamp. So whether you’re playing an actual piano or need to light up the surface of your desk, this option can be extremely helpful.
That check in the pro column is the exact reason why the light from a piano lamp isn’t ideal for wider use, though. Because it’s small and casts light in such a specific spot, consider another lamp if you need to brighten up a larger area.
Tall, slim, and with a shade that faces upward, the torchiere is a floor lamp many of us are familiar with. It’s a popular pick in all kinds of homes, and for good reason: It takes up very little space and provides ample ambient or accent lighting.
You’ve likely seen a torchiere lamp with a “Tiffany style” stained glass shade, but it’s easy to find a torchiere to work for any mode of décor. This type of lamp works particularly well in spaces with high ceilings where a ceiling-mounted light fixture isn’t practical. But they’re not just a pretty face; torchieres can be used as the main (or even only) source of light in a room, and some come with dimming options to create just the mood you want.
Since they don’t have especially stable bases, place torchiere lamps in areas where they won’t be bumped. If you have playful children or pets in your home, think twice before picking a torchiere with a glass shade, which may shatter if knocked to the ground.
Recognizable for its single, central stand with several arms, a tree lamp has multiple lights that can provide some real radiance in a room with limited space. You’ll often find them as floor lamps, but you can also purchase smaller, tabletop versions.
When it comes to design options, the tree lamp really branches out. You can keep it sleek and simple with a single, straight body, or opt for a larger or more elaborate version. Either way you go, you’ll likely be able to adjust your lights, at least to an extent, allowing you to project more light in a specific direction or create a subtle, ambient glow.
Wondering why on earth you’d want anything else? Although a tree lamp can offer lots of light and ample adjustability, it can also be bulkier than other options, so it may be an overwhelming addition to a small space.
Available as table, floor, and desk lamps, a gooseneck lamp comes with a flexible neck you can adjust or a fixed, metal neck in a traditional curve.
That curve, paired with a shade that directs the light toward a specific spot, allows you to read or work without illuminating an entire room. Adjustable gooseneck lamps are especially ideal as bedside reading lamps, so you can finish your chapter without disrupting your partner.
Of course, that means a gooseneck lamp won’t work as a main or sole light source in any room. If you need a lamp that allows everyone in a space to see clearly, this is not the option for you.
A bedside lamp is usually smaller in size than the lamps you’d find in your living room, although the terms “end table lamp” and “bedside lamp” are sometimes used interchangeably. For that reason, make sure to check the measurements of a lamp before you buy.
The relatively small size (often around 20 to 30 inches) and ability to sit on a table and cast light throughout the room are the most important characteristics of a bedside table lamp. This type of lamp does well in spaces beyond the bedroom, too.
Still, because they’re typically smaller than floor lamps, bedside lamps may not offer enough light on their own to keep a large room lit.
The tall and rectangular shape of column lamps, also known as tower lamps, makes them easy to pick out of a crowd. Some shine light out of the top, while others offer a glow throughout the entire structure. And — bonus! — some even offer storage space or shelving.
If your room needs both light and art, a column lamp is the perfect solution. It will make a statement on its own, and if you opt for one with open shelving, the items you store within your lamp will tell a story, too.
Of course, not every item in your home needs to make a statement, so if you prefer something simpler, want to light a small space, or would like a lighting solution with some adjustable or customizable options, a column lamp may not be the best choice.
Although you may think of candelabras and chandeliers as lighting fixtures that hang from the ceiling, eye-catching versions of them exist as floor and table lamps, too.
There’s no denying the main point of a candelabra lamp; it’s all about the look. With shimmering crystal pieces and elaborate designs, they’re made to stand out, whether you place them in the living room, the dining room, or any other area of the house that’s in need of serious style.
Be mindful of how much light they actually cast, though. While the amount of illumination you can expect from a candelabra lamp placed on your floor or table will vary, this option may be designed more to be looked at rather than to provide the perfect light for you to read your newspaper.
The adjustable arm of a swing-arm lamp makes it a wonderfully functional choice for your office, bedroom, or living space. This option can be found as a floor lamp, table lamp, or desk lamp with a clamp, and often offers dedicated and adjustable task lighting.
Because of the adjustable arm, the swing-arm lamp is extremely versatile, allowing you to move the light closer or farther away as needed, depending on your task. If used in a shared space, a swing-arm lamp offers a bright, targeted light that won’t bother anyone else in the room.
That’s exactly why a swing-arm lamp may not be a bright idea for every space, however. Although it excels at shining a light on a specific spot, it can’t create a warm glow or provide enough light for a whole room.
It’s no surprise that a tripod lamp, by definition, has three legs. What you may not know is that you can purchase floor, desk, or table tripod lamps.
This three-legged design stands out and adds architectural interest to your home. And because you can find tripods in just about any type of look imaginable, you won’t have any trouble finding one that suits your décor, regardless of where you plan to place it. Tripod lamps are designed to cast light throughout a room, although it’s worth noting that a small accent lamp is unlikely to lighten up a room the way a large floor lamp will. When it comes to a floor lamp model, the tripod can be a fairly sturdy option; it does have three legs to stand on, after all!
The downside to this design is that the three-legged base takes up significantly more space than some other options, so take note of how much room you really have to make sure your new lamp won’t overcrowd a cluttered area of your home.
- Boom arm
With a small base and a straight, tall fixture leading to a targeted light, a boom arm lamp looks a lot like the microphone stands in recording studios.
It’s a unique, modern-looking style with clean lines. With its swinging arm that can be adjusted vertically and horizontally, the boom arm lamp makes for a fun and functional addition to any room where you need a dedicated task light.
As with other lamps offering a targeted light, though, a boom arm lamp won’t work for a whole room. Additionally, this style can be a little wobbly, so finding one with a heavy or large base may be wise, especially if you put the lamp in a heavily trafficked area of the house.
If it wasn’t already obvious, it should now be easy to see just how many types of lamps exist — and how many factors go into choosing the right options for your home. Don’t let all this information dim your enthusiasm, though! Now that you know more about the different types of lamps, you can narrow down your search in the flip of a switch.