How to Use Lamps in Interior Design

Think about it – once you turn on a lamp, it becomes the focal point of a space. If your lamp is not designed well, it will affect the look of the whole room. A truism in the interior design world is that quality lighting is expensive – you are buying not only the base, but the shades and the finials too! Fortunately, lamps are versatile and easily moved from house to house. Thinking of your lamps as long-term investments will help you make choices that better suit your needs.

Consider the Scale of Your Lamps:

Lamps are a great way to bring a sculptural element to your design. The shape, height, and mass draw the eye whether or not the lightbulb is on. Lamps can also add a pop of color. However, scale is the most important element in determining if a lamp truly fits into a design. Homeowners tend to buy lamps that are too small for the piece they will be placing them on. The average well-scaled lamp is at least 27” tall including the shade (but not the finial). We find this size tends to work on most surfaces in most rooms. However, when you are placing a lamp on a large piece of furniture, more height and girth is needed – perhaps up to 36” or 37”. Take the time to look at your options, and buy items off the floor that you can return if they do not work. Or, consult with a professional interior designer who can expand your choices through his/her trade resources, and help you choose the right one the first time!

Sophisticated Rustic Bedroom Detail

Invest in Custom Shades:

“Buying a lamp shade without your lamp is like buying a hat without your head.” –Exciting Lighting

When you turn the light on, all of the imperfections in the lampshade are on stage, so do not skimp on this aspect of your lamp. To choose a shade with the correct size, style and functionality, bring the lamp with you to the store. Quality shades are typically hand-made, not machine made, so they are expensive. However, they can last forever if you take good care of them. If you have a good fabric-lined lampshade, do not through it away! There are craftspeople specialized in refurbishing and recovering quality shade frames.

Choose the Right Lightbulbs:

The ambiance of a room is created through lamplight, not overhead light. Therefore, how a lamp is lighted drives the feel of a space. Buy light bulbs that give off warm, shimmering light, or a softer, mellower hue depending upon your needs. Lamplight brings the romance to a room, and like candlelight, is always flattering.

LED light bulbs have a lot of potential, especially since you do not have to replace them very often. However, we have yet to find one that gives off the color light we like to have in our designs. Once the color issue is resolved, we hope to be able to take advantage of the energy and cost savings, as well as the conveniences.


Pay attention to the recommended wattage of your lamps! The manufacturer is not kidding when they place those limitations. Too much heat can cause fires, and it can ruin your expensive lampshade!



Lamp Placement:

Functionality determines where you will place your lighting. Even if you have art-quality lamps in your space, if you cannot see well, you will not be happy with the space. Lighting needs to be balanced around your room to avoid dark spots. If you do not have a table or shelf to place a lamp on, floor lamps are great options. Uplighting is a nice way to highlight artwork or architectural elements, but make sure it is of good quality to avoid fires.

Approaching your lamps as secondary elements within your design project does not work. If their scale and balance is off, then the scale and balance of the whole room is affected. Color and style come next, providing the “wow, that is beautiful” element to your space. Investing in quality lighting will not only provide the functionality you need, it will heighten the beauty and sophistication of your design.

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