Indoor lighting has been a priority since man moved into his first cave. From gooseneck to Tiffany, there are as many types and styles of lamps as there are stars in the sky—well, the visible ones, anyway. Match your desk or table lamp to your décor, task and lighting scheme and you’ll be on your way to a brighter future. Sorry, couldn’t resist.
Desk lamps are designed to provide light for specific tasks, while table lamps are geared toward supplying general or ambient light.
Lamps may seem like snowflakes—no two the same—but all lamps have a few parts in common. The base gives the lamp stability. The neck holds the bulb above the surface. Finally, all lamps have a head, which holds the light bulb and lamp.
A lampshade is crucial for avoiding harsh lighting conditions. The lampshade should be about 1/3 the height of the lamp. A properly sized lampshade will conceal the bare bulb from normal viewing angles.
The lamp harp is the metal bar that arches over the bulb and holds the lampshade. Different sized lamp harps can be used to adjust the height of a lampshade if you’re trading one shade for a replacement.
The amount of light required for different tasks varies, so adjust your bulb accordingly. For example, reading requires less light than hobbies like sewing or drawing.
While most lamps can accommodate one bulb, some can handle two or more bulbs.
Lamps designed for incandescent bulbs can handle compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs as well. You may need a larger lamp harp to use higher wattage CFLs. Halogen bulbs provide a lot of light, but often have special sockets that won’t work with ordinary lamps.
The neck of a lamp may be fixed, adjustable or flexible. If you need a lamp for many different tasks, an adjustable or flexible neck lamp will come in handy.
You’ll have no trouble finding desk and table lamps in a wide variety of styles. Consider your existing furniture, wall colors and lighting fixtures when selecting a lamp style.
The color of the lampshade can have a big effect on the amount of light a lamp can provide. Choose lighter colored shades for large rooms or where task lighting is required. Darker colored shades are appropriate for intimate spaces and ambient lighting.
In many homes, desk and table lamps provide a significant portion of the artificial light. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, given the many types and styles of lamps available. There are lamps designed for very specific tasks and lamps designed for no particular task except to look beautiful. Once you understand the basics of desk and table lighting, the limitless number of choices won’t seem quite so scary.
Behind the various styles, finishes and features, all lamps are composed of the same simple parts.
The cord brings power from the outlet to the lamp. Cords can be adjustable or fixed length, straight or curly and come in a number of colors.
The base is the heavy bottom section of a lamp. The base provides stability for the lamp and may be padded or feature a clamp to fix the lamp in place.
The neck supports the lighted part of the lamp above the surface of the table or desk. Lamp necks may be fixed, adjustable or flexible, depending on the design of the lamp.
The head holds the bulb and lampshade. The head may be able to accommodate multiple bulbs, have a fixed shade or serve as the mount for a lamp harp (used to hold the lampshade).
The lampshade mutes the glare of the naked bulb. Lampshades come in a rainbow of colors and in many shapes and sizes.
The switch turns the lamp on and off. The switch can be located in the cord, base, neck or head of the lamp. Switches can be simple on/off switches or multi-level (also called three-way) switches.
Lamps are mostly designed to fill two roles: task lighting and general lighting. Lamps for task lighting should accommodate bright light bulbs and allow the head to be adjusted to focus light. Desk lamps are typically designed for task lighting. Lamps for general lighting often feature fixed necks and larger, more decorative lampshades. A general lighting table lamp will offer more flexibility if it supports multi-level bulbs.
As you shop for a lamp, think about the place that your new lamp will call home. Consider the décor of the room and how the lamp may complement or contrast with furniture, flooring and other light fixtures. What about the table or desk? A lamp in a high-traffic area should not be top-heavy or feature a wide shade that could be tipped by passers-by. A desk lamp on an active craft table should have a clamp to keep it from being knocked over. And the surface? Delicate table surfaces call for padded bases, while slippery surfaces call for a base with a non-skid covering. Thinking about your lamp’s placement will help you make the right purchase.