Shedding Some Light

Expert Advice: By Phyllis Van Doren


5 top designers share their thoughts on table lamps…


Love them or hate them, collect them in your favorite room or banish them from a minimalist interior, it seems everyone has an opinion on table lamps.


TABLE LAMPS ARE AMAZING. They add so much personality to a room. Consider they are the only way to get a light source that is not from above. It’s important to get the right scale lamp for a room — too big or too small just doesn’t work.

Lamps are like artwork and a great way to introduce texture in a room. We have lamp shades of cork and grass cloth and beautiful hand-painted ones. Jamie Young is one of my favorite lines. We have one now in white lacquer with a giraffe-print silk shade.


Table lamps are very important to me in a room. Believe it or not, I once had my place decorated with only table lamps and chairs.



619-299-4664, 858-794-0003


THE SONG YOU LIGHT UP MY LIFE, performed by Leanne Rimes, was not written about love, but about table lamps! If you are living in design darkness without a table lamp, add one to your home and you’ll be amazed at how it changes the mood of your room.


Overhead lighting can be harsh, casting a horrible light (it accentuates the bags under your eyes…). I much prefer the soft and warm glow of a table lamp, which yields just enough light to be task efficient, yet cozy.


Because table lamps come in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors, the trick is knowing which type to use and where. I like table lamps for living room side tables or bedroom night stands to be at least 30 inches high. It draws your eyes up and keeps the room from looking squatty.


If you can’t decide on color or shape, go with a clean-lined metal or wood lamp that matches other finishes in your home. If you want your room to feel light and bright, use a white or cream shade. For an extra cozy feel, use a darker lamp shade.





I LOVE TABLE LAMPS. Designer Marsha Paine taught me that when I worked for her. They add a romantic and warm light to any room. When I use them in a home interior, it’s often something on the taller side behind a sofa. Instead of a matching pair of lamps, I like the single lamp.


For a bedroom, I like the table lamps mismatched, maybe one on a round table, another on a nightstand.


I prefer porcelain lamps to those that are metal. In working with a client who likes blue and white, we’ve used found vases and had them converted into lamps.


When choosing a lamp shade, know what mood you want for the room. Silk or linen shades allow an overall glow while an opaque shade, such as black patent leather, would just give up and down light.



619-299-4664, 858-794-0003


KEEP IT SIMPLE AND ELEGANT — a table lamp should complement its surroundings, not take over the design. Scale is important and a lamp out of scale draws unnecessary attention to itself. You can “feel” when the scale is right, so try a few styles and choose the one that suits the space.


Try a textural effect with a lamp shade or glass table sconce. Plain crème silk is often perfect for a traditional look, but in a contemporary setting, texture is the answer. Canvas, fibered silks, woven grasses and textured or frosted glass are welcome changes to the usual choices.


Look for vintage lamps that have style and recreate them. A student lamp can make a superb corner brighter with a new style of glass shade. That brass lamp that was so popular in living rooms years ago can be antiqued and coupled with a modern textured shade for an up-to-date look.






Pictured: The Elizabeth Lamp from Schoolhouse Electric & Supply Co.

Categories: Home Design