How to Pick the Perfect Lamp

How to Pick the Perfect Lamp

Lamps are like jewelry: They’re not the main act, but they can make or break it. Unlike jewelry, however, lamps also keep us from tripping over sock monkeys in the dark, doing homework by computer glow or wearing mismatched shoes. In other words, they provide light. The key is to find the ideal combination of form and function.

First: Determine the Type of Lamp You Want

The possibilities are endless but for now, let’s just narrow it down to table lamp, hanging lantern or floor lamp. Easy peasy.

Second:Size, style and brightness

Based on where your lamp will live, you need to calculate three things:
Size, Styles & Brightness of Lamps


Lots of people make the mistake of buying a lamp without measuring the area it’s going in. This can result in a painful condition known as “Lamp Buyer’s Remorse.” Always measure first and don’t depend on your eyeballing skills. Eyeballs lie. If planning for a table lamp, measure the table height and circumference—your lamp should be no more than 1½ times the height of the furnishing it sits on, and the lampshade shouldn’t overlap the table. Also consider weight (the lamp’s, not yours)—lighter is fine in less-traveled spots, heavier and more stable is better for areas with small children and high traffic (why children would be playing in traffic, we don’t know).

Hanging lanterns, which are actually the most romantic kind of lamps, should be sized appropriately for the space they’ll occupy. Choose a single large lantern, or cluster several smaller lanterns together at slightly different heights. No suspended lantern should hang lower than 1 foot above your extended arm’s reach when standing (or when sitting, if the lantern is over a table or other seating area).
Styles of Lamps


Contemporary, Traditional, Modern and Global are just a few of the myriad choices—and Pier 1 has them all. Consider the decor of your space, but don’t obsess about being all matchy-matchy. As a rule of thumb, clear bases add less visual weight, while wood or iron bases provide texture and richness. Crystal lends a touch of glamour, and painted porcelain creates a luxurious or Old World feel. Moroccan lanterns add an exotic, international feel and coordinate well with even the most domestic decor. Exhibit Lamps feature an opening at the top of a clear glass base, which allows you to place decorative objects like shells, glass beads or porcelain spheres inside for a customized look. As long as a lamp works well with the object it sits on, you should be fine. For example, a space-age desk lamp would be silly on great-grandma’s hand-carved Victorian parlor table. Not to mention illogical in the space-time continuum.


Think about the primary function of your lamp: Mood lighting, reading, decoration or safety. For purely decorative lighting, you can choose an opaque fabric shade. It will illuminate the space from ceiling to floor rather than outward. For reading and other light-needy tasks (like brightening a room), select a translucent lampshade that diffuses light. High-quality paper or fabric shades are ideal for this purpose.



Table/desk lampshades are designed to be about 2/3 the height of the base. For floor lamps, a 4:1 ratio usually works best. The widest part of the shade is always at least ½” wider than the widest part of the base on each side and modestly covers the lamp’s harp and bulb socket. It’s just common decency.

Shaping up

A lampshade’s job is to complement the lamp. For rounder lamps, we select more rounded shades; for squarer bases, shades are generally more angular. Exceptions to the rule crop up occasionally. The more ornate the lamp, the simpler the shade and vice versa. Note: Pleated shades tend to look more traditional, while flat shades work well with almost any decor.


A multicolored or hand-painted Pier 1 lamp is always paired with a muted, single-color shade. For single-color lamps, it’s Katie-bar-the-door, with shades ranging from complementary colors to wild animal prints.

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