Finding the right lighting for your home

  • Article by: LINDSEY M. ROBERTS , Washington Post
  • Updated: March 22, 2013 - 4:59 PM

The right lamps and chandeliers can make lackluster spaces come alive.


Classic lamps: From left, the black Tizio table lamp; the Anglepoise Lamp Original 1227 desk lamp; and the Classic swinging-arm lamp in hand-rubbed antique brass by Circa Lighting.

Photo: MoMA Design Store; Rejuvenation; Circa Lighting ,

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Choosing a lamp seems simple. But the number of decisions that go into it can be daunting. “People get confused about sizing, if the style is going to fit the room, if it’s going to give off the right amount of light, all the different price points,” said Zoe Feldman, a Washington, D.C., interior designer. All those factors can add up to a stunning space — or one that’s significantly lacking.

“Without the proper lighting, the space is sort of dead,” she said. We asked Feldman and others for their advice on the right lighting styles, shades and hanging heights to bring a room back to life. Though they disagreed on some things, there was at least one rule they all agreed on: To have your home ready for any kind of moment or mood, every light should be on a dimmer.

• No dark corners

Have a dark corner but no room for an end table? Try a floor lamp. Besides his own, Rick Singleton, a lighting artist, thinks there are three good types of floor lamps to go with. The first is a torchier on a dimmer. “You get the light that bounces off the ceiling and diffuses around the room,” he said. The second is a multi-armed candelabrum with a shade. And the third is a pharmacy lamp, such as Restoration Hardware’s 1900s Pharmacy Floor Lamp, good for reading ($249,

• Add some glamour

A good chandelier is like a good necklace: ready to transform any outfit or space into something a bit more special. Gale Singer, owner of Circa Lighting, says the Oslo Chandelier is a bestseller because of its glamorous crystal beads yet simple, traditional shape. She suggests hanging chandeliers 5 feet above the floor in dining rooms, unless the ceiling is especially high ($1,008,

• Lighting as art

Lighting can be classic and subtle, but it can also be the perfect finishing piece for a room in need of distinctive art. “Many times in the rooms that are going to be visible to guests, like a powder room or dining room, people will go a little bit over the top and choose statement pieces,” said Singer. The Large Wire Globe Lantern by the Richmond bloggers of Young House Love is a good eye-catching complement for traditional or modern homes ($89,

For a really funky piece of lighting art — appropriate for a kitchen, rec room or even a teenager’s room — try Vintage Marquee Lights, in letters or numbers ($229, www.vintage

• Classics for a reason

“I just so often think that things are overdone in the lighting category,” said longtime Washington, D.C., designer Frank Babb Randolph. For that reason, he overlooks trendier pieces and sticks to classics such as the Tizio Table Lamp, designed by Robert Sapper in 1972, best for task lighting in drawing rooms and home offices ($525,

For the bedroom, a swing-arm lamp, such as the classic Hinson, is Randolph’s go-to choice. “There’s nothing like a swing-arm lamp in the bedroom because it gives you the proper lighting at the proper height,” he said. Similar lamps can be found in many places, such as the Classic Swing Arm Lamp by Circa Lighting ($252,

Another classic is the Anglepoise Lamp Original 1227 desk lamp. Designed by George Carwardine in 1932, it was re-released last year by Anglepoise for its 75th anniversary ($250,

• Tips for your table

Choosing a table lamp can be trickier than choosing a bedside or task lamp, because there are so many choices. If you’re overwhelmed, Feldman suggests a gourd, such as the Porcelain Table Lamp by Garnet Hill. “There’s tons of different ceramic gourds that are all sorts of colors,” she said, making it easy to find one that complements your color scheme. For shades for any type of lamp, Feldman recommends a basic white linen or paper shade in a drum shape ($231,

“When done in pairs, table lamps can create a nice amount of symmetry,” Feldman said. “Especially if you don’t have matching end tables.” For an edgy modern option, consider the Concrete Cube Mini Lamp by Regina-Andrew Design ($210,

How big should a table lamp be? When debating about size, “Err on the side of bigger rather than smaller,” Feldman said. West Elm’s Perch Table Lamp would be a good fit for a small end table ($69,

• Consider the bulb

  • related content

  • Restoration Hardware’s 1900 Pharmacy Floor Lamp is a good choice if you have a dark corner but no room for an end table.Restoration Hardware

  • Table Lamps: From left, West Elm’s Perch Table Lamp; Garnet Hill’s Porcelain Table Lamps; and Regina-Andrew Design’s Concrete Cube Mini Lamp.

  • Decorative bulbs can add ambience: From left, Lander Sconce with retro bulb; Tall Edison bulb; and Smokey 30s Radio-style Small Tungsten Filament Bulb.

  • Vintage Marquee Lights in letters or numbers can lend a fun touch to a teen’s bedroom or rec room.

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