Table Lamps as Decorative Lighting

Example of decorative lightingWhen you’re planning a lighting scheme for your home or office, table lamps are extremely versatile, and to get the most of them, it helps if you’re aware of what role you’d like them to play. Previous articles looked at ambient and accent lighting types, and in this third installment, let’s look at a type of lighting that table lamps were made for: decorative lighting.

What is decorative lighting?

Decorative lighting is not designed primarily to provide usable lighting, but rather to serve as a design element in itself. It’s the opposite of ambient lighting: instead of providing a light that spreads throughout your room, the light it creates may not extend very far at all; and instead of the light source hiding in the background, decorative table lamps demand to be noticed!

Think of a decorative table lamp as an ornament that happens to light up, and you’re nearly there.

Types of decorative table lamps

There are many types of table lamps that can be considered decorative, and can be used as a centerpiece in any room. Here are a few sample techniques to look out for:

Stained Glass
Glass has been used in table lamps for many generations, and over time, its properties have been used creatively to great effect. Probably the best known example of this comes with Tiffany Lamps, where organic, flowing shapes are constructed out of many pieces of stained glass. Colored glass does restrict the amount of light that passes through, but it does light up beautifully, forming a focal point in your room that’s bound to impress!
Cut glass plays wonderfully with light, with many little prisms splitting light up into a spectrum of colors. It also creates a dappled effect throughout a room, and when the crystal shards sway, you get an effect reminiscent of a bright summer’s day by a stream. Crystal table lamps are almost hypnotic to watch.
Many materials are translucent, meaning that it allows light to pass through, but the light becomes diffused. In other words, you can see light coming through, but you can’t see clearly through the material. This phenomenon is widely used by table lamps, for example, with textured paper lamp shades producing a more attractive light source. Other materials include frosted glass and various fabrics, and work well because they obscure the light bulb, and almost become a more interesting light source in themselves.
Creative Bases
In some decorative table lamps, the base itself is the focal point, with the light serving only to enhance it. Some Art Deco designs, for example, are more like sculptures than lamps, and the light source exists simply to show the base at its best. There are some beautiful designs that fall into this category in a wide range of styles.
Other Table Lamps
Image of a Fiber Optic Table LampImage of Fiber Optic Table Lamp: Wikimedia Commons
Some designers have produced incredible ideas when designing decorative table lamps. Fiber optics, for example, have limited lighting value in a home, but used as a decoration, and they can really capture the attention of anybody entering a room.

If you’re trying to add some focus to your interior design, a decorative table lamp is one of the most impressive, and cost effective ways of achieving it. Whether your style is traditional or contemporary, there are many outstanding examples to choose from!

Main image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Posted in Table Lamps Lighting | Tagged , | Comments Off

Table Lamps as Accent Lighting

Photo of a table lamp being used for accent lightingIn the first part of our look at lighting types, we discussed some ideas for using table lamps as ambient lighting. This is a great start for any lighting scheme, and table lamps are perfect for creating an overall atmosphere, and experimenting with different locations.

However, if your ambient lighting is leaving shadows a little flat, you can add some real visual interest by adding another type of lighting. There are several options available, and table lamps can fulfill many roles, but in this article, we’re going to take a closer look at accent lighting.

What is accent lighting?

Accent lighting is used to highlight a feature or object in a room. The lamp itself doesn’t command any attention, because its purpose is to draw the eye to a specific part of the room.

The object being highlighted can be anything: a picture, a piece of furniture, an interesting architectural feature, or even just a wall. It is important that the lamp focuses on the object strongly, without highlighting too much of its surroundings.

Using a table lamp for accenting

Once again, using a table lamp is a great idea, because you can reposition them easily to highlight a feature from the best possible angle. Choosing an opaque lamp shade works best, because it concentrates the light on a smaller area, making it more dramatic.

Also pay attention to the type of light bulb used. A reflector bulb will force the light upwards, rather than letting it spill out underneath too. Using a smaller light bulb can also work great, because the smaller light source produces sharper shadows, which contrast wonderfully against the softer shadows produced by ambient lighting.

Creative use of accent light

Think about what you want to highlight in your room, and consider how light and shadow will frame it. For example, accenting a flat picture may look good, but if the picture is framed or block mounted, a table lamp underneath will cast a dramatic shadow above it.

Similarly, anything that can cast a shadow should be experimented with: place a table lamp in front of a heavily textured wall, for example, or behind a small sculpture to throw it into dramatic silhouette.

Look at any attractive metal objects: old copper kettles, attractive ornaments, and so on. Accenting these can add lots of visual impact, because they cast beautiful light effects to complement strong shadows. Just be careful that the reflections shine onto a wall or other surface, rather than into people’s eyes! Once again, because table lamps are so portable, you can experiment easily until you have the right positioning.

Although table lamps can create a wonderful atmosphere in any room, it’s also nice to use them to highlight something interesting too, whether it’s the smallest ornament, or a feature wall. The trick, as always, is to keep it simple. Highlighting every object is usually too visually confusing, but accenting a carefully chosen feature with the right table lamp will add a dramatic focal point to every room!

Image Credit: stock.xchng

Posted in Table Lamps Lighting | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Table Lamps as Ambient Lighting

Table Lamp Ambient LightingAmbient light is one of the most fundamental types of lighting available. Unlike spotlights, for example, ambient light seems to come from everywhere at once, and depending on the brightness used, can be very practical (suitable for when you’re cleaning the house, for example), or very subtle (like a cozy background light that works well when you’re watching TV).

One of the characteristics of ambient light is that the light source itself often isn’t immediately obvious. It doesn’t add drama to a room, because the shadows it casts are very soft, but it does set the tone. To achieve such an effect relies on technical sounding terms like diffusion and reflection. Don’t be put off though, because in practice, it’s quite simple really!


If you have a table lamp sitting in the center of a room, with no lamp shade, and a standard light bulb, it would likely draw a lot of attention for all the wrong reasons. A stark, glaring light source is uncomfortable to look at, but difficult to avoid. The rest of the room would be filled with high contrast light and shadow, which is hardly an ideal environment to relax in!

To improve things somewhat, the light needs to be diffused. By the simple addition of a translucent lamp shade, light from the bulb is partially subdued, then scattered (or diffused) more evenly throughout your room.

By toning down the source of the light, and spreading out its effect, your room instantly becomes more comfortable to be in. But the light source is still the center of attention, so another factor has to be considered: Reflection.


Light doesn’t just stop when it hits a physical object. It always reacts, usually through diffusion, or reflection. Although the level of light diminishes, a certain amount will bounce off surfaces and continue to light other objects. If it didn’t do this, it would never reach our eyes!

This type of reflection can be used to our advantage when planning a lighting scheme for our home. By placing a table lamp close to a large surface, like a wall, or on a high shelf near the ceiling, the surface becomes a secondary light source too, softening any hard shadows caused by the original light bulb.

Using a table lamp gives you the luxury of being able to try out different locations and effects. A wall with a matte surface will scatter the light nicely, while a colored surface will add a distinct character to the overall atmosphere. Experiment and see what works best for your home.

The Table Lamp Advantage

Table lamps are great for ambient lighting, as they are so easy to move around. You can change the ambiance of a room simply by moving it away from a white wall, and placing it beside a burgundy curtain instead.

The important factors, I believe, are the position of the light, and the lamp shade you choose. Many table lamps have opaque shades, which is more difficult to use for ambient light, as you have to rely on reflection. However, attractive translucent shades are abundantly available these days, made out of paper, fabrics, ground glass, plastic and other materials.

For a complete lighting design, ambient light is often complemented by other, more dramatic types of lighting. It is the bedrock upon which other lights can add their dramatic effects, as we’ll be discussing in other articles. Be creative with ambient light, as table lamps allow you to be, and your rooms will be all the richer for it!

Image Credit: stock.xchng

Posted in Table Lamps Lighting | Tagged , | Comments Off

5 Classic Table Lamps: Lighting from the Past

Go into any lighting store, and the variety of table lamps available can be staggering. Although modern production methods have opened up all kind of possibilities for designers, the vast range of designs we see today often owe a great deal to the wealth of styles that have come before. Let’s take a moment to look at some iconic moments in the history of table lamps lighting.

1. Argand Lamp

Portrait of James Peale beside an Argand Lamp

Although lamps have been in existence for centuries, it was the Argand lamp (named for its inventor, Aimé Argand, in 1780) that first provided a unit that could be placed on a table, and still provide enough light for families to gather around. Previous to this, lamps simply weren’t bright enough for this purpose, which can be difficult to imagine today.

Image Credit: Wikimedia

2. Victorian Lamps

Decorative arts in the Victorian era (1837-1901) were inspired by a variety of influences throughout the world, merging traditional styles and reinterpreting artwork from the Middle-East and Asia. Combined with improved production techniques, the era is defined by excessive decoration and ornamentation, and table lamps from this time reflected that aesthetic. With fringes, beading, stained glass and a whole host of decorative touches, you either love them or hate them! You can’t ignore, however, the enthusiasm and adventurous spirit that seems to mark all periods of prosperity. This is the underlying theme that designers returned to again in later periods.

3. Mission Lamps

A close up of the stained glass of a Mission lamp

Towards the end of the Victorian era, another style was emerging that couldn’t have been more different. Named ‘Mission Style’ after the Spanish Missions in the area, it was a simple style that used natural materials (usually oak), and was characterized by strong horizontal and vertical lines. Mission table lamps usually had a simple, pyramid shaped shade, often made from stained glass.

Image Credit: stock.xchng

4. Dragonfly Lamps

Close up of a dragonfly lamp shadeDespite the enduring popularity of the simpler Mission style lamps, the Art Nouveau movement that peaked in the late 19th- early 20th Centuries continued exploring decorative and organic forms, with an emphasis on flowing lines rather than simple geometry. One of the era’s most prominent artists in the US was Louis Comfort Tiffany, often credited with the iconic Tiffany lamps. Of these, the dragonfly design has proved to be one of the most enduring, and in a strange twist, it was recently discovered that it was not actually designed by Tiffany. Like many of the best known Tiffany light designs, it was actually the work of Clara Driscoll, who worked in his studios. Unrecognized in her lifetime, it is fitting that her work has stood the test of time.

Image Credit: Wikimedia

5. Art Deco Lamps

Example of an Art Deco LampFollowing the first World War, the world tried to return to normal, and for a while, a new sense of optimism crept in. The sense of discovery that informed the Victorian arts returned once again: archeology, ancient cultures, and technological progress. The dominant art form of the time was named many years later as Art Deco, which perfectly described the decorative emphasis of the era. Another similarity with the Victorian era can be seen in the variety of table lamps produced. Although there were many different styles explored by designers, you can still look at any of them today and be transported back to the roaring twenties. Sometimes the lamps used simple geometry, inspired no doubt by the emergence of skyscrapers. Other times, it borrowed imagery, particularly from ancient Egypt, and cast it in metal alongside swooping, aerodynamic forms.

Image Credit: iStockPhoto

So there’s a roundup of 5 classic styles that you may enjoy. Remember, when older styles remain popular, they’re usually a safe bet to buy, because it’s less likely they’ll go out of fashion anytime soon!

Posted in Table Lamps Lighting | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

4 Great Table Lamps Lighting Functions

Photo of a bedside table lamp providing general lighting

The simple addition of a table lamp to your home can really enhance the atmosphere and mood. Being conscious of the different effect table lamps can give, and the various roles you can make it play, can help tremendously with planning your next table lamp lighting project. Here are 4 considerations you should think about:

1. General Lighting

General lighting is the most basic function any lamp can perform. It’s purpose, quite simply, is to provide ambient light! This can be bright, for practical purposes, or more subdued to create a pleasant mood. Either way, it’s purpose is not to draw attention to itself, but rather to the room around it.

2. Decorative Lamps

Some table lamps, such as stained glass Tiffany lamps, are works of great beauty in their own right. Adding such a lamp to your home is making a statement, and you certainly don’t want such an object playing a supporting role. It will make a centerpiece in any room, and you’ll want to show it off to all your guests. In some cases, the lighting it gives off may be impractical for general use, and you may need to rely on other lamp sources to supplement it (modern fiber optic lamps are a wonderful example of this). However, they generally make a great impression in any room.

3. Accent Lighting

Sometimes a table lamp is used for one purpose only: to draw attention to another centerpiece in a room. For example, a painting, or even simply a feature wall, can be enhanced by the addition of a well positioned lamp directly underneath, or on a nearby shelf. The purpose of accent lighting is to enhance something else, so you generally don’t want it to be a noticeable object in itself. Nor do you want it to serve too much as general lighting for the rest of the room, as that diminishes the impact of the item being highlighted. A table lamp with a directional design works especially well for this.

Photo of a Tiffany table lamp and two pigeon sculptures

Sometimes a table lamp can serve more than one role, as in this example of a Tiffany lamp that is a centerpiece in its own right, but is enhanced by providing accent lighting to some small sculptures and a vibrant red backdrop. Image Credit: WikiMedia Commons

4. Task Lighting

Table lamps are great for creating an atmosphere, but many can serve very practical purposes too. When they do, they are often referred to as ‘task lighting’. A desk lamp is a great example of this, as they focus your mind on the task to hand. There are specialized variations too, with some models even including a magnifying glass for precision work, well suited to model makers, stamp collectors, and many other disciplines.

Whatever type of lighting you need in your home, you’ll undoubtedly find a table lamp to fit the bill. With their ease of installation, you risk very little by trying out one of these specialized lighting functions. If it doesn’t work out, simply move the lamp somewhere else until it gives you the effect you want.

By understanding some of the roles a table lamp can play, you can make deliberate, and more informed choices the next time you want table lamps lighting to improve your home!

Posted in Table Lamps Lighting | Tagged , | Comments Off

3 Reasons Why Table Lamps Lighting Makes a House a Home

Image of a table lamp

So you’ve moved in to your new home. It’s an exciting time, no doubt, stressful too, but full of possibilities! Most people are excited about what their new home will look like when they’ve finished painting, wallpapering, and adding furniture.

But when you’ve done all that, perhaps there’s still something missing. You look around, and notice that maybe the lighting isn’t as good as it should be. Perhaps there’s nothing wrong with it, and it’s all very practical, but that’s about all you can say about it. You can see what you’re doing, but when you sit down to watch TV at night, or relax over a meal, there’s a subtlety that’s missing. Turn the lights on, and you can see all the clutter in the room in perfect detail, and it’s hard to relax. Turn them off, and the TV becomes too glaring. It’s time for the simplest of finishing touches, brought to you with table lamps lighting.

1. Better light

‘Better’ is such a subjective term, and maybe it’s not the right word. After all, if you’re cleaning at night, or doing some decorating, then yes, practical standard lighting is probably a ‘better’ light. But when it comes to actually living in your home, nothing beats a table lamp. It’s not bright enough to show up every corner of the room, it’s extremely flattering, and it makes a nice backdrop for watching TV. Oh, and if you’re out of candles, it makes a great romantic substitute for those special meals, when you really need to impress!

2. Centerpiece lighting

Sometimes you may have a beautiful Tiffany light that you want to act as a centerpiece in itself, with its wonderful array of colors providing a focus to any room. Or perhaps you have a special painting or feature wall that you want to be noticed when guests enter your home, so you place a table lamp nearby to provide some accent lighting. Best of all, you don’t have to decide straight away where you want it to go, unlike most light fittings. If its new home isn’t working out, just plug it out and move it somewhere else. What could be simpler!

3. Bedside lighting

This is one of the most common homely touches you can make, and it’s what table lamps were made for! Imagine you wanted to read in bed, but your partner needed to sleep because they had to make an early start the following day. What are you going to do, turn on the main light? No, a bedside table lamp is the perfect answer, providing a reading light for you, and a relaxing soft glow that anybody can sleep through. And let’s not forget about young children who may be afraid of the dark. A soft table lamp lighting their room will help them get off to sleep peacefully.

Do you have any other reasons why table lamps lighting can make a house a home? Let’s hear about them! Leave your thoughts in the comments below; we’d love to hear from you!

Posted in Table Lamps Lighting | Tagged , | Comments Off

Cheap Table Lamps

Cheap Table Lamps IllustrationWhen you think of traditional table lamps, there is something beautiful about the thought of buying a piece of furniture that acts as a focal point in your room. Crystal table lamps and Tiffany lights are great examples of this, where the table lamp itself begs for attention. They are truly wonderful to look at, and even a humble mission lamp, hand crafted in the old ways, has a certain rustic charm to it.

An ornate table lamp, or even a hand-crafted simple one, is bound to cost a little extra (sometimes a lot extra!), and that can put some people off looking at any table lamp for their home. But take a step back and relax.

Table lamps lighting is quite simple really: usually just a light fixture, a bulb, a shade, and something to hold it all together. Can they be made cheaper than the classic models? Of course they can!

A Tiffany light stuns people with its intricate craftsmanship, the attention to detail in its fine stained glass pieces. The lamp shade, for want of a better term, is clearly an exquisite item to behold. But you don’t need that level of detail if you’re just looking for some subtle lighting to add a warm atmosphere to your home. A simple fabric, plastic or paper lamp shade can be very effective for this purpose.

The light fixtures themselves are standard enough, and light bulbs can be purchased economically for just about any effect. So that just leaves the body of the table lamp itself. A high end, hand crafted mission lamp takes time and attention to make, and the cost may reflect that. Likewise, some lamps may be machine made, but use expensive materials. Modern table lamps, however, can be molded from just about any standard material, and can be mass produced very inexpensively.

So if you’re about to buy your very first table lamp, and you’re on a limited budget, don’t worry. A modern table lamp, mass produced, will fit into just about any home. Go for a simple design so that the lamp itself blends in almost unnoticed, while the lighting gives you the effect you want!

Posted in Cheap Table Lamps | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

The Touch Table Lamp Option

Touch Table Lamp IllustrationA touch table lamp, as the name might suggest, is a table lamp that is switched on or off by simply touching its base. The first time you try it, you’re guaranteed to be impressed!

Technically, they work by taking advantage of ‘body capacitance’, which is just a fancy way of saying that when a human touches the base, the electrical properties of the lamp change, and that triggers a switch. But you don’t really need to know that: all you need to know is that they’re incredibly effective.

Available in a wide variety of styles, from metal and classic designs, to plastic and contemporary ones, there’s bound to be something that will appeal to you. Any table lamp style you can imagine is probably available in a touch table lamp version, and indeed, the technology exists to retro-fit touch technology to an existing table lamp too. This versatility means that your table lamp can be chosen to suit your environment.

Easy Light Switch

For anyone who has struggled to find a mechanical switch hidden under a lampshade somewhere, or tried in vain to turn a table lamp on or off in the middle of the night, a touch table lamp is a real bonus. No matter how tired you are, with such a large surface area to use as a switch (and because you only have to barely touch it), it’s easy to use. Some table lamps have a switch near the light bulb too, which can be dangerous for children to use because of the heat. A touch table lamp removes that danger, and makes it the ideal choice for your kids.

3 Setting Dimmer Switch

One of the most common features of a touch table lamp is that most models feature a 3 setting dimmer switch. What that means is that the lamp has more than one brightness setting, so touching it once will light it up with a soft glow, touch it again for a slightly brighter light, and touch it a third time for full brightness. This gives you three moods in one table lamp, and again, this is a great option for children, because it means they can have a little light at night, without being kept awake by the brightness. Touching it once more turns it off again, so it’s very easy to use.

Touch Table Lamp in action

So that’s an introduction to touch table lamps, and the advantages they can offer your home. Hopefully you will consider them as another option the next time you decide to purchase a table lamp!

Posted in Touch Table Lamp | Tagged , | Comments Off

Introduction to Art Deco Lamps

Photo of the Chrysler Building, New York, an example of Art Deco architechtureThere’s something magical about the ‘Roaring Twenties’: World War 1 was over, and it seemed, for a while at least, that everything had returned to normal. There was something optimistic about that time too, with people thinking that modern technology was a force to be admired, and that the future was wide open in terms of potential. This aesthetic informed one of the great art movements of the time, and it touched everything from cigarette lighters to skyscrapers, and of course, table lamps lighting!

The style in question was Art Deco, and if you’re not familiar with it, think of a celebration of the machine age, with lots of streamlined metal ornamentation, fused with other facinations of the time (particularly from archaeology). It was a wonderfully distinct aesthetic that reminds people of jazz, early cinema and a world full of optimism.

Examples include the Empire State Building, and perhaps even more distinctly, the Chrysler building in New York. Once you enter any of these buildings, and view the decorative elements inside and out, you begin to get a feel for this style. It also comes through in the industrial design of the time, as is evident in some of the motor cars of the period. And if you’re still having trouble visualizing the style, just think of the old Flash Gordon movies!

Art Deco for Art Deco’s sake

Image of an Art Deco LampUnlike many art movements, Art Deco was purely decorative: there were no underlying political statements being made, although some of the influences were based on improvements in technology, aerodynamics and other stuff that excited designers at the time. Art Deco lamps continue to carry this tradition through to this day.

There is often confusion between Art Deco, and Art Nouveau, which, in terms of table lamps lighting, was probably best defined by Tiffany lights. We’ll look at them in more detail in another post.

There’s no one particular ‘type’ of table lamps lighting that fits the Art Deco style, yet even in the diversity of models available, from metallic Egyptian goddesses, to swooping silver curves, one can always recognize an Art Deco lamp as being from that era!

Chrysler Building & Art Deco Cat Lamp images are adapted from Wikimedia Commons, and are understood to be in the Public Domain.

Posted in Art Deco Lamps | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Table Lamps: Lighting to Enhance Your Home

When you think of home improvements, there are obvious choices: new wallpaper, a spot of painting, and maybe some new furniture. But what about something that’s not so disruptive, takes little effort to install, is very affordable, and can make a big impact? With table lamps, lighting becomes decoration, adding an atmosphere that few improvements can match. You’re no longer limited to relying on the glare of fixed lighting fixtures: a table lamp can be placed wherever the lighting is really needed to enhance your home!

During the daytime, the style of your table lamp is important, as it has to stand on its own merits. Luckily, in terms of style, the sky’s the limit. From art deco to mission style table lamps, novelty table lamps to contemporary models with fiber optics, there’s something to suit every taste, with many of the styles serving as attractive centrepieces that are sure to impress.

At night, or even in dark corners of you home, most people love table lamps lighting their rooms in ways standard lights simply can’t. Think of soft lighting where it’s needed to add an atmosphere that can’t be achieved in any other way, leaving distracting areas of clutter in semi-darkness. Romantic settings, relaxing lighting, ambient mood… what other home improvement offers that?

Which raises another important point: sometimes the lighting is secondary to the decorative effect. For example, fibre optic table lamps may not be suitable for lighting in a practical sense, but they sure add personality to a room!

That’s not to say that table lamps are impractical luxuries: quite the opposite! For example, if a small amount of lighting is all that’s required, then a table lamp will often save on your electricity bills. For parents, they can help with young children who are afraid of the dark, without being so bright that they keep their kids awake. And the focus they bring to just one area of a room can make working and studying a far more pleasurable experience.

So before you look at expensive renovations in these cash-strapped times, look at an easy way of enhancing your home with table lamps lighting the way!

Posted in Table Lamps Lighting | Tagged , | Comments Off