Select a Lamp

How to select the right lamp article by Jim Hoyle

A unique perspective on how to select a lamp from a veteran lamp manufacturer.

I remember an interesting event that occurred in 1979 while attending the International Home Furnishings Market in High Point, North Carolina. A designer came into our showroom where we were exhibiting our lamps, pictures, other accessories and furniture. She carried with her a catalog page from one of the country's largest retailers at that time. On this page was a listing in tabular form showing the "exact" shade size to order if your lamp was a particular height. Imagine that in today's market ! One size definitely does not fit all.

We will not be quite that specific but instead offer you some guidelines that will give you confidence in selecting a lamp for any area of your home or office. We also consult with hotels, motels, casinos, nursing homes, prisons and other institutions. These situations have unique considerations that must be addressed individually but many of the same principles apply.

Before you go looking for a lamp, ponder some questions. You may be surprised how much this pondering will help. A journalistic approach will help you to formulate in your own mind just how to select a lamp. Who - What - Where - When - Why and How

Who are you? Are your tastes and your current home decor formal, casual, country, contemporary, etc. Your living area is a reflection of who you are and what you like. So, who are you? Do you just want to do something on a whim (in the way of home decor), then perhaps you are not so concerned with what your current theme is about. Otherwise you will want your new lamp to "fit in" with what you already have and like in your home.

What is the main purpose, the primary use for the lamp you are considering: reading, writing, work project, area lighting, accent lighting, an object of art, a beautiful specimen lamp, just something pretty that will light up an area? What colors are you using in the room where you are putting your new lamp? Remember, you are just pondering for the moment. For now simply hold these considerations in your own mind and give them some thought.

What room is the lamp going to be placed: living room, den, bedroom, dining room, foyer, kitchen, bathroom, game room, entertainment room, etc?

Where exactly is the lamp to be used: a table, a desk, night stand, counter top, mantel, book case, chest, dresser, sideboard, armoire, etc? 

When will you typically be using the lamp: morning, noon, afternoon, bedtime, after supper, late night? Will others be in the room with you when you are using the lamp? Will the light from the lamp affect others in the room? Now that you have pondered the above ideas, let us look at some specifics especially sizes. Home decor items are very important as they relate to each other in the same room. How big is the table, counter, shelf, etc. where the lamp will sit ? A large lamp on a small table or small area will appear overpowering. A small lamp by itself on a large table or in a large area will appear lost.

How large is the room where the lamp is to be used? A tiny lamp left exposed in a huge room will appear lost and vice versa. How high are the ceilings? Many medium to large homes today have 17' or taller ceilings in the great room. Generally a 30" tall (or above) end table lamp is right at home in a room this size. Of course a lamp sitting on the bookcase in this same room may only be 12-15" tall. The mantel lamp in this same room may be 25-35" tall. Think of relativity (remember Einstein).

The construction material of your new lamp can be extremely important. The most durable materials are cast metals, stone, porcelains, crystals, glass and wood. All of the antique heirloom lamps that we see and work with today are made from these materials and they very handsomely stand the test of time. Resin or poly resin and hydrocal are not recommended for any lamp that you wish to keep for an extended period of time as these materials nearly self destruct.

Still pondering ? You should already be well on your way to fine tuning what you need. If you find that you still need help, free consultation is available from many home d├ęcor manufacturers via the internet.

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