Picking the Perfect Lamp for the Perfect Spot

Lighting can make or break your redecorating project.  Using a lamp that’s too large can overwhelm the area and crowd out design elements..  A lamp that’s too small sure isn’t going to add anything to your décor, and you can strain your eyes while trying to read.

Professional interior designers know how to match the scale of the lighting to the area just by eyeballing it.  But since you aren’t a professional, and you’re choosing lighting to makeover a room, you may not have that experience.  So use these tips to help you find the right size lighting for your space:

Task Lighting

  • Lamps that are used for tasks should be approximately 28" to 32" tall.
  • Floor lamps are normally 40- 44 inches in height.
  • Both a floor lamp and table lamp should be positioned so the light is behind the shoulder and the shade will be in the head area.  This casts the light on to the task at hand, sewing, reading, etc.
  • Avoid placing a lamp in the middle of a table. The on/off switch should be within reach.
  • Lamps placed on dressers for accent or decorative lighting should measure under 24 inches in height, they usually average 20 – 24 inches.

Overhead Lighting

Chandeliers should match the scale of your dining room table. Measure the width of your dining room table – say it’s 48 inches wide. 

Take ½ of your width and add 9 inches to get your chandelier diameter.
48 x ½ = 24 inches
24 + 9 = 35 inches

Now that you have the chandelier where exactly do you hang it?  The rule for hanging a chandelier over a dining room table for room with eight foot ceilings is the bottom should hang approximately 30 inches above the table.  For 9 foot ceilings make it 33 inches, 10 foot ceilings, 36 inches.

What about the chandelier in the hallway?  Make it seven feet above the floor so no one hits their head on it.  Don’t hang it too high, this ranks right up there with hanging artwork too high – it’s a big no-no in interior decorating.  If the chandelier hangs over an accent table, it can hang 5 1/2 feet from the floor.

Lamp Shades

Now that you’ve chosen the right sized lamp, you’re faced with the next lighting dilemma – choosing the right sized shade for table lamps. 

  • The height of the lamp shade should be about 2/3 the height of the base of the lamp.  If you have a 15 inch base, the height should be 10 inches.
  • Make sure the bottom edge of the shade covers the lighting hardware when it’s in place.
  • Square and oval shades will look more modern and drum and bell shaped shades are more classic.  Choose appropriately for your lamp and room décor.