All Lamps are Not Created Equal


They lurk in corners. They sit discreetly on desks. They’re the unsung heroes of interior lighting.


Most of us pay great attention to the fixed lighting in our home. Flick a switch when you come in the door and there you have it: your beautiful home bathed in light.

And for practical purposes that’s possibly it: job done. But just as the chairs, the cushions, the rugs, and the pictures give the place character, so do the lamps.


They can play a purely practical role, illuminating a gloomy area or improving your ability to read, but lamps are also potential objects of beauty in their own right.

Why there is no such thing as a standard lamp

Lamps can make a statement. From the classic green glass and brass of the desk lamp, which adds an element of seriousness and style to a room where you get the business done, to the bold gorgeousness of an unusual standard lamp or table lamp in the living room.

So technically, something might be a standard lamp but not standard as in one universally accepted style.

When shopping for lamps, there are two main things to consider: practicality and style. It’s no use buying something that looks great but doesn’t do the job. It’s also self-defeating to take home some joyless object that sits there like a bright-headed sentry.

Types of Lamps

Technical terms are, of course, available if you want them, but unless you’re shopping in a specialist lighting store, you don’t need much more vocabulary than “standard”, or “floor” meaning one of those that stands on its own, sometimes about five feet high.

Apart from that, the salesperson in a small department store or a cluttered little place full of this and that is going to know about as much as you do. Some people call those green-shaded desk lamps with the brass body banker lamps or piano lamps, but simply asking for “one of those green-shaded desk lamps with the brass body” will get the message across.

The specialist outlets can be bewildering with their unnatural concentration of lighting units, but the advice you receive can make it worthwhile, and that goes for bulbs too. The modern attitude of conserving energy has moved the emphasis from cute shapes to practical necessity, from candle-like effects to pairs of curling tubes that challenge the imagination as to why they’re like they are. And while you have one eye on conservation, it is important to make sure the light is strong enough to do what it’s there for.


If you have no real idea what you want and you like to go out with some targets, here are some tips:

  • Floor lamps are often supporting players in a room, rather than the stars of a space.
  • Table lamps are typically mid-sized and practical.
  • Wall lamps provide necessary illumination for safety, to accent architectural features and artwork, add task lighting or serve as décor all on their own.

It may be helpful to think of lamps like accessories: for women, earrings and bracelets and scarves (and make-up, for that matter) and for men, ties, belts, watches and perhaps socks.

Younger generations (and, increasingly, mature women, in fact) accessorize with tattoos and piercings, but that’s rather different.

Practical Eye Candy

Looking at the pragmatic aspect, if your space is equipped with a central light, wall lights and a dozen little stars embedded in the ceiling, you may not actually need additional illumination, but that’s not to say the room wouldn’t benefit from some shining eye-candy.

Rather than the grim soldiers referred to earlier, maybe you would like to have Marilyn Monroe or Brad Pitt hanging around the place.

Another technical term that’s worth knowing, even if the salesperson may not understand, is gooseneck. This is the variety with a long, thin neck made of interlocking metal rings, which you can bend to the angle you need.

Then there are the type that are in two sections, hinged in the middle, which can be made to do a kind of curtsey or stretch like a ballerina to adjust the height, with the head able to swivel.

Maybe you like a nice ceramic inverted bowl shape, with minute cracks in the glaze or adorned with small pieces of reflective glass, like mirror balls or mosaics.

A slick modern room may call for the smooth simplicity of stainless steel, while a more rustic space could be enhanced by what looks like driftwood.

The Possibilities are Endless

There is, in fact, no end to the variety of styles and colors available to make your particular desired impression. Whatever effect you want, there is something out there for you, and the intriguing thing is, there are options you’ve never even thought about.