How to Use Lamps in a Room

When you move into a new space – whether it’s a house, townhome, apartment, or condo – the only lighting that’s included is on the ceiling (i.e. recessed lights and flush-mounts) or perhaps attached to a ceiling fan. While some people assume that is all that’s needed, interior designers and lighting experts know otherwise and happily share that knowledge with their clients to enhance their home.

The term “portable lighting” refers to table and desk lamps as well as floor lamps and torchieres. In short, it’s lighting that can be easily moved, only needing an electrical outlet nearby. Conversely, “fixed” lighting is wired into a ceiling or wall and cannot be moved elsewhere without an electrician.

All too often, we analyze our rooms in daytime, when natural light provides extra brightness. We don’t realize just how dark the space is until night falls and shadows are noticeable, making the space seem smaller and unintentionally contributing to eye strain.

Portable lighting is one of the most under-rated design tools, and yet it can make a spectacular difference in the visual impact and enjoyment of your space. Having lamps at various heights throughout a room subtly gives your eyes a place to “rest” and can accentuate other decorative elements – such as the furnishings – while performing an important function.

Floor lamps - Photo credit Bethany Schrock - LightsOnline Blog
Photo credit – Design by Bethany Schrock

How Floor Lamps & Torchieres Can Make a Room Look Bigger

One of the techniques that award-winning lighting designer Peter Romaniello, IALD, of Conceptual Lighting, LLC, in Huntersville, N.C., relies on to make rooms appear larger is to have lighting graze the walls. Placing a torchiere or floor lamp in the far corners is one way to subconsciously draw attention along the room’s full length, visually expanding the space.   

Table lamps add visual depth and comfort to any space - Photo credit Ashley Chapin of The Cornell Ranch - LightsOnline Blog
Photo credit – Ashley Chapin of The Cornell Ranch

How Table Lamps Add Visual Depth & Comfort to Any Space

If the lighting in a room is only coming from above – whether by recessed lighting or a ceiling-mounted fixture or chandelier – it will cast shadows. This may not be a big problem, depending on the furniture arrangement or ceiling height; however, if there is a couch or chair below, having a table or floor lamp within reach will reduce eye strain when reading or performing other tasks.     

There are also aesthetic benefits to using portable lamps. Just like a gorgeous rug, comfortable furniture, and beautiful artwork, the look of the portable lighting you choose has a significant impact on how comfortable you feel in that space. In addition to the functional aspect, lamps can complement the room’s color scheme and create a warm focal point at eye-level.

How to use lamps in a room - LightsOnline Blog
Photo credit – Eri Sabalvoro

Selecting a Desk Light for Your Home Office or Homework Station

Whether you have a designated desk for daily work tasks or a makeshift spot along a kitchen counter, a desk lamp (also referred to as a task lamp) is a necessity you won’t want to be without.

The most important attributes of a desk/task lamp are two-fold: the ability to bathe your keyboard or writing surface with functional, direct light; and the flexibility to focus that beam of light exactly where it’s needed.

Desk/task lighting is one of those under-estimated product categories where the advantages aren’t immediately clear until you try it. There have been several recent scientific studies that have evaluated the effects of proper task lighting in the workplace. The results point to greater productivity and concentration, less fatigue, and an improved feeling of wellness among workers when task lighting in certain color temperatures and brightness levels are appropriately applied. 

Task lighting in the residential environment can yield similar benefits. Eye strain is one of those stealthy energy-zappers that often goes undetected. Having proper illumination for work surfaces can subconsciously make a difference in focus and mood.

Having any task light is better than none, and fortunately finding the right one for you is relatively easy. If you are more traditional in your design taste and worry all task lamps are highly contemporary in appearance with blue-white LED light, fear not. There are still plenty of desk lamps on the market in a classic style with incandescent bulbs. Those whose design preference falls somewhere in between traditional and contemporary will be pleased to learn that an assortment of “transitional” style task/desk lighting is available with incandescent, fluorescent, and even LED bulbs. Those who favor a contemporary design aesthetic will have the greatest number of products to choose from.

Many of the new styles of desk/task lamps on the market have modern conveniences such as USB ports for charging devices as well as a choice in “color temperatures” that allow you to select from a white light to a warmer color, depending on your preference or time of day. Task lamps with multiple adjustability points will provide the most tailored fit to your workspace.

LeGrand adorne dimmer - LightsOnline Blog

Meet Your New Best Friend: The Dimmer

One of the most value-rich products you can buy to maximize the lighting in your home is also one of the most economical. Putting all of your lamps and fixtures on dimmers not only saves you money (by extending the life of the bulb by reducing wattage), but greatly enhances the ambiance by lowering the light levels when you want to relax.

When reading or performing cleaning tasks such as vacuuming or dusting, full brightness will provide the amount of light needed. Kicking back on the couch to binge-watch TV or view a movie? Dim the lamps to a warmer, lower level to lessen eye strain and provide enough light for easily navigating to the kitchen for a refreshment break.

Table lamps do not come equipped with dimmers, but there are plug-in “lamp dimmers” you can buy as well as light bulbs that can be dimmed by using a smartphone app, turning virtually any single-switch table or floor lamp into a dimmable version.

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