Selecting the perfect lamp in four easy steps

November 24, 2013

Many people underestimate how much effect the right lighting can have in setting the mood. Imagine coming home to a warmly lit home, and how relaxed you instantly become. In my experience, the right lighting can really make or break your space. And no, the overhead light in your living room doesn't count for creating ambiance!

General Lighting versus Task Lighting
A lamp that provides general lighting (or ambient lighting) is one that provides an area with overall illumination. The shade can be either fabric or glass and allows light to come through.

Task lighting is one that provides focused light to help you perform specific tasks. It is typically made of metal, solid blackout shade or any material that doesn't allow light to come through certain areas. A lamp that provides task lighting usually requires supplementary lighting like overhead lights or other general lighting lamps to provide sufficient light for the overall space.

Finding the Right Light Bulb
Did you know that today's compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL) come in different temperatures? The correct term is colour temperature and it is measured in Kelvins (K). The old school incandescent bulb only came in one colour - a warm 2700K. The higher the Kelvin rating, the whiter the light the bulb will emit. A typical white fluorescent light will have a minimum 3500K or higher. Manufacturers have made it simple for consumers by just naming bulbs "warm white" (2700K) or "cool white"(3500K). Cool white lights are more suited for bathrooms or garages. My advice is to use warm white bulbs in your home because it makes it more cozy versus feeling like you are staying in a hospital.

I feel this detail is more important than the style of lamps themselves because the wrong temperature can throw out the whole ambience of the room. 

Last tip, CFL bulbs rated 13-15 Watts are equivalent to 60 W so try to stick with this for lamps so the space isn't too bright.

Sizing Up Your Lamp
There is one fundamental design rule when selecting a lamp - make sure it is size proportionate to the space where you are putting it. A table lamp shade should never be bigger than the table. My rule is the shade should be a minimum 10 percent smaller than the narrowest part of the table (typically the depth). The height is not as important because a short lamp can be made taller by sitting it on stacked books or a decorative box.

Rule of Contrasts
If you have read my previous articles, I love contrast in design. The lamp base should not be the same material as the table top where it sits. For example, a glass or metal lamp base goes well on a wood table top.

So try out these tips when decorating your space with lamps. Even little changes like making sure your bulbs are warm white in your existing lamps will make an impact!


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