Hey, Jill!

I have been wanting to find some really pretty lamps for my living room.  I have gone all over the city only to be disappointed.  I never found any lamps that really caught my eye and of the few that I liked a little, how do I know which shapes and sizes are best? Help!

—Ashley in Overland Park, KS

Ashley!  Lamps are the light of your life…what would we do without them?  You are right to keep searching…I am a believer in only buying things that are truly fantastic or you will never be happy you purchased them.  Keep your search going with a few items in mind:

Fantastic little lamp I found...

Where to start?  Your goals:

Will the lighting be for accenting the room, reading or task lighting?  Or frankly, do you just think a lamp would be a great accessory in an area?  If you are wanting the lamp to have a higher function (task, reading), than you need a brighter bulb and wider shade base.  You may even strongly consider a double bulb socket.  If the lamp is for accent, the wattage maximum or the size of the shade is not as important as the beauty or size of the piece.

This showroom had some unbelievable pieces and lighting.


The size of your shade and the harp (the thick wire that extends from the base of the socket, over the bulb where the shade generally sits) will determine the size of your bulb.  The larger your bulb wattage, the more heat it will give off.  Therefore for safety issues, you must keep your shade far enough away from your bulb and the top of your shade must be large enough, for the rising heat to safely escape the area.  Never exceed the recommended wattage on the lamp base.  If you change the shade (a great way to update a lamp) be cautious and consult a professional if you are unclear of the proper bulb size to use with the new shade’s style.  When shopping for a new shade, keep in mind 3-way bulbs will only fit under harps that are 7.5″ or higher.  If you wish to have lighting options similar to those offered by a 3-way bulb but want a shorter shade and harp, have a dimmer socket installed.  Dimmer sockets fit standard bulb bases and can give any bulb 2 light levels.

Cute, fun floor lamp that has a double bulb socket.


Other than what I mentioned above about safety and light bulbs, take a leap and find a great shade!  There are two kinds of shades available.  “Hard” is generally made from papers or plastics which may or may not be covered with fabric.  Hard shades are less expensive choices and generally let less light through so they can be darker. You may also recognize them as many are lined with foils. “Soft” shades are sewn in several places and are fabric on the interior and exterior.  Both have lots of color/fabric options (you can, of course, have custom shades made in your choice of fabrics) but you need to consider the color of light each will produce.  Blue shade, blue light.  That is why you see so many light/neutral fabrics on lamp shades.  Generally, more light will pass through the sides of a soft shade in a lighter fabric, so they can be brighter.

This stunning lamp I found is gorgeous, but might not be the best choice for an area that needs more light. It has a hard shade in a black fabric.


The taller the lamp, the more light it can shed….and the easier to tip over in a busy area.  Take note too of where the bulbs are when you sit.  The last thing you want is to be having a conversation in the evening, squinting.

I am studying the material of this lamp.


In my opinion, lamps are art!  With so many options out there for lamp bases, please don’t compromise on a lamp that you are not sure about.  “Wait to find great.”  Care is generally easy with most surfaces.  Do watch for too many “pointy” (that is a professional term…ha!) items protruding out of the base as these can catch on sleeves and jewelry.

Good luck with your lamp search, Amber.  Hope this sheds some light on your task at hand.

Make it fab!


Got a comment?  Reaction?  Question?  Interior Design question…WWJD? (What Would Jill Do) Tell me what’s on your mind.  I love hearing from you!

Photos:  Jill Tran Interior Design and Co.

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