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Design*Sponge Online Black Book: The 10 Best Table Lamps

by Grace Bonney

You know that scene in Mommie Dearest when Faye Dunaway (as Joan Crawford) screams “No…wire…hangers!“? I can be a little bit like that when I see overhead lighting. Well, sort of. I’m definitely not that dramatic, and definitely not about all overhead lighting, but I always feel a little twitch in my eye when I walk into a room with overhead lighting that’s too bright or cold. It’s a given that any New York City apartment you move into will have one of those terrible “boob lights“. So I’ve spent the last decade trying to single-handedly remove them from as many rooms as possible and replace them with softer table lamps. Why? Because no matter where you live, your home should be a place that welcomes you home gently and makes you feel at ease. And those harsh overhead fluorescents and blinding ceiling fixtures just aren’t doing the job. Not all table lamps are created equally, so I’ve been tracking down my favorites for the past few years, testing them out with various shades and bulbs to find styles I trust and use over and over again when helping friends or family decorate their homes. I find that people are often surprised that the lamps I use the most are affordable and simple. I like a light that has a nice shape, doesn’t distract from the room and is soft enough to be welcoming, but bright enough to be functional. All 10 of these lamps do that for me and I hope they’ll be helpful to you, too. If I missed a favorite of yours, please don’t hesitate to add it below. I’m always on the hunt for a great new lamp… xo, grace

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Pillar Table Lamp $195: This lamp nails two different classics in one: brass and a sophisticated pillar base. I really like this piece with the shade that comes with it, but it would look equally nice with a darker black or grey shade.

Freeman Lamp $585: The Freeman lamp straddles mid-century and contemporary style perfectly. What I like most about this lamp is the height it adds to a room. It adds a good amount of light but has a small enough footprint not to take up too much surface room.

cleo table lamp
Cleo Table Lamp $329: The Cleo lamp casts a really great amount of light, gives a warm glow (thanks to its gold base) and looks like a cross between an antler and traditional tripod base.

Gourd Table Lamp $135: I’ve had one of these lights in almost every apartment I’ve lived in for the past 5 years. I can’t recommend it more highly. It’s affordable, elegant and casts a soft light. If you want it to be brighter, just swap in a lighter color linen shade. I prefer the darker shade, though, it lets the light be a little bit more filtered. (The faux-mercury glass base in this style is great, too).

Lafeyette Lamp $389: I love a striped lamp, and this one is perfection. I love the contrast of the walnut neck with the black and white base – and the shades Schoolhouse Electric include are always great. You never need to swap them for something nicer.

Small Pillar Table Lamp $79: I don’t normally like a short table lamp, but this one (with a new lamp I prefer a wider drum shape on this base) is an instant classic. The marble/bronze contrast will look great for years and years to come. This is adorable for a bedside table.
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Arion Lamp $810: I hesitated to include this lamp because of the price point, but I’ve honestly never seen a similar one that compares in quality (There are some similar styles out there but they sadly look fairly cheap in person). It’s just stunning. This looks beautiful as a bedside table and a desk lamp, but casts enough light to be a side-table light, too. The slightly 70s vibe is a touch retro, but it feels clean-lined enough to work in both traditional and contemporary homes.

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Morten Table Lamp $119: I love the Morten lamp. Love it. It’s lightweight, clean-lined and casts a nice, wide area of light.

Caravan Pacific Alberta Table Lamp $500: These lamps are handmade in Portland and are of exceptionally high quality. I’ve purchased a lot of lamps over the years, but saving up for this one (which I luckily got at a discounted Portland Bazaar price years ago) was a seriously worthwhile investment. It looks fantastic and appears both retro and modern at the same time. I love the shades that come with them, too. They’re a beautiful linen and have a slightly tapered shape which works well. These would be nice with a slightly wider drum shade, too.

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Naomi Emerald Lamp: This one may seem like a bit of a wild card because of the color, but it’s precisely the color I love. I think this color works in almost any room, in any style of home. It’s a gorgeous rich emerald that feels like a neutral and an accent color at the same time. It adds much needed color to a simpler room and also blends in nicely with a colorful space.

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