Decorating Rules for Table & Lamp Heights


Lamps not only serve as a source of light, they also can be decorative elements in a room. A lamp can add ambiance and finish off a room, but should be the proper size. The correct height of a lamp depends on the room, the size of the table and the use of the light. A balance in the size of a lamp and the furnishings around it is key.

Accent or Side Tables

  • A smaller lamp looks best when placed on a small accent or side table. A slender candlestick lamp is appropriate for a side table that is slim and delicate in style. The lamp's base also should be sized for smaller side tables; if the base is too wide, it could be knocked off of the table easily. If a side table is placed next to a chair, the height if the lamp should be considered. In an article on the Real Simple website, Jamie Young, a Los Angeles lighting designer, said, "You don't want to be looking up into the hardware." To see if your lamp is a good height, she suggests, sit on the sofa or the chair next to it, and notes, "The bottom of the shade shouldn't fall higher than eye level."

Bedside Tables

  • If a bedroom is pretty large and the bedside table is bigger than an accent table, you can use a larger lamp, both in height and width. A height of 29 inches is usually appropriate for a bedside table lamp. William Miller Design suggests that a lamp next to a bed "should be tall enough to be able to read a book comfortably, but not so tall that it looks out of proportion with the headboard or nightstand that it is placed on."

Dining Tables

  • Pendant lamps and chandeliers are most often found above dining tables. The placement and height of lights in a dining room depends on the table and room size. A cozy, intimate feel can be created in a smaller room by hanging a lamp lower toward the table. A chandelier hung closer to the ceiling above a long table can create a grand appearance. The Heavenly Lights website says, "The general rule is that the bottom of the light fixture should hang between 30 and 34 inches off of the tabletop" in a room with an 8-foot ceiling.

Writing or Work Desks

  • The lighting on a desk usually serves as task lighting or a light for reading. It should be close enough to the work space to provide sufficient light. Many table lamps made for desks are shorter and have a swing arm to help direct light to the area of focus. On its website, CSN Lighting recommends that the light source in a desk lamp be 16 inches above the surface and 13 inches from the front of the desk.

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