Decorating Rules for Table & Lamp Heights

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Lamps should be gauged not only by their height and width, but by where their light falls.
Lamps should be gauged not only by their height and width, but by where their light falls. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

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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