Decorate Like A Design Boss with Kimberly Grigg | Picking the Right Lamp for Your Space

Is there a design element you can’t seem to get right? For a lot of people, that element is lamps. While they’re easy to get wrong, getting them right can make magic happen in your décor. And today I’m showing you how!

You might want to grab a pen and paper to take some notes this week because I’m getting into the nitty-gritty of lamp sizes, surface dimensions, and choosing the right type of lamp for your space. I’m also announcing the winners of my infamous monkey bowl so you don’t want to miss this. 

Today’s episode has all the details you need to get your lamp light on. Find out what my guidelines are for choosing the right size lamp, my favorite types of lamps to incorporate, and what to do if your space doesn’t have enough outlets. I’ve got all the pro tips and tricks to share with you today, and I can’t wait to hear how they help you light up your space.

If you enjoyed today’s episode, I would love if you could subscribe, rate, and review the show in Apple Podcasts. It helps more lovely people like you find the show and become design bosses!


What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • The different types of lamps I use and why I love them.
  • My guidelines for getting your lamp size just right.
  • How to know how many lamps to include in each room.
  • What to do if you have limited outlets.
  • My pet peeve when it comes to bedside table lamps.
  • How to add height to a short lamp.


Listen to the Full Episode:

Featured on the Show:

  • Are you interested in becoming your own best interior designer? Check out my courses here to learn how or click here to join my Interior Designers Insiders Club!
  • Need help choosing a lamp that fits your space just right? Download The Perfect Lamp Guide!

Full Episode Transcript:

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You are listening to episode 15 of the Decorate Like a Design Boss podcast. In this episode I’ll be sharing with you how to choose the right lamp for the right space. You might want to grab a pen and make some notes if you’re not driving and listen right on in as we explore pro tips on how to get your lamp light on. Oh, and on today’s episode I’ll be announcing the three winners of my favorite decorating accessory, my infamous monkey bowl.

Welcome to Decorate Like a Design Boss, a podcast for design lovers who want to create beautiful spaces in their very own homes. My name is Kimberly Grigg and I’m a professional interior designer who teaches design lovers like yourselves how to decorate. And when I say decorate I mean decorate like a design boss. If you’re ready to create a space that your family loves and your neighbors can’t stop raving about well, buckle up honey because it’s time to design.

Well, hello there my design loving friends. Today I will be talking all about lamps. We’ll explore the different types and/or shapes of lamps, different uses for lamps and how to select the right size lamp that you need for a particular space or surface. And as promised, stick around till the end of the show today as I’ll be announcing the winners of the monkey bowls. I’ll be awarding three of these bad boys to three lucky listeners who have subscribed, rated and reviewed this podcast. So here we go.

One of the common mistakes that I see people make as they decorate their own spaces is in their choice of lamps. It’s a very easy thing to get wrong but getting this one element right can make magic happen in your décor. It’s worth tuning in to these tips to better understand what you need to know and to make sure you are lighting up in just the right way. So, first things first, let me define a few of the different kinds of lamp light. Now, I’m not talking about chandeliers, pendants and/or sconces. That’s a whole another episode.

But I am specifically talking about lamps. So, we have gourd lamps which are some of my favorites. And they come in an assortment of colors. And they also come in patterns. Gourd lamps are happy and sophisticated all at the same time. And they’re an excellent choice for many settings. I just ordered a pair of salmon and white striped gourd lamps a few days ago for a client. They just came in and I must say these will be a showstopper in the room that we’re decorating.

A gourd lamp has sort of a smaller ball or even an oval on top of another larger ball and/or sometimes even another. In other words, there can be three balls or three ovals on top of one another. Or they can also be shaped a bit like a giant squash. But better put, it’s shaped like a gourd, which is a fruit. The shape is very interesting and is used in the design world when the gourd is mimicked by using porcelain molds to make these shaped lamps. Gourd lamps are perfect for adding interesting shapes to a space.

And I love using them when I need a little weightiness, or put in another way, when I need the lamp to create a mass or weightiness.

Another style of lamp that I like to use is a vase style lamp which is typically also made of porcelain and is shaped like a cylinder or a vase. These are perfect choices when you’re trying to add a little elegance to your space. These too come in a variety of colors and/or patterns and can really pack a space up by adding a dash of color and interest.

Stick lamps are buffet style lamps that are typically a bit taller and very thin. I affectionately and sometimes un-affectionately refer to them as stick lamps because they are not suitable for every surface. They most often have a narrow shade and work well when you have a narrow piece of furniture and a taller type table such as a buffet piece or a console that is long and narrow and/or slightly taller. Do not, and I caution, do not use a stick lamp as a bedside lamp. They are just too skinny to be in scale with the weighty scale and size of a bed.

Buffet lamps are taller and they look regal especially used as a pair on a dining buffet or similar piece of furniture. They are often used in the same way as stick lamps, however buffet lamps are a little bit weightier and chunkier.

Floor lamps are taller lamps and they’re typically used to sit on the floor beside a chair, or a chaise, or even a sofa. Or perhaps in a room that has limited space so that they can be freestanding instead of having to be used on a table like an end table. A floor lamp is an excellent choice as a reading lamp. So, if you have a space in your home where you’d like to read, consider a floor lamp. The height that a floor lamp provides is a fantastic option for readers.

A floor lamp is also a great choice when you have limited space but when you still need lamps. This option works well when there isn’t enough space for end tables.

Now the category of specialty lamps. These are lamps that are made with anything that has a specialized quality about them. It can be glass vases that are clear, porcelain pieces and are pieces of art made into a lamp. I have used pottery pieces, animal shapes and beautiful glass jars to have a lamp maker assemble and create a specialty lamp for a space that requires this type of lamp. A specialty lamp is a lamp that garners attention and is best used to accent a space and draw attention to it.

Swing arm lamps are some of my favorites. They typically are used bedside and are attached to the wall. They can even be used in conjunction with an actual pair of lamps because they’re a little bit smaller and they’re specialized. This works best when you have a larger bedside table or chest. I often use one on the side of the bed of whomever my reader is. But usually, my client comes back to me and asks for a pair. They are wonderful as they are so flexible and they provide really great light.

You can also use these in a sitting area but I most often think about swing arm lamps as options for people who work and/or read in a certain area of their spaces like their beds.

Another classification that I like to assign to lamps is color lamps versus clear lamps. Colored lamps are a go to for me as they not only add a touch or a pop of color but also the color adds a weightiness and take up mass. This is especially helpful unless you have a tiny tabletop or surface. Clear lamps are often made of crystal or some material that is see through. I personally use clear lamps less often than colorful lamps. I find that clear lamps just don’t help me achieve impact.

If a client has a clear lamp which is often the case and wants to use it then I will work it in and use another important accessory with it to add impact. But if given the choice I will gravitate towards colorful in lieu of a clear lamp so that I can easily control my pops of color and marry the scale of the scale of the space with the scale of the lamps.

Next it’s important for you to know about the heights of lamps. This is probably the one area where people make the most mistakes. I have walked into many a home where little, short lamps were on bedside tables beside a king bed. This just ends up fighting with the bed and there is no harmony or peacefulness in the space that is supposed to be most restful. Lamps come in all shapes and sizes so use the following guidelines and tips to get the size just right.

Alright, here you go. Number one, the average table height is 30 inches. A chest of drawers will be typically a little bit taller. A lot of chests are 36 to 42 inches tall. So first measure the height of the table or chest. The taller the table or chest the taller the lamp. Some good heights include a shorter table lamp such as a 20 inch table would require a smaller lamp that is around 20 inches in height.

A trick that you can use to create a cozy setting is to place a smaller lamp like this on top of a stack of three books. It just exudes a homey lived in look and gives you a place to use books that you might not have storage for. Be aware of the height of your lamps and use these guidelines to help you get the scale right. Now there is a guide for this in the show notes, just follow the link and all of this is detailed there. It also is a free guide and I find it especially helpful.

Alright, a 36 inch table or chest would be well suited to a lamp that is 33 to 38 inches tall. A 42 inch tall chest would be best suited to a lamp that is at least 36 inches tall. Next you want to ask yourself how wide is the surface of the table. Surfaces that are around 50 inches and over, meaning long, often look best with a pair of lamps. I use pairs as it just creates a certain balance that is hard to achieve otherwise.

If I am only using one lamp on a longer, wider surface I will choose an artsy specialty style lamp and balance the other end of the table with a piece that is equally as weighty and taller. And I mean by an accessory or is even greater in its scale. The taller your ceilings the taller and weightier your lamps should be. What is considered a short lamp? Anything under 29 inches is considered short to me.

27 inches and 29 are common lamp sizes that are sold at discount stores. I mostly find these lamps to be too small for most situations and too large for the smaller space situations like a 20 inch tall table when you need a smaller type lamp. 27 and 29 inch lamps are something that I caution you about as this is frequently the biggest mistake that I see when people choose lamps incorrectly for their homes.

You will always need a lamp on each side of your sofa. If your space won’t allow for end tables then use a pair of floor lamps that both ends get lighting. You of course can also use a sofa table behind your sofa and then you can use a pair of lamps on it. Do not use a pair of lamps on a sofa table and then a pair of end tables with lamps unless your sofa is extremely, extremely long. Even so it typically isn’t a good look. Long tables as in ones over 50 inches long or wide needs a pair of lamps.

Your desk needs a lamp, not only is it more aesthetically pleasing it is also useful. This lamp is ideal if it provides some type of downlight and remember, the guidelines about ceiling height and surface area height are important in this setting as well. If in doubt go taller. This is my seventh little guideline. This of course is a general rule but I will preface this by saying you don’t need to go crazy with this thought or idea. It’s just that if you have a 30 inch high surface then the shortest lamp you should consider is 30 inches but preferably 33 inches tall.

Now, again, I know this is a lot of inches, and sizes, and scales to take in. But I do have my lamp guide posted and you’ll just need to go to the show notes so that you can download a copy of this handy, useful free tool.

Alright, number eight. How many lamps do you need per room? Think about a hotel and how many lamps might be present there. I say a good rule of thumb is to provide a lamp everywhere that there is a task being performed. On average a living room will have a minimum of four lamps and preferably a few more. A bedroom will have a minimum of three lamps.

Even your kitchen needs lamp light. Try using a smaller lamp that will fit easily beneath cabinetry or if you have a space as I do on the end of an island closest to a wall, I have a wonderful lamp perched on a stack of cookbooks. And the effect, well, it’s really quite charming.

Number nine, you’ll want to vary the way that you display lamps. If you have a surface that has a pair of lamps in one room, try using a single lamp somewhere nearby so that you’re not overdoing the pair. If you use a pair of lamps on each end of your sofa there should be a onesie accent lamp as your next choice for lamp lighting.

Guideline number 10, there should be a pair of lamps in your bedroom, one on each side of your bed. The lamps should also be on a pair of nightstands so that the lamps are at the same height. This is actually a pet peeve of mine. If you don’t have room on each side of the bed for a pair of nightstands then you’re going to need to use a specialty weighty type lamp on one side to be visually balanced and scaled with the side of the bed.

The pet peeve is when someone uses two different sizes of bedside tables, two different heights but they have a pair of lamps. The room is immediately out of balance.

Alright, number 11 in my guideline lineup. What do you do if you have a rug and a floating sofa and no outlets in the middle of the room? Well, let’s first deal with what to do if your rug covers your outlet on the floor and your sofa is floating. Well, putting an extension cord under a rug is a fire hazard. So, I really can’t recommend this. You have but one choice and that is to actually cut your rug. Now, I know that this can be scary. If this is an heirloom rug then you might have to consider having the rug placed elsewhere.

However, I have even recently slightly spliced and ever so carefully used fray tape on the slice for an heirloom rug and honestly, we had a hard time finding the slice to run the cord through it. If you do this like I did, a good seamstress can be helpful as a seamstress is accustomed to making precision cuts and has the right scissors and tools to achieve the desired minor effect. This will devalue the rug so I caution you.

If you are someone who doesn’t have outlets in the floor under their floating sofa, well you can run a flat extension cord under your sofa. You’ll need to be strategic about this and hide the cord as best you can. Always remember, houses aren’t perfect no matter what. So, in a case like this you have to improvise and just do the best you can. You also can use lamp cord covers which is a go to for me to disguise the cord.

Number 12, what if my lamp is too short? Well, you can use books and/or risers to elevate the lamp. I have a pair of lamps in my sitting area in my kitchen on each end of my sofa. I love the lamps but they’re a little short actually, they’re right at 29 inches but I really do love them. So, I used plexiglass plinths which are little clear risers to raise the height of the lamps which makes them perfect. I love the plexi plinths because you can add height but the plexiglass looks like it’s part of these lamps.

Number 13, on the flipside of this, what if my lamp is too tall? Well, this rarely happens but if it is the case then use this as a rule of thumb. If you’re seated the lamp should be at a comfortable height where the bulb is taller than you are, yet the shade actually provides a shade to hide the bulb, the same as in a bedroom. If you were to sit in bed as if you are reading, the light source should be slightly higher than eye level and then the shade protects your eyes from the harshness of the bulb.

And if your lamps are too tall, well, simply move them to a taller surface and perhaps a space with a taller ceiling and see if the scale works a little better.

Number 14, and if you are a lie in bed type of reader, consider wall hung swing arm lamps which provide movable lighting so that you can see to read much easier.

Alright, now you know how important it is to get your lamps right and some ways that you can do so. So, take an assessment of the lamps in your home. Lamps are lightweight and are relatively easy to move. They also don’t have to be high ticket items so it’s important to get this element specifically right in your home. Also, I have left you my official guide to selecting the perfect lamp, just simply follow the link in the show notes. Also, I have left you my official guide to selecting the perfect lamp, just simply follow the link in the show notes.

Speaking of great elements in your home, well, it is time. Let’s hear who the winners are. The monkey bowl is literally my favorite decorating accessory. He fits into any style décor and he serves a world of functions from a flower arrangement vessel to a giant candy bowl. Since the podcast’s inception we ran a little contest for those who rated, subscribed and reviewed this show to be entered into a drawing. And now I have the winners.

The monkey bowls are in transit to me from the manufacturer currently. So, if you are a winner you won’t be receiving yours until late September. But trust me, he is worth the wait. Alright, here we go, drum roll please, winner number one is Barbara Prillerman. Number two is Sharon Ray and finally our third winner is Pamela Watson. Your monkey bowls will be on their way to you just as soon as I receive them in September. Congratulations and thank you so much for tuning in and for those reviews. I really appreciate it.

So, this is when I say, don’t wait, today is a great day to decorate. Thanks for joining me and I’ll be back next week. Bye for now.

Thanks for listening to Decorate Like a Design Boss, if you want more info on how to decorate your space like a pro visit See you next week.

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