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How to Use Lamps in Your Home Decor

I have a thing for lamps. There’s nothing like a beautiful accent lamp to add architectural features to a room. This guide, how to use lamps in your home decor, shares the key elements you want to consider when decorating your home with lamps. 

Many types of lighting designs are needed in our homes, such as recessed, overhead lighting. task lighting. Those all fill a practical need.

Lighting design is a major component of interior design. Lamps act as the jewelry on a lovely black dress. A stylish decorative lamp can elevate a room’s overall impact and provide visual interest.

Why do we love lamps? From a design standpoint, lamps:

  • add warmth
  • add color
  • add shape and texture
  • add decorative interest
  • create focal points

Since lamps are so important in our home design choices, here is a guide for using lamps in your home decor and ideas for updating older lamps.

Ideas for Using Lamps in Your Home

Lamps can be used for different purposes and they fulfill specific tasks. 

  • reading  or task lamps
  • accent lamps can be purely decorative.
  • ambient lighting
  • fill an empty corner of a room, such as distinctive floor lamps
  • create a focal point
glamourous dining room with gold frame mirror and white lamps
source: Randi Garret Design

Where to Add a Lamp 

Lamps can be used in almost any area of your home. 

spring bedroom accessories
  • living room – end tables, side tables, sofa table
  • study or home office – on a desk or by a reading chair
  • dining room on a console table or buffet
  • bathroom vanity
  • bedrooms on bedside tables
  • entryway console table table
  • kitchen counter as an accent lamp

Using Lamps in Your Home

Are there some do’s and don’ts when using lamps? Of course. Here are some guidelines.

Size and Placement

Ideally, lamps shouldn’t be too small or too large for their intended space.  

Consider where a lamp will sit. If it’s on a large table or sideboard, then the base size should be ample. You don’t want a too small lamp on a large base or it will be lost.

concrete DIY lamp makeover
source: Jenna Sue Design

On the other hand, if the surface is small the lamp base should be smaller. If your surface is narrow, like a console table, buffet or sofa table, then the lamp base should be narrower. If the lamp is on a narrow surface, a large round lampshade would not work.

traditional sideboard with blue walls and white lamps with blue shades
source: The Turquiose Home

Rooms with tall ceilings can handle taller lamps. Typically, buffets or credenzas can handle taller, but slimmer lamps.


Just like our homes in general, lamps come in a variety of styles, from modern to classic, elegant to traditional, farmhouse to rustic.

Although lamps can certainly provide an opportunity to add a pop of contrast, we shouldn’t go so different in style from the rest of our furnishings that they have an “out-of-place” or jarring effect.

Lamps in the same style as our room, but using different materials, such as wood, ceramic, or metal, can add interest and cohesiveness without “going off the reservation”.

NOTE: One lamp or two? Matching or not? On a buffet, credenza, console table, or two nightstands, matching lamps provide balance and symmetry. Lamps on side tables or one table next to a chair or between two chairs stand on their own.

NOTE: Don’t hesitate to move lamps you have to other rooms. They may function better in a different room.


Probably, nothing updates or dates a lamp more than a lampshade. Traditionally, lamp shades come in shades of white and beige cloth, but now they are found in colors, patterns, and different materials, such as rattan, metallic, rope, ruffles, and pleats. 

White shades will allow the maximum light to come through, which is important if the lamp is used for reading. For accent lamps, you have more flexibility. 

Lampshades can also have trim, from elaborate trim and braid to tassels. This look is more classic, dressy and elegant.

Rules of Thumb for Using Lamp Shades

Lamp shades come in different shapes, from round (drum), square, rectangle, or conical (the top is narrower than the bottom). When choosing or creating a DIY shade, consider where the lamp will be placed, the size of the base, and the style you want.

tall lamp on narrow table
source: Fine Home Lighting
  • Proportion – the bottom of the shade should be wider than the widest part of the base. The vertical height should be about half the height of the base. 
  • Coverage – the shade must cover the lamp’s hardware. If necessary, replace the harp – the metal piece that attaches to the lamp and holds the lampshade. Even a half-inch adjustment can make a significant difference.
  • Shape – a drum or rectangular shade pairs well with a geometric base for a modern look. A conical shape suits a traditional lamp, such as a ginger jar or candlestick base. A drum shape evokes a modern vibe.
  • Materials – a fabric with a looser weave, like linen or cotton, feels more informal than a smooth material like silk or paper. Every shade in a room doesn’t need to be the same type (unless they are clearly a pair). Fabric that is stretched over the lampshade frame emits more light than a lampshade that is pleated fabric, plastic or laminate. 
  • Pattern – a solid lampshade complements a base with an intricate pattern or details, colors or finishes. Conversely, a simple solid base can handle patterned shade.

Light Bulbs

Finding the right shade of light bulb for a particular area of your home can make a huge difference in the feel of your room. 

​Even the most beautifully designed rooms will look unbalanced if they are poorly lit.

How to purchase the right type of light bulb for a lamp?

First, determine the primary functions of each lamp. Did you know that task lighting should generally be three times brighter than ambient lighting.

Secondly, decide on the desired color temperature for your lighting. 

Light bulbs now come in several shades from warm to cool. Consider where your lamp will go and its purpose. 

  • lower temperatures are warm and yellow
  • higher temperatures are closer to blue daylight
  • mood lighting is typically created by using a balance of multiple softer light sources in the same room

Do you want to create a cozy and welcoming environment? Then warm light bulbs should be your choice. 

Also, consider the wattage. Lamps in dining rooms, bedrooms, or accent lamps need lower wattage, such as 40-watt. 

In areas where more light is needed, such as for reading, then 60 – 100 watts is good.

Try different watts in lamps and see what works best.

I’m all for 3-way lamps. I look for that feature when I’m shopping for lamps. If possible, add a dimmer switch to accent lamps.

For a neutral light, consider LED bulbs. They may be more expensive, but they will last much longer than traditional bulbs.

NOTE: Keep the color material of the lampshade in mind when choosing a light bulb color. A blue shade over a bulb with a yellow warm white bulb will look more green.

Use Your Creativity: Make Over a Lamp

Do you need to breathe new life into your lamps or lighting fixtures? Are you on a budget?

Next time you begin shopping for a new lamp, consider first shopping for one that can be updated.

Where can you find old lamps to update at affordable prices?

  • estate sales
  • flea markets
  • antique malls
  • Facebook Marketplace
  • thrift store
  • resale shops

Updating older lamps we find at an estate sale or flea market can go a long way to give our homes a fresh look.

source: The Home I Create

Imagine taking those old light fixtures or lamp bases and turning them into distinctive pieces that reflect your personal style. 

Upgrading your home’s lighting need not always involve a hefty investment in new lights. 

Take a look at these 13 best DIY ideas to makeover lamps.

Creatively transforming light sources into focal points can enhance the feel of your home. A simple DIY project not only gives your home a new look, but keeps used accessories out of the landfills.

DIY floor lamp makeover
source: Thrift Diving

If you find one in the style, size, and shape that fits your space, consider purchasing it and giving it a makeover.

When you find a lamp that is the right size and shape, but it looks a little outdated, then consider updating the lamp to one with a color or style you love.

One of the easiest ways to update an old fixture is to paint the base of the lamp. Matte or gloss paint, depending on your style preference, can instantly change the look of a lamp. Old lamp bases can quickly be transformed with spray paint.

Sometimes switching out the lampshade shape and size can give an older lamp an updated look. A white shade adds a fresh look to any lamp. A drum shape is more updated than a conical style.

For accent lamps, do something fun and different. I decoupaged a small accent lamp for a colorful, but classic look.

chinoiserie-style lamp made with decoupage

I encourage you to look at the lamps and lighting fixtures in your home not just as sources of light but as canvases for your creativity. 

I hope this guide gave you new information for how to use lamps in your home decor.

Here are more ideas for using lamps: 11 Best Tips to Choose and Use Lamps in Your Home Decor.

Always remember that with some paint or a new lamp shade, you can alter not just the brightness but the entire energy and atmosphere of your home. Updating a lamp can have a significant impact on the brightness of your rooms, but also the design.

Lamps are one of the best home decor accessories you can have. They are both practical and pretty. Here are some great choices.

lamps graphic

For more home decor accessories for the home, check out this Pinterest Board, Accessories for the Home. I’ll be Pinning to this post and I hope you will, too.

pin for later graphic in blue
how to use lamps graphic
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  1. I have to chuckle, I’m going downstairs today to make lamps for my dollhouses…LOL. Yes, overhead lighting is icky—-my parent’s home relied on those ugly ceiling fixtures which I always hated, and then they put fans up with lights—WORSE!
    I do have a chandy in my bedroom I turn on occasionally, but lamps are essential! Great post, I dont’ think I have seen another===like the short lamp on books…great idea! Sandi

  2. You have some really good ideas here Carol, I love lamps in the kitchen and dining room, a place I think most overlook. I think they add a coziness to the kitchen that makes you want to stay a while. Hope you had a wonderful Easter.