How to Choose Floor Lamps

A strategically placed floor lamp or two can address a number of lighting needs to complete a room's overall lighting scheme.


room of lamps

When it comes to adding light to a room, nothing beats the convenience of a floor lamp. These standing soldiers can be placed next to or behind chairs, couches, tables or beds and most can even be used as task lights. Because floor lamps take up very little space, moving them is no great hassle.

Thousands of floor lamps are available, so finding one that will be perfect for your space may take a little time. Whatever material, color or style you have in mind, it most likely exists, so start from the beginning and familiarize yourself with the world of light that is floor lamp shopping here.

Points of Light

There are some important points you should cover with yourself before you jump into choosing a style. First, identify the purpose of purchasing a floor lamp for a particular space. If you are searching for strong, clear light that can be pointed in any direction, don’t choose a style that features one bulb on an inflexible frame. Are you looking for a style enhancement that is aesthetically pleasing whether the light is on or off?

Choosing a design that complements other furniture in the space is recommended. Need a floor lamp with that illuminates all the ground in the surrounding area? Don’t choose a bowl-shaped design, which usually points the light upward.

Lamp height is another important consideration. A very short floor lamp will look too small in a large room with high ceilings, while a lamp that’s seven feet tall won’t fit in a room with an eight-foot high ceiling.

You should also consider whether the lamp uses a globe, reflector or shade to house its bulb. Any appropriate lampshade should be long enough to not reveal the bulb when someone is standing close to the lamp. Material choice is also important. If you have your heart set on a wooden lamp, don’t even bother looking in the adjustable gooseneck lamp section.

Popular material choices include wood and rattan, but the most common choice is metal because of its overall versatility. Metal lamps can be made of various types of metal, offer various types of flexibility or adjustment features and countless finishing combinations, like brushed bronze, antique brass or shiny silver.

tall and short lamp

Floored by Style

There are several popular floor lamp styles that permeate the market. Though selecting the perfect style for your space is largely based on aesthetic preference, function is another defining factor, especially if you plan to move the lamp into another room or space, where unique style choices may not be appropriate. We’ve arranged the lamps below into two categories of consideration, style and function, though the two are often intertwined. For example, a tree lamp can also act as a reading lamp.

console floor lamp

Style

A console floor lamp is the most familiar floor lamp design, composed of a single upright pole in a round base, with a shade or globe as its bulb’s house. Though most console lamps use a single bulb, some feature two or three light sockets for better lighting, meaning increased visibility.

Torchiere lamps feature a bowl-shaped shade, usually built in to the lamp itself, to focus light upward. This design provides ambient, but not always extremely functional, light.

tree lamps

Two or more light “branches” along a single pole make up a tree lamp. These branches are generally independently adjustable, set into housings that can pivot and twist for optimal light direction. Because of their adjustability and the fact that each socket operates independently (one light can be on while two are off), tree lamps are extremely adaptable.

arcing lamp

An arcing lamp has a bent, curving pole set into a base and can add an element of modernity to the room. Arcing lamps are great for placement over a couch, where someone might read.

Practicality

Tray lamps are interesting style choices, but are definitely practical, especially for use in small spaces. They eliminate the need for an end table or lap eating.

Gooseneck lamps twist and bend to specifically focus the light, while swing arm lamps are triple jointed for horizontal light movement. Both are practical designs to deal with the issue of adjustability. Reading lamps generally feature a central light source and one adjustable arm.

For tasks that involve small objects or movements, a magnifying lamp is ideal. Whether purchased for professional needs or just poor eyesight, a magnifying lamp is extremely useful.

curved lamp

Floor Lamp Costs

Both practical and stylish designs can be purchased for under $50. Higher quality or highly decorated metals and wood will cost more, but most well-designed, quality material lamp types cost between $100 and $250. Of course, more decorative or adjustable models are available at higher prices. After prices cross the $500 threshold, they rise steeply. If you want a solid gold torchiere with a crystal bulb, this price bracket is where you should look.

The Bottom Line

Buying a floor lamp off the department store floor without a second look at its design will get you a light source, but it isn’t the strategy you should use to find the one that provides optimal lighting and truly strikes your style fancy. Look around -- endless designs are available in a wide variety of materials, colors, finishes and price ranges. If you take your time to consider size, placement, style and practicality or function, you’ll find the perfect floor lamp for your home’s illumination needs.

lamp and couch