How To Choose Lamps For End Tables

Lamps are an essential part of any home décor. They add style, function and come in many different varieties. How do you know which lamps to choose for your end tables? If you're having difficulty understanding where to start when it comes to purchasing table lamps, we've done the research and have found what you need to know before you buy. 

The perfect lamp choice for your end tables will have just the right balance between style and function. The lamps should be a certain height to prevent glare, be proportional to your table size, have the right lampshade for proper illumination, and the right mix between colors and metals to coordinate with the room's decor.

Now that we know the key characteristics of a table lamp, let's explore each in depth. Keep reading to find out how to harmonize your end tables and lamps together. 

Interior of living room with sofa and two wooden end table cabinets and a lamp, How To Choose Lamps For End Tables

What to look for when Choosing the Right Lamps

You'd like a nice balance between coordinated decor and functional lighting, so we've answered each question to be considered for choosing end table lamps. From the right height to a coordinated and well-illuminated lampshade, you'll be sure to find the best lamp for your end table if you answer these questions for yourself when selecting lamps.

How tall should lamps be?

Lamp height is essential because it affects how the light is diffused over a specific area, enabling us to see better. The right height for table lamps also depends on the room type and the end table's size. 


Based on the assumption that your end table height is the same as your mattress height, lamp height should range between 24 to 30 inches. Headboard size also plays a role. If your headboard is particularly tall, go for a taller lamp. Not only does this keep things proportional, but it also lets the light shine downwards, which is especially useful if you enjoy reading in bed. 

Lamp on a night table next to a bed

Living Room

Assuming that your end table is approximately the same height as your sofa or chair, lamps should be about 26 to 34 inches tall for the living room. This height puts the bottom of the lampshade at eye-level while sitting, which is ideal for reducing glare. 

A modern living room with lamp and end tables

How do you choose the right lampshade size?

For a nice balance between shade and base, the general rule of thumb is to make sure the lampshade is twice as wide as the lamp's base. This allows for even light distribution without being too top-heavy. If you're uncertain which size lampshade to choose, it's always wise to go with larger rather than smaller. A lampshade that is too small will look out of sorts and won't provide enough light.

It's important to note that lampshades that jut over tables tend to get knocked over, so proper placement is key. When placing your lamps in high traffic areas, they shouldn't sit near the edge or directly in the center of the table. Instead, the best method is to place lamps closer to the wall. This way, there will be plenty of room for other things on your table, and there's no worry of damage. 

Lampshade Color

The color of your lampshade can ultimately make or break your lamp, so to speak. The color not only compliments your interior but is functional as well. Lamps with white or cream-colored shades provide the most abundant light, while darker colors give more soft, glowing light. Thus, paler shades would probably work best for very dark corners of your home, and opaque shades could be suitable for a nightlight.

One fun option for a darker color lampshade would be a cutout design. Cutout shades have a pattern stenciled into them that lets the light shine through and project onto your wall and ceiling. To see more about the importance of color, be sure to look at "What Color Should My Lampshades Be? [with Illustrated Examples]."

Click here to see this lamp with a cutout shade design on Amazon

Should lamps on end tables match?

While it's perfectly okay to mix and match colors and patterns for your table lamps, it's best to keep them relatively the same size. Doing so creates symmetry and ideal lighting. It's recommended to stick with two or three colors and metals to complement your furnishings; more would likely clash with your room's color scheme. 

Many are sold as a matching set if you prefer to sync your table lamps. These sets often come in neutral designs that flatter any décor and look especially nice on each side of the sofa or bed. 

Click here to see this matching table lamp set on Amazon

How big should end table lamps be?

Table lamp next to comfy sofa in modern style living room

Your table lamps' size should be proportional to the size of your end tables. You don't want a very wide end table with a very small lamp or a very large lamp on a narrow end table. Let's take a look at several different sizes and styles of lights that will look stunning on your end tables.

Accent lamps

Accent lamps are small lamps of 15 inches in height or less. While some provide enough focused light for reading or other tasks, most only offer a soft glow suitable for decorative purposes. Since they range from the traditional lamp to fun shapes, accent lamps sit nicely on end tables and pair well with more oversized lamps as well. 

Click here to see this pineapple accent lamp on Amazon.

Buffet lamps

Traditionally used for a kitchen buffet table, these lamps also make an excellent addition to your end tables. Typically measuring 32 inches and above, these tall, slender lamps offer ample lighting and a space-saving design. 

Click here to see this buffet lamp on Amazon

Desk lamps

Desk lamps are similar to table lamps but smaller in size. Measuring around 20 inches in height, they barely take up any space and will produce focused light to a particular area. Many designs come with built-in organizers and USB ports that would be great for storing television remotes and charging cell phones and tablets. 

Click here to see this organizational desk lamp on Amazon.

For even more decorating options, check out the "12 Best Table Lamps For The Living Room."

How many lamps should be in a room?

There's no set number of lamps that should be in each room, but it may help to abide by this rule: according to professionals, using a formula of multiplying room length by room width by 1.5, you can determine how much light wattage each room in your home needs. It's a good idea to have four lighting sources in larger areas such as the living room and bedroom. Therefore it's efficient and practical to have one lamp on each end table. This is especially true if you don't prefer bright overhead lights. 

The takeaway

Interior of living room with sofa and two wooden end table cabinets and a lamp, How To Choose Lamps For End Tables

We now know that the most suitable lamps for end tables have several distinguishing factors. They can range from 15 to 34 inches in height and should have a wider lampshade. This allows for many decorative options such as accent, buffet, and desk lamps.

With so many styles, colors, and sizes to choose from, you can match your lamps to your personality, your home's interior, or both. Whether you decide to put two or four lamps in each room, by following the guidelines we've discussed, you'll know the perfect placement for all of your end table lamps.

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