Table lamps, floor lamps, and small specialty lamps are easy to buy, easy to change, and easy to take along when you move. Within this category you'll find fixtures that will provide any quality of light you need. Be careful, though: while they can go a long way toward setting a design style, movable fixtures can look jumbled and busy if overused or mismatched. One solution is to think of them as either primarily decorative or task-specific and to use other, more discreet sources for ambient light.
Table lamps show individuality and style at the same time that they mark space or provide task light. Variety, mobility, and ease of installation add to their appeal. Styles range from quietly traditional to brashly avant-garde. Three-way and dimmable table lamps offer the most flexibility, letting you dial from an unobtrusive background glow to bright task levels instantly.
The choice of a lampshade is crucial to the effectiveness of a table lamp. A difference of only 2 inches in the diameter of the shade's lower edge can make a significant difference in the spread of light. How opaque or translucent is the lampshade? Will it produce a warm, soft glow―or unwelcome glare?
The height of the bulb within a shade also affects the circle of illumination: light will spread farther when the bulb is set low in the shade. To adjust the shade height, you can use small extension screws on the lamp harp. Look for these screws at home centers and lighting supply stores.
Floor lamps offer great flexibility. A traditional floor lamp often provides a combination of light levels, serving either as a reading light or as a source of soft ambient light. Unobtrusive pharmacy lamps, especially those with built-in dimmers, offer a range of options, particularly for tasks such as reading or sewing. Lamps with adjustable directional shades, such as two- or three-source lamps ("tree lamps"), are a practical choice for task lighting―but beware of glare.
Torchères―available in halogen, incandescent, and now compact fluorescent versions―bounce bright light onto the ceiling for a dramatic form of indirect lighting. However, the standard 8-foot ceiling often is too low for the typical 6- to 6½-foot-high torchère; in this case, look for one with a built-in diffuser to avoid creating a hot spot.
Some torchères include a dimmer unit for controlling light output. Fluorescent models tend to produce softer, more diffuse light than incandescent or halogen fixtures. They're energy-savers, too.
Task lamps are sometimes just smaller, focused versions of traditional table lamps. Adjustable-neck task lamps supply a small, bright pool of light while leaving your immediate work area uncluttered. Halogen lamps produce the cleanest, tightest beam, while fluorescent models are tops for reducing glare and shadows. Some drafting lamps include both types of light, providing perhaps the best of both worlds.
Easily adjusted clip-on lights are practical for providing task lighting over beds, desks, and shelves.
Specialty lamps in new varieties are constantly appearing on the market. Some lamps―like the traditional picture light―can fill a specific need while remaining movable, and they require no special wiring.
Uplight cans highlight indoor plants or wash walls with light for instant decorating touches. Aimable spotlights are handy for pinpointing plants, paintings, or sculpture from nearby. Picture lights are inexpensive, easy-to-add options for accenting individual paintings or wall art. Available in several shapes and finishes, the lights simply screw to the back of the picture frame.
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