How to get the right lamps for your home

Let our experts be your guiding light to creating ambience with lamps and shades.
LampsPhotography: Lisa Cohen / Styling: Maine House Interiors

If overhead lighting commands attention, lamps are the gentler partners that bring calm to your home. Table lamps in particular throw mood lighting while providing task lighting where needed (for example, while reading). We all know that The Block judge Neale Whitaker loves a lamp and heralds the transformative effects on a space… and what Neale says, we do.

There are countless combinations of shades and bases on offer, adding whatever colour, style and texture your decor calls for. That’s why illuminating those spaces beside your bed or favourite armchair, or on top of your desk or hallway console for a welcoming entry, can be overwhelming. But expert help is at hand so… let there be light.

lamps bedside with floral bedhead
(Photography: Martina Gemmola)

Can I mix-and-match lamp shades and bases?

Table lamps usually comprise a base, shade, globe and cord. While you can buy ready-to-use table lamps, mixing and matching bases and shades allows you to blend with existing decor. “We use custom lampshades to bring a scheme together, often coordinating shade fabric to a cushion or hero fabric in the space,” says interior designer Amy Spargo.

Amy often tries different shade sizes on lamp bases before finishing the product. As a guide, the width of your shade should be twice as wide as the base, suggests Leesa Chandler, founder and director of lampshade supplier Pip & Haze. “And the height of your shade should be two-thirds of the total height of the base.”

lamps guide kitchen lamp
(Photography: Lisa Cohen)

How do I know what lamp base to buy?

Foundations are important, so take careful consideration when choosing your lamp base. Base materials can include brass, chrome, glass, crystal, natural stone, timber and ceramics in earthy or vibrant colours.

Not sure where to begin? “Look at the existing materials in your home,” offers Diana Di Corleto, creative director at Beacon Lighting. “If you have brass or bronze door handles, you may want to match this in with the lamps hardware so it all ties in.”

As always, balance is key. “If the base is patterned, you could opt for a block-coloured shade, so as not to eclipse the details of the base,” recommends Leesa. However, if you’re a maximalist, clashing patterns can set your home apart from others, she adds.

For more humble spaces, Diana suggests using narrower cylinder-style bases instead of thicker alternatives. Since moving lamps from room to room is an easy way to update your interiors, consider lightweight, portable bases.

lamps guide blue kitchen
(Photography: Lisa Cohen / Styling: Tess Newman-Morris / Design: Amy Spargo at Maine House Interiors)

How do I know what lampshade to buy?

We’re spoilt for choice when it comes to lampshade materials, which all serve different functions and suit different styles. “A bonded (or drum) shade is flat, letting the lamp base be the focus,” explains Amy. “A gathered shade is pretty and softening. Pleated shades are formal and great for a larger, bolder space. Scalloped shades are fun and quirky, for a child’s bedroom, for example.”

Leesa designs handmade gathered lampshades featuring block-printed fabrics. “A gathered lampshade doesn’t have a PVC backing but is lined with a cotton fabric that’s stitched around the top and bottom ring,” says Leesa. “This allows light to filter through all the layers of (gathered) fabric, creating a soft light and a focal point in the room.”

lamps guide stairwell
(Credit: Photography: Lisa Cohen )

What is the best fabric for lampshades?

The type of shade fabric you select will determine how much your space glows as well as the mood you’re trying to evoke. “Lighter-coloured linen shades will emit more ambient light from lampshades than darker-coloured fabric shades,” says Marie Botsis-Premici, director of The Montauk Lighting Co. “Darker or metallic shades, such as brass shades, are more dramatic, throwing a more directional, warm and moody glow.”

Large drum shades that are open at the top and the bottom will disperse light above and below the lamp, she adds. The weight of the fabric is important if you want the light to filter through the weave, asserts Leesa. “Light-to-medium-weight fabric is the best.” Pro tip: highlight a special artwork by flanking it with two matching lamps on a console or mantelpiece. The effect will be stunning.

What material is a lamp made out of?

Lampshade material doesn’t need to be confined to linen. “We use rattan, wallpaper and contrasting binding to add interest,” says Amy. “Look at antiques for something unique.”

For bases, sturdy but luxurious materials such as travertine, marble and alabaster are trending, reports Diana Di Corleto, creative director for Beacon Lighting.

lamps guide bedside lamp wallpaper
(Credit: Photography: Martina Gemmola / Styling: Maine House Interiors)

Where should I put lamps in my home?

Before you even think about buying new lamps, consider the location of your power points, advises Marie. Amy is a fan of hardwiring lamps, which allows them to be controlled at the light switch, in pairs if necessary. “Mood lighting for an entire room at the flick of a switch all in one spot!”

Which globe is best for lamps?

For safety reasons, only use globes purchased in Australia, to comply with safety standards. “Don’t exceed the maximum wattage and use the globe shape or type that’s specified by the manufacturer,” says Marie. “LED globes are best, and brighter globes with a colour temperature of 3000K are ideal for lamps used for functional lighting.” For ambient lighting in living areas or bedrooms, opt for ‘warmer’ 2700K globes.

“Think of lamps as decoration. They are a great way to bring interior trends into the home without the huge investment.”

Diana Di Corleto, Beacon Lighting

Shop lamps

MyHouse Neale Whitaker Tathra Desert Ceramic Lamp Dark


Neale Whitaker Tathra Desert Ceramic Lamp Dark, MyHouse


Sure to add classic style to any space.

Freedom Rohld Table Lamp


Rohld Table Lamp, Freedom


Organic meets contemporary in this beauty.

Temple and Webster Hello Boho Australian Wild Flowers Lamp Shade


Hello Boho Australian Wild Flowers Lamp Shade, Temple & Webster

$109 (21 x 30 x 31cm)

The prettiest floral shade we ever did see.

Myer Oriel Lighting Rosalie Table Lamp Base Only


Oriel Lighting Rosalie Table Lamp Base Only, Myer


The perfect base to pair with a pretty shade.

Temple and Webster Emotive Collection Spring Floral Lamp Shade


Emotive Collection Spring Floral Lamp Shade, Temple & Webster

$199 (25 x 40 x 40cm)

For a dose of happiness in any room.

Freedom Soloman Table Lamp


Soloman Table Lamp, Freedom


When you want a white lamp that’s a little extra interesting.

Adairs Gigi Blue Table Light


Gigi Blue Table Light, Adairs


It’s giving modern, it’s giving fun.

Adairs Whitelaw Natural Floor Light


Whitelaw Natural Floor Light, Adairs


For a dash of natural texture in your space.

Temple and Webster Blue Ceramic Ginger Jar Table Lamp


Blue Ceramic Ginger Jar Table Lamp, Temple & Webster


The ultimate lamp for a Hamptons aesthetic.

MyDeal Go Bright Pleated Classic Metal Floor Lamp Light Fabric Umbrella Shade - White and Gold


Go Bright Pleated Classic Metal Floor Lamp Light Fabric Umbrella Shade, MyDeal


A floor lamp with pleated shade and gold base for a modern edge.

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