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Our guide to choosing the best living room lamps

  • lamps
  • lighting
  • Style guide
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Olivia Lowry
grey linen sofa with pleated paper table lamp

It’s true that lighting has the power to change the overall look of interiors dramatically - there wouldn’t be so many options out there if that wasn’t the case. In living rooms, getting your lamp situation right is the difference between a clinical, cold feel and a warm and inviting ambience. If we had to choose between using the ‘big light’ or lamps, it’s lamps every time. In this guide, we’ll go through everything you need to know about choosing the best living room lamps, and we’ve thrown in tonnes of inspiration for good measure.

Ambient VS task lighting

Before you go on a lamp shopping spree, it’s important to understand the difference between ambient and task lighting. Aim for a mix of both in your living room and change up the ratios based on how you use the space. 

You can think of ambient lighting as purely for decoration. Ambient lighting is there to add to the atmosphere, provide a subtle glow and is made to be scattered across the room. Think wall lights, sconces, table lamps and underlighting. 

Task lighting, however, is pretty much what it says on the tin. Task lighting serves a purpose in your home, whether that’s a reading light, the outdoor light at a front door, or the ways you might light an under-stairs cupboard.

1. Use frosted glass to diffuse

velvet green sofa with white rug and wall lights

Without getting too technical, it’s worth talking about diffusion. In simple terms, diffusing light means filtering it. Frosted glass is ideal for giving living room lights a soft glow, creating a cosy atmosphere. Opt for globe-shaped table lamps or try out matching wall lights to frame your favourite art piece. 

2. Think about base materials

green sofa in neutral colour room

Introduce new textures to your space by considering what your lamp’s bases are made from. There are plenty of options out there to suit every decor style, from contemporary glass to ornate wood, to Mediterranean-inspired ceramic finishes.

3. Make an art piece with lamps

black sofa in loft style apartment

Living room lamps don’t necessarily have to be lamp-shaped (who’d have thought?). In contemporary interiors, your lighting can act as an art piece as well as a source of light. Seek out unusual shapes and play with proportions when it comes to sculptural-style lamps.

4. Choose cone shapes

cone shaped lamp in neutral colour living room

Get a Scandinavian feel going with cone-shaped table lamps. Use lamps in this fail-safe shape to add a gentle glow next to your sofa or on a sideboard. Conical lamps are great for casting light downwards, avoiding glare.

5. Make your lamps match

blue velvet chesterfield sofa with matching lamps

Make framing easy with matching living room lamps. Create a sense of cohesion and use matching lamps to highlight a particular furniture piece, entrance, fireplace, or anything else that stands out in your living room.

6. Wall mount your living room lights

pink sofa with white walls and hanging lamp

If an airy, loft-style feel is what you’re after, consider using wall-mounted lamps. Choose overhanging styles placed towards the corner of the room. If you’re using them as a functional light, consider adjustable wall-mounted lamps that can be swung to whatever position you need them in.  

7. Go classic with pleated shades

dark blue armchair with side table and pleated lamp

Perfectly neat, pleated lamps are a timeless option to go for. They’re classic, and the shape of a pleated lamp will never go out of style. Swapping out existing shades for pleated versions is a quick way to upgrade your living room lighting in an instant.

8. Choose interesting styles

grey velvet sofa with pink walls

If the base of your living room floor lamp is going to be exposed (and not hidden behind furniture), you might as well choose an interesting one. Find floor lamps with tripod feet to add interest to your interior, or choose interesting materials like marble.

9. Create zones with sconces

blue sofa with white panelled walls

Not much tabletop space for living room lamps? Choose sconce lights in your living room to add a warm glow. Maintain a cosy feel and choose sconces in styles that compliment the rest of your interior. Add contrast with glass, metal or wood finishes, or paint your sconces the same colour as your walls for a seamless look.

10. Unfold paper lampshades

pleated paper lampshade light

If you’re sticking to a strict budget when choosing living room lamps, don’t pass on paper. This material’s making a fast comeback into interior trends in pleated form, but it doesn’t stop there. Use paper lamps to add the perfect amount of diffused light into your living room.

11. Create a reading corner

red velvet accent chair with reading lamp

For all the page-turners out there, this category of task lighting is a must-have in living rooms. Invest in a reading lamp that not only looks great but gives just the right amount of light for late-night reading on a comfy accent chair. Reading lights are extra bright, so it’s a good idea to choose one that directs the glow to one spot. This way, the rest of your living room keeps that perfect book-reading cosy ambience.


How many lamps should you have in a living room?

The number of lamps you should have in a living room depends on the size of the room, the amount of natural light it receives, the room's layout, and how you use the space. In general, a well-lit living room should have a mix of different light sources at different levels to create a flattering ambience, as well as to provide adequate illumination for various tasks.

Do living room lamps need to match?

Living room lamps don’t necessarily need to match, though it’s fine to match two lamps to create a style statement. When choosing living room lamps, it’s more important to consider whether they’re in harmony with the style and atmosphere of the rest of the room, rather than if they match or not. 

What’s the best way to position lights in a living room?

Position your lights in your living room by considering the layout of your room first. This will help to map out where your interior will benefit from added light. Start with general ambient lighting that adds to the atmosphere like ceiling pendants or chandeliers. Then, add functional task lighting such as reading lamps or wall lights that show off artwork. Balance light sources throughout the room by positioning living room lamps at different heights. Doing this avoids direct glare and adds a feeling of more depth and warmth to the room, which is crucial for making your living room feel calm and relaxed.


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