Let There Be Lights
The living room with reading lamps
The Living Room
  • Inspired by the grand salons of centuries past, designer Katherine Newman assembled a living room with pockets for reading and conversation. "The room is historically rooted but pared down and simplified," says Newman, who calls the style "loosely interpreted neoclassical."
  • Newman uses a variety of light sources, including a task lamp, a sconce, a floor lamp, and a chandelier to give the room flexibility. "A space works best when someone can place a book on a table and have a reading light accessible," she says.

Light Sources:
The spiral Paris floor lamp ($1,600, BroadBeach) glows warmly beside a sofa upholstered in velvet from Osborne & Little (right). A brass task lamp from Lost City Arts illuminates the bench by Lona Design, creating an elegant reading zone. Katherine placed a milk-glass wall sconce, also by Lona Design, at the edge of the bay window and hung a chandelier above the alcove.

How to choose a fabulous floor lamp
Floor lamps
Living Room Tip Sheet
  • In the living room, the primary light source is often the floor lamp, which not only supplies good general light but can make a major design splash. Choose a floor lamp that's 64 to 66 inches tall; many are adjustable and range in height from 57 to 72 inches.
  • Add a mix of table lamps, wall sconces and task lights, depending on how you use areas of the room. "The more you vary the lighting, the better," designer Eve Robinson says.
  • "You can expand a room by placing lighting around its edges," says designer Alexa Hampton, who recesses lighting behind curtains or places bookcase lights on walls.

Floor Lamps:
  1. A tulip shade extends from a cast-iron stem ($49.99, Ikea).
  2. Candelabra bulbs glow in a metal mesh lamp designed by José Esteves ($2,190, Intérieurs).
  3. These globes redefine the term "floor lamp" ($285 to $435, Artemide).
  4. Tommi Parzinger's gold-leafed lamp is radiant ($5,040, Baker, Knapp & Tubbs).
  5. A subtle black shade tops a twig column ($3,364, Vaughan).
  6. Achille Castiglioni keeps it simple with a single cylinder of light ($1,305, Flos).
  7. We updated a turned-wood base with a shade covered in graphic Carleton V wallpaper ($190, Pottery Barn).
  8. The light from this metal tripod invites you to curl up with a book ($139, West Elm).

Bask in the glow of your bedroom.
The Bedroom
  • Designer Larry Laslo made an oversize swing-arm lamp the room's showpiece. It serves two purposes: a reading light for two and general room illumination.
  • "I love the idea of one big overhead lamp instead of small sconces on either side of the bed," Laslo says. "The scale of it is great, and it's very dramatic."
  • The small lamp on the bedside table (right) provides additional atmospheric and reading light.

Light Sources:
For a plush, high headboard, Larry used Robert Allen's charcoal-colored wool. The linens edged in bright purple (Olatz) and a vintage Leonard scarf pillow (Madeline Weinrib Atelier) add vibrant punches of color and pattern. The swing-arm lamp is from L'Art de Vivre.

Set the mood with small table lamps.
Floor Lamps
Bedroom Tip Sheet
  • The bedside lamp is your major light source for the entire room as well as for reading in bed. Depending on the height of your nightstand (taller lamps for shorter tables, and vice versa), the top of your lampshade should be from 24 to 29 inches from the tabletop. "The dinky lamp is a no-no," Elaine Griffin says, but use a smaller lamp (such as No. 9) on a second table to avoid overkill.
  • Designers often place a wall-mounted lamp (such as No. 10) above the bed, which not only saves precious space on the nightstand but also can be swiveled closer to your page than a table lamp. Elaine loves the classic Hinson and its numerous spin-offs.
  • Besides your main bedside lamp, use smaller lamps to create soft pools of light around the room. And don't depend on ceiling fixtures. "The only time you should turn on the overhead light in your bedroom is to see whether your sock is black or blue," Elaine says.

Table Lamps:
  1. Decoupage gives an urn-shaped base a romantic look ($1,760, Carson & Co.).
  2. In a pattern-rich room, an all-glass lamp keeps things clean ($750, Nicole Farhi/202).
  3. A polished-nickel base balances a flashy silk shade ($240, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams).
  4. A teardrop shape is complemented by pale tones ($199.99, Thomasville Furniture).
  5. This glass-ball lamp is both elegant and affordable ($49.54, Wal-Mart).
  6. Mosaic tiles glitter on Carlo dal Bianco's design ($4,250, Bisazza Home Collection).
  7. For a hot color combination, we topped a silver candlestick-shaped base with a shade covered in a turquoise damask print (wallpaper, Designers Guild through Osborne & Little; lamp, $240, Chris Madden for JCPenney Home Collection).
  8. A turned-wood base goes modern with a glossy finish ($78, PB Teen). 
  9. Aluminum folds around a braided cord in this clever design by Alexander Taylor for Established &38; Sons ($125, Smallpond).
  10. The grandmother of all swing-arm lamps gets a splashy chevron shade (fabric, Decorators Walk; lamp, $540, Hinson Lighting).
  11. Laura Kirar's oiled-bronze lamp resembles peeled orange halves ($1,540, Baker). The lamps sit atop, (from left) a side table by Paul Laszlo (Donzella Ltd.), a white-lacquered Lido table (Niedermaier), and a writing/vanity table, also by Paul Laszlo. The Chinese Art Deco carpet is from ABC Carpet & Home; Alexander Beauchamp's silver-swirl Castara wallpaper is from Stark Wallcovering.

Get the "Liberace effect" in your bathroom.
Bathroom sconces
The Bathroom
  • "People think of lighting for the bathroom as utilitarian or industrial," says interior designer Larry Laslo, who chose bold black crystal sconces for his dramatic space.
  • Designers Laura Bohn and Thomas Jayne take a similarly flamboyant approach, sometimes adding a chandelier over the sink. "It's the Liberace effect," Jayne says.
  • For a more practical look, architect Calvin Tsao suggests sconces on either side of the mirror, and, for skin-loving light, frosted- or milk-glass shades with a mid-wattage halogen bulb on a dimmer.

Light sources:
A pair of dramatic Baccarat crystal sconces by Philippe Starck frame a beveled mirror in Laslo's white marble his-and-hers bathroom. Neutral-colored accessories keep things simple: glass apothecary jars ($18 to $32, the Bathroom); linen hand towels ($28, Takashimaya); pedestal soap dish ($42, Waterworks); and marble-and-oil-rubbed-bronze washstands by Walker Zanger.

Get the scoop on sconces.
Bathroom Tip Sheet
Bathroom Tip Sheet
  • For the most flattering light, place sconces to either side of the mirror above your sink, 5 to 10 inches from the mirror's edges and about 66 inches above the floor, suggests lighting designer and event planner Derrick Roberts.
  • "The key to bathroom lighting is that it should resemble daylight as much as possible," says Derrick. "If the bathroom doesn't have proper lighting, women will look like circus performers after applying their makeup."
  • Derrick outlines mirrors with golf-ball-size light bulbs for an old-Hollywood feeling. "It's decorative and functional at the same time," he says.
  • "Or you can create a halo of lights around the mirror, lighting your face without any shadows, he says. (For instance, frame a mirror's top and sides using three sconces like the No. 2.)

  1. This Mission-inspired lamp's matte glass shades emit a soft glow ($159, Restoration Hardware).
  2. Discrete and streamlined, this sconce works well in a modern setting ($139, Robert Abbey Inc.).
  3. Laura Kirar's Deco-style light imparts retro glamour ($1,242, Kallista).
  4. Crisp angles and a black shade define a standard shape ($316, Waterworks).
  5. A pretty pleated shade plus beaded trim equals a feminine fixture ($2,260, Urban Archaeology).
  6. A headlight plays off a nautical theme ($181, Circa Lighting).
  7. This vanity mirror by Miroir Brot Paris is a big investment, but you'll never look better ($6,495, French Reflection). It gleams atop a black glass side table ($925, Waterworks). Gibson girl wallpaper, York Wallcoverings, through Sonia's Place.

Illuminate your work space.
Work space
The Work Space
  • You can carve an office space out of your living room with as little as a table and the right light, designer Rick Shaver suggests. "A corner by the window is ideal, because then you get the natural light that comes in," he says. "When you're looking up and taking a short break, nothing is better than an outside view."
  • In the reading area, Rick used weathered gray woods for the built-in shelves and a nearly all-gray palette. The bright task light efficiently illuminates the work surface.

Light Sources:
A die-cast aluminum task lamp targets your keyboard and papers; a red filter adds a small shock of color without affecting the light ($435, Artemide). Shaver's chenille-covered Crossings chairs are from Crescent Fine Furniture. A silver MacBook Pro rests on a Florence Center Hall table by Shaver/Melahn Studios.

Avoid eyestrain with an adjustable task lamp.
Task lights
Work Space Tip Sheet
  • "You need two very different sources of light to avoid eyestrain," says designer Christopher Coleman, who pairs the desk's task lighting with an overhead light.
  • A task lamp fixes light where you need it most. Look for models with adjustable arms.
  • Metal shades funnel light onto a specific area, such as the papers beside your computer.

Task Lights:
  1. Philippe Starck's design for Flos has an internal diffuser for both direct and ambient light ($340, the Conran Shop).
  2. This classic shape, here in brass, is also available in antiqued bronze ($99.95, Crate & Barrel).
  3. Named Hebi—Japanese for "snake"—because of its coiled base, this light slips into any space ($130, Nova 68 Modern Design).
  4. Vico Magistretti's design for Artemide has a rotating shield that controls light ($140, Lumens Light + Living).
  5. An old-fashioned library lamp goes angular ($285, Ralph Lauren Home).
  6. This lamp might have come straight from an architect's drafting table ($210, Circa Lighting).
  7. Richard Sapper's fully maneuverable model towers above the rest ($510, Lucesco Lighting). Our task lamps are displayed on a Niedermaier worktable in front of Grid (2005), by Norbert Shimkus. Room locations courtesy of the Kips Bay Decorator Show House.