A good floor lamp can illuminate dark corners and bring light to chairs and sofas, where it’s needed most. But most floor lamps are fairly large scale, so they also serve as striking accent pieces.

And sometimes that’s the point of a floor lamp: “I actually use it less for the lighting, and more for the form,” said Maureen Winter McDermott, the founder of Winter McDermott Design, in Sag Harbor, N.Y. “It’s about the height and sculptural moment.”

Of course, there are many kinds of floor lamps, including those that direct light down for reading, torchiers that illuminate the ceiling and fixtures with translucent shades that provide an ambient glow. So when you’re buying a floor lamp, you need to think about how it will contribute to a room’s overall lighting scheme.

“If you want just a glowing light, it could be a frosted globe,” Ms. McDermott said. “But for reading, it needs to be more focused.”

Either way, a great floor lamp should do two things: Banish darkness with a wash of lumens — and look good doing it.


  • Does it need to be adjustable? If it will be used as a reading lamp, an adjustable head is ideal, because “you want to be able to move it around,” Ms. McDermott said. But for a lamp that lights an entire room, adjustability is less important.

  • Can you use a pair to create symmetry? It’s possible, Ms. McDermott said, “but I like to do just one,” as a statement piece.

  • Where is the switch? Some floor lamps have a cord-mounted foot switch, while others have a switch on the fixture, so choose carefully if the lamp will be placed behind a sofa, to avoid frustration later.


Lamp with customizable shade by Luca Nichetto

$849 at Hem: 310-980-3029 or us.hem.com

Lamp with rattan-wrapped stem and canvas or wicker shade by Paavo Tynell

About $1,170 at Design Within Reach: 800-944-2233 or dwr.com


Lacquered metal adjustable lamp by Lluís Porqueras

$429 at Marset: 646-727-4250 or marset.com


Lamp with opal acrylic dome shade by Verner Panton

About $1,050 at Louis Poulsen: 954-349 2525 or louispoulsen.com


Lamp with wood base and paper shade by Chapman & Myers

$579 at Circa Lighting: 877-762-2323 or circalighting.com


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