One part lighting and one part sculpture, the table lamp is an important design element in any room. Table lamps can affect the entire tone of a room, from bright and cheery to dimly-lit and mysterious. Lighting can change the entire ambiance of a room. Following are a few tips to think about when choosing a table lamp for your home or office.

Identify the existing style of the room and determine your style objectives. Keep in mind that there is no one "right" table lamp - it is really a matter of what style or mood you want to express - but some choices are certainly better than others.

Choosing a lamp that is the same style as the rest of the room can make a strong statement about that particular style. On the other hand, mixing styles can add an interesting complexity to a room. Contemporary or modern style lamps can be successfully introduced into a traditional setting. Conversely, a traditional style lamp can look very nice in a contemporary or modern setting. However, when mixing styles, it is usually important to make sure that there are some other unifying accessory elements in terms of style.

Identify the function of the lamp in terms of lighting needs. Is the lamp's purpose to provide general area (also called ambient), reading, or accent lighting?

If there are other light sources in the room, a 60 watt bulb may provide enough light for a living room. However, if only using one or two lamps to light up an entire room, it may be best to invest in a 100 to 150 watt bulb or a 3-way bulb. This also gives sufficient light for reading. A reading lamp should offer 150 or more watts. In general, rooms should have a light source every 10 feet or so.

For general purpose lighting, it is better to choose a lamp with a lampshade that has some degree of transparency such as a fabric, weave, or glass that is light in color. A semi-transparent lampshade gives a room a softer look. On the other hand, a lampshade that has little transparency will provide a stronger, more concentrated light pattern which can create a dramatic effect. A lampshade that has a wider brim at the bottom will spread the light out toward the bottom which is good for a reading lamp.

In determining the lamp's sculptural qualities such as size, bulk, and color, the location and visual function of the lamp needs to be considered. Also, the table lamp should look good whether it is turned on or off.

Typically, short or narrow lamps are more appropriate on smaller tables and bulkier and taller lamps are better suited on larger tables or surfaces. A lamp located on a buffet table and other narrow surface should typically be more narrow or shorter. On a petite nesting table or a narrow console, a tall and narrow candlestick lamp may be the best choice.

If the table lamp needs to assist in visually anchoring an area - then a lamp with more bulk or visual weight such as a pottery jar lamp may be the most appropriate. Table lamps should not compete with the overall design of the room - rather compliment it.

The color or material of the lamp can also affect a table lamp's dominance in a room. When there is greater contrast in the color of the lamp to the color of the walls or room setting, the lamp will be a stronger design element.

The table lamp should not block a view in get in the way of conversation. If a lamp is on a table between a sofa and a chair, consider a thin or transparent base so sight lines and conversation flow freely.

Most living rooms can handle a lamp that is 26 to 34 inches tall. The hardware should not be visible to someone sitting in a chair. The bottom of the shade should be about even with a person's cheekbone when sitting on a chair and the light's beam should fall on the page when reading.

In general, drum shades look more modern and conical ones look more traditional. The diameter of the lampshade should never extend beyond the edge of the table.

And finally, make sure that there is some weight or other stabilizing feature to the base of the lamp so that is cannot be easily toppled over.