Lighting Guide: 12 Styles & Sources

Lighting Guide: 12 Styles & Sources

Sarah Coffey
Sep 30, 2010

I've been meaning to pull together a comprehensive lighting guide for our archives for a while now, and today I finally got it done. This is a general list that covers the basics, is loaded with links, and points you towards some good sources — it's designed to be bookmarked and used as a cheat sheet whenever you're on the lookout for lighting.

Table Lamps

These are a decorator's best friend. Strategically placed around a room, they can provide flattering light and a sense of warmth.

cae950dcc81672cdac7dd46fdab6e9192eb1575b. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop Crate and Barrel
A mainstay for decorative table lamps, Crate and Barrel has a wide selection of quality, mid-range lighting. Their Haley Table Lamp, $229, is a perennial favorite — its mirrored base manages to feel contemporary and classic at the same time.

Architect's or Task Lamps

These adjustable lamps are referred to as task lighting, drafting lamps, or architect's lamps, because they're often used in offices to spotlight blueprints on a drafting table. Use them in an office, as a bedside lamp, or as a reading light. See this post for high and low options.

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This is a modern classic, first designed in 1950, and manufactured by French company Jielde. It's made of enameled steel and comes in 18 colors. This one is available at Horne for $1,099.

Sculptural Lamps

This category encompasses any type of lighting that's as much (or more) about form as it is about function. Try one of these as a statement piece in a living or dining room. For more examples, see this post.

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This Italian lighting store was founded by Ernesto Gismondi in 1959, and now has locations throughout the world. They specialize in high-end, high-design lighting, like the Aqua Ell by Rose Lovegrove, $1,095.


Pendants provide overhead light that's a little more stylish than the average renter's fixture. If you're in need of a focal point for a dining room, bedroom, or a hallway, a large pendant lamp is a pretty safe bet.

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This online store is based in San Francisco, and they carry a well rounded range of contemporary lighting by brands like Kartell, Normann Copenhagen, and Mater. This is the Kartell FL/Y Pendant Lamp, $293.

Swag Lamps

These are a nice alternative for renters who can't hard-wire an overhead fixture. They've also got a little bit of chic 70s style if you like the retro look.

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This online lighting store carries a bunch of swag lamps (in styles from tasteful to tacky) that can be plugged into an outlet and hung from the ceiling. This is their White Swag-Style Plug-In Chandelier, $100.


Nothing says romance and drama like a chandelier. They're often a fixture in historic homes, and they're great in living rooms, hallways, and bedrooms. For an interesting history of the crystal chandeliers at the Metropolitan Opera House, see this post.

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This independent Ohio store has a unique selection of new and vintage chandeliers — you'll find a lot of pieces and styles that you don't see everywhere else. This Bronze Crystal Flower Chandelier is currently available there for $2,698.

Floor Lamps

Flexible and particularly useful in a reading corner or next to a sofa, floor lamps are a living room staple.

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This Italian store creates beautiful, high-end home designs, and their all-time best seller is one of the greatest floor lamps of all time: Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni's Arco Lamp, which sells for $2,696. Its distinctive arc allows the piece to function as both a floor lamp and an overhead light. For budget versions, see this post.


These wall-mounted lamps are useful in tight spaces, such as bathrooms, tiny bedrooms, and hallways. For a top ten list of sconces, see this post.

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Based in Aquebogue, New York, this small company has some nice, distinctive sconces. Our favorite is the mod Cobble Sconce, which comes in several colors and sells for $375.

Track Lighting

Used in kitchens, hallways, and anywhere you might need a spotlight, these systems consist of a long track with multiple adjustable fixtures.

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Most people install track lighting during a renovation or new construction, so it makes sense that hardware megastores would stock a good selection. For basic, no-frills track systems, check out Home Depot. This is their Hampton Bay Track Lighting with Brushed Metal Fixtures, $28.

Recessed Lighting

Recessed fixtures are generally used for overhead lighting, spotlighting (it's a good way to highlight artwork), directional lighting, or specialized lighting (such as under-cabinet fixtures).

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This online lighting store has a HUGE selection of hundreds of lights in pretty much all the styles listed here. They focus on higher-end fixtures, but they also have a good selection of track and recessed lights for renovators. This is the Model D414 Recessed Lighting (low voltage), currently marked down from $50 to $30.

Display & Picture Lighting

Wall-mounted lights for paintings and artwork can be a little harder to find than the other fixtures listed here, but we love the old-school, library look of a brass drawing room light. For a good list of sources, see this post.

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This lighting store's web shop carries classic brass and nickel picture lights in the low hundreds. This is their Meilleur Picture Light, marked down from $524 to $384.

Outdoor Lanterns, String Lights, and Lamps

When you're entertaining outside, lighting can make or break the atmosphere. For a good resource guide to LOTS of outdoor lighting ideas, see this post.

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Portland-based Rejuvenation is a great source for all kinds of hardwired fixtures (indoor and outdoor) but I particularly like their selection when it comes to porch lights. This $239 Large Barn Light is one of my favorites.

Lighting Stores on Marketplace
Best Outdoor String Lights 2010
10 Best Bedside Lamps for Readers
Best of the Guide 2005: Lighting Stores
Best Task Lights 2008

Photo: Jielde

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