There was a request to do cheap table lamps next.
Okay, fine. “inexpensive” table lamps. :]
So, today, I’d like to stick with the inexpensive theme and focus on cheap table lamps.
(If you missed those posts you can see the post about cheap sofas and chairs and cheap fabrics that don’t look cheap.)
But, not just cheap lamps but ways to make a cheap lamp look far more like its costly counterpart.
Now, it isn’t that I haven’t discussed table lamps before. Of course, I have in this post about how to coordinate lighting fixtures, but there’s always a new way of looking at things. And, actually, this is an updated version of a post from 2018. It’s so good to update these posts because things can change quite a bit in two years.
IMO, one of the worst decorating sins, is to have a beautiful room with cheap lamps; or rather, cheap-looking lamps.
It’s like putting on a Chanel suit with a plastic pearl necklace. Right?
It’s true that finding great cheap table lamps is more difficult than chandeliers. However, I’m going to share some ideas I have to spruce up some of the seriously cheap and tacky table lamps in the marketplace.
Here is a list of things that shout from the church steeples CHEAP LAMPS!
- If it’s a traditional lamp, any part of it that is made of chrome. That goes from the finial to the neck and then the base..
Are we (I mean, they) honestly trying to pass this off as silver or nickel? Sorry, not buyin’ it. And I hope that you won’t buy it without doing something about the tacky finish.
What is the solution? Well, one solution is to put a faux finish on it. We’ll get to that in a bit.
These are a little better. They at least have a brass look to them.
However, lots of inexpensive lamps have bases in acrylic, wood, or brass. Now, the brass might be shiny and awful too. But it’s a little easier to change that than it is the chrome. However, all of it is doable.
Related to chrome as you can see above with both lamps is:
- a lampshade that’s revealing the neck if there is a neck.
I went over this in this post about lampshades from a while back. Sometimes, yes, the lampshade is too small, but most of the time, it’s the harp that’s too BIG.
I always feel that something is wrong when I see the neck exposed. That is unless it’s a decorative brass or other metal neck. I never noticed this happening until fairly recently. And sometimes, I’ve even seen part of the socket exposed. Have people no shame?
This unfortunate creature (a 20″ accent lamp) is another with both chrome and a log exposed neck. It’s reminding me of ET. haha
However, the base itself isn’t terrible for a $50 lamp. But then, there’s more chrome on the bottom. Even though it looks like brass, it’s chrome. Plus, for this petite ginger jar style, the drum shade while not awful wouldn’t be my first choice.
Granted, it is a $50.00 lamp, which is very cheap. Great. That gives us a little allowance to turn it into something Edith Wharton would approve of. I’m going to show you what I did in a bit. And no fair looking ahead. ;]
Another thing that irks me about many of the cheap table lamps in the market-place:
- cheap, plastic-looking glazes on a ceramic lamp.
I think I wrote that two hours ago. Haha. What happened is that I went in search to see if anyone had successfully painted a ceramic lamp. I did find the usual DIY projects with various finishes and techniques on Pinterest. And some are painted on glass. The jury is out on that one as far as how good it looks.
Here’s my opinion on the subject of painting a lamp base.
If it’s a ceramic lamp that you got at a thrift shop/tag sale, etc., for five bucks and it has a pitiful granny design on it, and you want to update it, sure, go ahead and paint it.
IF it’s a metal lamp, absolutely you CAN paint it. Remember what the fabulously talented William McLure did here?
This classical table lamp is from Pottery Barn. I could see painting it even though it’s not super-cheap. But, it’s currently on sale for $159.
And finally, if it’s a blue and white Chinoiserie lamp, nothing screams out CHEAP LAMP more than an obviously non-hand-painted design. And/or a design that’s too precious. By too precious, I mean that it looks like “granny.” Granny is a style, not an age. We’ve been through this.
I’m sitting on the fence about this one. I love the shape, size, and proportion of this sofa/console table, and for the price, I think it’s not bad. But, the blue and white design leaves me a little underwhelmed.
Again, “granny decor” doesn’t refer to women of a certain age; it refers to a style of decorating often associated with grandmothers from days gone by. However, I’ve seen 30-something-year-old women decorate in the granny style. For more on that, please click here.
This blue and white Chinoiserie table lamp has a more authentic and interesting design, IMO. And it’s still only $130.00 I would consider painting the foot black and getting a different finial. I’m linking below to some fabulous sources. And there are more new ones in the updated Laurel’s Rolodex.
Another hallmark of cheap lamps is that the proportions and shape don’t feel quite right. However, there are plenty of expensive lamps that don’t feel quite right to me, as well. :]
Now, we can look at some ideas for making that cheap little lamp above look not-as-cheap.
So, what did I do here?
I saw that on the original lamp that the shade is 14″ wide, which looks about right, but it could be one inch less. So, I found a 13″ cone shade, and aside from the fact that the perspective is off compared to the base, I think it looks rather nice. There are zillions of lampshades in various materials, styles, and prices at Wayfair. Changing a lampshade is a great way to perk up an old or tired lamp.
Then, I decided to ixnay the tacky finial. Instead, I found this lovely crystal finial. Be careful for a small lamp not to get something too big. I couldn’t find antique brass, but we can take care of that also.This one measures 1.5″ in total, which sounds about right. For more finials, click here.
Then, I took some virtual rub ‘n buff. (I say virtual since I’m not doing anything except typing. haha) Remember that magical stuff? And I virtually painted the base and the metal part of the finial. Rub ‘n Buff comes in numerous colors, and you have to experiment to get the effect that you want.
There’s another post which shows how a clever blogger took a dilapidated little brass task lamp and made it quite a lovely thing with rub ‘n buff.
If you have questions regarding how to arrive at the perfect size lamp shade, please hop on over to the post in the above link. Most of these are rules for a regular side table lamp. If it’s a tall, skinny buffet lamp, of course, those rules go out the window.
One little hack I sometimes do is if I see something I like, say another lamp; I’ll make a note of the dimensions and then translate that onto what it is I’m working on. Another thing with lampshades is to take your lamp into a lamp shop and try the shades on your lamp, just like you would a dress.
What Size Should a Table Lamp Be?
I’ve probably talked about this before, but here are my general guidelines. And please note that these are general. And, that’s because the variables are too great.
(for a much more detailed guide, you might consider getting 333 Rules & Tips You Need to Know.)
But, for our purposes, let’s begin with the living room.
Most of the time, there are lamps on the side table or end table as some people call it. I have done some skinny end tables. But, to have a lamp on the table, if it’s a rectangle, the table needs to be at least 12″ wide and then, I would do a skinny lamp, maybe 27″ tall.
Below, I made a graphic for typical heights, using an English roll arm sofa.
If your table lamp is skinny, you could go with a bit taller lamp. And if you have a more chunky table lamp, then you could probably go down to 23.”
However, I see end tables that are 28″ on up and table lamps that are 34″ and up, and it all starts to look very weird to me. That is… with a normal-sized sofa. I’ve talked a lot about what I think are more ideal proportions and shapes for sofas and chairs in other posts.
Now it’s time to look at some terrific-looking cheap table lamps.
There are so many wonderful cheap table lamps these days. Please enjoy 30 of my favorites. The most expensive lamp is $205. But most of these lamps are under $100 for one lamp.
Some are fine as is, and some could use a little paint, a new finial, or even a little trim on the lampshade, nothing crazy.
Please click on any image if you’d like to learn more about it.
Well, I hope you enjoyed this post about cheap table lamps, best sizes and sources.
please pin to pinterest for reference
Another post with a lot of terrific not-expensive lighting is here.
You might also enjoy these inexpensive chandeliers.
And I found an excellent vintage lighting source which you might enjoy.
PS: Please check out the newly updated hot sales.
Great information. I keep a stash of various harp sizes just in case.
We used to have a great lampshade store in town. But the owner retired & I miss them dearly. The sales staff was always so helpful. I could take a HomeGoods lamp to them & they always had the best shade in stock to coordinate with it.
Hi laurel, what makes a lamp cost $900.00 and up?
Lots of factors, such as material, manufacturing process, where it’s made, and in what quantities. Also, brand name.
Thanks Laurel, I just bought the Johnathan Y navy lamp!
Thank you for all your insights. I continually am learning from you.
Oh, that’s wonderful!
You’re reading my mind again. 😉 I bought two brass-plated lamps at the thrift store several years ago for $30 because the corners were bent. I love the shape, knew I would paint them. I was able to straighten the corners, then did a total experiment. I primed the brass plate, then textured the lamps with artist’s acrylic resin, creating a horizontal texture that could almost be taken for stone. Painted a layer of deep warm brown chalk paint. Then I layered in what looked like dry brush strokes of a dark red, vibrant yellow, moss, more of the brown and probably one or two warm colors. I sealed it with wax with a copper dust that gave it a slight metallic glaze. Not thrilled now with the gold bell shades I found then. I’m game to repaint them a solid color as the living room changes and try a cream drum shade. Even though I think I got the height right on the bell shades, the wide curved part of the base makes it look too small. Thrifts and resale shops are great for cheap lamps if you DIY!
I feel like I have been rotating lamps through my house for my entire adulthood. The least desirable lamps always rotate to the guest bedroom or playroom/home office before they make their way to the donation bin. I don’t have any lamps that are super expensive, but I am always looking for great lamps at Tuesday Morning. 9 times out of 10, they all look cheap. It’s that 10th time that keeps me going back. (And Peacock Alley bedsheets.). Great post! I had not thought to replace finials before.
I’ve seen the beautiful green color lamp like the one you show from World Market before and always loved the color. Guess what, I just snagged the last one in the store (not available for shipping) on sale for $38.50!! Thanks, Laurel!
Laurel, please let people know to check lighting fixtures for a label saying that the item is CSA or UL certified. I just bought a fixture online that had no safety certification label and the electrician won’t install it and my home insurance won’t allow it. And it isn’t returnable!
This is a growing problem because certification is expensive so manufacturers don’t bother and can offer inexpensive lighting. Buyer beware.
That is excellent advice, Brenda.
This post inspired me to finally do something about lamps for my family room. I have a 44” tall built-in console that needs lighting. I purchased the cobalt blue lamp pair immediately. They might be a tad short for my nine foot ceiling, but I have a couple other spots they will work. The price made it worth the gamble. Thank you for your great blog; I always enjoy it. Your insight has saved me from making many decorating mistakes.
What color (dark or light) floors in wood or laminate go best with Rich Jewel Colored walls such as dark blues and darfk greens. A traditional look Thanks Jackie
What color laminate or wood floors look best with Jewel colored walls. Painting my rooms dark blues and greens. Very cozy feeling and more traditional Thank you Jackie
Laurel, you’re probably familiar with her but if not check out https://heidicaillierdesign.com/. She often does granny chic, particularly the lamps. The little glass green world market lamp is on sale for 38$ I think I’ll get one for the bathroom. Thank you!
I wasn’t familiar with her, but I am now. Wow! Gorgeous work! Thanks so much for sharing.
I’m redecorating and refreshing my living/ dining room. Does one generally select their end tables first before buying table lamps? I suspect the height of the tables influence the height of the lamps as per your scaled drawing.
I am so proud that a pair of lamps I own made it onto your widgets! Your good taste and expertise is rubbing off on me!:)
Oops, I meant neck, not finial. Not enough coffee this morning!
Thank you for this! You’ve validated some of my pet peeves about lamps. I have a particular distaste for the thick, straight neck that was usually found only on the cheapest lamps, but now is found on pricier ones. Even Frederick Cooper and Wildwood have gone over to the dark side. I’m wondering if it’s possible to take the lamp apart and swap out the finial for a classic turned brass one, without destroying the lamp. I used to have a talented lamp guy nearby, but he’s now out of business, boo hoo 🙁
Totally in agreement about the signs of a cheap lamp. Ironically, I’m currently on the hunt for a pair of large-scale navy ceramic lamps for my sideboard. I just had a stunning Pierre Frey wallpaper installed in my dining room and have a mirror to hang over the sideboard, but need chunkier lamps than I have now to ground it. My three big issues have been shade shape (which can be changed at a price), metal finish, and the glaze. Back in the heyday of DIY I tried to paint a lamp I had thrifted, but a high-gloss spray paint just didn’t cut it. 😉
Hope you’re keeping cool in this sweltering weather…
It’s very alabama outside lately.
I’ve read through your guide, The Guide, a few times, and well I could be just missing it…
But what are the guidelines for a lamp on an entryway console or just consoles in general? When there is no chair or sofa height to balance.
I fell in love with a lamp with the Rose Famille pattern mostly because it reminds me of my grandmother, and it may be a tad large.
The memory may override its correctness.
Great post. I wish I could find a nice looking lamp 13 to 15 inch for under countertops in the kichen, that do not cost $300.00.
What a coincidence! You posted a lamp pair that I bought 2 months ago for my finding room. And I love them!
I must have been a good student from all these years of reading your blog to have picked the same ones as you… out of millions of lamps out there. I’m so tickled…Thanks teach!