Before we get into the beautiful collection of (mostly) affordable table and lamp and end table pairings, who has had cake on the brain since last Sunday?
Raise your hands, please.
What? Are you kidding? Only four of you?
Just kidding. And, thank you all for your sweet comments. I’ve been zonked since that post and couldn’t get the cake image out of my head. By Monday afternoon, I couldn’t take it any longer, and it was a sublime evening, so I marched myself over to Flour Bakery. (a local Boston chain with 10 locations)
I got two things. (just in case)
They were the lemon, raspberry cake, and a buttermilk cupcake piled high with blackberry with not-a-speck-of butter in the frosting. They describe it:
lemon raspberry cake – lemon cake (No, it was vanilla) filled with lemon curd, (questionable) crushed raspberries, buttercream, (No way!) and fresh seasonal fruit. (one raspberry and one blueberry)
There was not a spec of butter to be found.
Frankly, both were dry, bland, and fake tasting; very disappointing.
I think they forgot to put sugar in the cupcake. I didn’t detect any.
However, it did cure me of my cake craving. haha
After three attempts, all of them mediocre at best, I’m done with Flour Bakery. I have no idea why it’s often mobbed.
Okay, I started working on this post and began to collect cheap coffee tables. After a couple of hours, I was utterly bored. I was bored because they all began to look the same.
So, I thought I would look for cheap table lamps and end tables. (Sometimes called side tables.)
However, there is a post about cheap table lamps. Although, it’s pretty old.
And, there’s this post about high-low Chinoiserie lamps.
This time, I’m going vintage.
I adore vintage furniture, as you may have noticed, being more than half of my furniture is vintage.
However, as in all vintage furnishings, you can also find these items in consignment shops, tag, yard, estate sales, and both live and online auction places. Also, you might try Craig’s list and Facebook Marketplace.
Sorry for the obnoxious color. I have to do that for those who skim and then remind me of these sources.
You might also enjoy this recent post featuring vintage dining room pieces.
But, the focus today is on table lamp and end table pairings.
Let’s first go over a few rules and other things you need to know regarding table lamp and end table pairings. And, this goes for all table lamp and end table pairings, whether they are vintage or not.
Let’s begin with the end tables.
I feel the best height for an end table is from one or maybe two inches lower than the arm to about two or three inches higher.
I made this graphic a while back and added it here after I wrote about inexpensive lamps.
Most sofa arms, except for tuxedo and chesterfield styles with arms at least 30″ high, have arms from about 23″-25″.
I learned from experience that the absolute highest to go for an end table is 27″.
With a high-arm sofa, I would never go higher than the arm, but you can go up to five or six inches, max, lower than the arm.
If the table is rectangular, for end tables, the short way usually faces the front. Using the end table as a nightstand is the opposite unless the space is very tight.
However, when looking for a nightstand, it is better not to go past 20″ deep, and ideally not past 18″ for the depth. This is so you don’t gouge your thighs out getting in and out of bed. That’s why most nightstands are from 13″-18″ deep.
Laurel, how big should an end table be if you put a lamp on it?
That’s a terrific question.
It’s always better for the table to be at least four inches wider than the shade, if possible. If space is super tight, it’s best to choose a thinner lamp that can take a more narrow (in diameter or width) lamp shade.
Please go here for a post about selecting lampshades for your table lamps.
For the past 18 years or so, lamps have kept getting bigger and bigger.
Now, a mistake some people make is that they equate a larger room with larger furnishings.
Yes, you can have a large, low coffee table in a large room. Maybe you can have more seats on a sectional.
However, the room size doesn’t affect, to any significant degree, the furniture sizes in terms of height and depth.
Furniture is still made for PEOPLE. Right? And, since people don’t get larger (unless they eat too much horrid cake) when they walk into a large room, the size of the furniture should not change much, either.
The furniture can have more visual weight, and there can be more than one seating area in a large room.
Okay, I wrote a post about sofa and coffee table pairings not too long ago. And, yes, the coffee table and the sofa are integral parts of the composition, along with the table lamps and end tables.
However, it’s too much for me to bite off in one blog post.
The only thing I’m going to say is this:
Please do not match your end table to the coffee table. Please don’t, even if they’re cool vintage pieces. The pieces need to coordinate, however. For 20 other hideous decorating mistakes, please go here.
The trick to coordinating coffee tables with end tables is in the materials, scale, and color or finish.
Please know that I am mostly excluding some specific styles, such as mid-century modern. That’s another post. (Okay, that’s not entirely true, as you’ll see in a bit.)
As most of you know, my preferred style is some version of what many call the new traditional or neo-trad. Or, some might call it eclectic.
A vignette from my living room in January 2020, shortly after I moved in. Everything is vintage or antique except the lamp I got in 2013.
There’s a post here that talks about mixing modern and traditional pieces; I explained how the 80/20 or 90/10 rule applies. Either the room is 80 or 90% traditional, with no more than 10-20% modern. Or, it’s the other way around. It never looks right if a room is 50% trad and 50% modern.
Also, it doesn’t usually work if the room is 98% one style and 2% the opposite.
So, beginning with the coffee table. Let’s say the room is mostly trad. If one does a more modern, glass and brass coffee table, that is a great way to interject some modernity into a space that is 80% trad. Then, more modernity could be in a desk lamp and art. Or, it could be a super interesting modern chandelier. And then, there will be enough modern elements. It’s not an exact science, but you get the point.
Could the end tables be the modern element? It depends on the sofa and the lamps, and the coffee table. This is why I think making mood boards is such a valuable exercise. It’s a terrific way to visualize how everything will look together.
For this exercise, I’m mainly staying away from anything super informal and country.
There is a disproportionate glut of that already existing in the marketplace.
Okay, here’s what I’m going to do.
Three widgets are coming.
The first widget contains some gorgeous table lamps. I know I said I was going to say what goes with what. Okay, that’s impossible with this many lamps and tables. If I had six lamps and six tables, I could do that. But, since this is me, Laurel, who can’t stop at six, many will not be paired up.
However, most of these are interchangeable. And, also as stated before, some of it depends on the sofa and coffee table.
Please enjoy the table lamps! If you’re interested in any of these, they’re for sale. If you click on the image, you’ll be taken to the source.
Next are the end and side tables. There are not as many of these. I could’ve put up more, but I’m trying to be kind to your pocketbook, should you be interested in getting any.
Many of these tables need a little TLC. And most of them could be either refinished or painted.
And, finally, what’s left?
Well, I found what I call “statement lamps.” Some are Chinoiserie, but most of these are mid-century, and some of them are well over 40″. They look best either with a very low table. Or, they could also go in a more maximalist space. All of them would look smashing in a primarily contemporary room.
I have a friend back in New York who has a living room that has simple white slipcovered sofas and then these huge, gorgeous statement lamps. They make the room! I so wish I had a photo.
Okay, I hope this makes some sense, and that you enjoyed the classic and mostly affordable table lamp and end table pairings. It’s actually a super broad topic. I suppose I could’ve just done lamps and the end tables in a separate post. However, talking about them simultaneously, is hopefully more helpful.
PS: Please check out the newly updated HOT SALES!
PPS: My back is almost 100% back to normal. I guess it was the petroleum jelly they used to make the cake?
Thank you for this post. I have a couple of pairs of vintage ginger jar lamps including the white Tyneside ones (or very similar), and an off-white pair similar to the (plain) yellow ceramic ones for about 50 years. I am having difficulty with replacing the shades. The large white ones have a coolie shades that have a 20″ bottom edge, They feel overwhelming and are probably a poor match for my existing tables. The other is a classic empire shade which feels better in the space. I would be interested in knowing if an alternative style of shade would work, or should I stick with similar shades. I am replacing some furniture so this was very timely since I am now looking at them with fresh eyes.
Mary: Miles Redd does sofas with only floor lamps or sconces, or one floor lamp and one end table, all the time, so you’re in good company!
Laurel- For decades they told us to move the furniture away from the wall. Frankly, I haven’t lived in a home that had rooms small enough to have the furniture near electrical outlets and not custom enough to have floor outlets. I adore lamp lighting but all of mine has to come from the perimeter on chests, sofa tables, etc. Any advice for side table side decor without lamps?
The interior charm of Tatte’s got me there- I loved every bite.
I second Krusteaz mixes. A hack my pastry chef friend told me is always substitute quality butter in lieu of any oil or shortening in a mix, and add an egg, and vanilla bean paste
Practically all the women I know (All Americans) bake, and do so well and often.
Laurel, for bakeries in Boston: Flour is underwhelming; Tatte is an improvement over Flour but not a dramatic one, though their laminated pastries can generally be relied on. I generally make my own birthday cake, but one year craved Princesstorte and didn’t want to go to the trouble of making my own: Danish Pastry House makes a lovely one. I am never disappointed by Sofra.
I’m glad I’m not the only one who hates Flour and I also find the pastry offerings in Boston pretty dismal. One has a bit better chance at Tatte’s, some sandwiches are very good (Corn Latke’s one I like), but had less success with their pastries with often dry and sometimes day old items. Their Tiramisu is pretty acceptable, however, a bit too sweet and too heavy on the cognac. I almost find the one at WF better. Or at least the pre-Covid formula seemed better, I think they watered it down a bit since. I find that Burdick’s has been consistently delivering on their few but well selected Austrian style cakes, try the rich Chocolate Lemon Cake and Earl Grey Mousse Cake. I always get those when in Boston. The Raspberry Chocolate cake should be also good, but never tried. Small on the size, but not skimping on real ingredients, especially real butter. I also come from a stock of serious European bakers, mom, grandmothers, aunts, all with small, cramped, un-fancy kitchens where miracles were conjured up in form of sumptuous chocolate cakes, nut tortes, cherry-liqueur cakes, etc. Good baking requires great skills, but using clean, real, quality ingredients is crucial, no substitutes and no compromise there. And less sugar, pleeeease!!
I had to Google “what is polenta”? Sounds like you just make a cornmeal mush? Is that right? Lemon jello cake is good and very lemony and easy :))
Polenta is actually dry cornmeal.
Now you’ve got me craving lemon cake. I’m trying so hard to stay away from sweets. I overindulged during Covid out of boredom & now none of my clothes fit. 🤦♀️
After I purchased my house I ordered a new rug & sofa because the long lead times had me concerned. I waited on moving in while I had a lot of renovations going on.
But I did do some shopping on Facebook Marketplace for end tables. And I scored some nice ones.
Then the day came to move in. And a couple of months later my sofa & rug were delivered. And much to my horror I discovered I didn’t have room for my end tables. The sofa is too long! I’m kicking myself for not measuring. I’m such a dope.
I wish I could buy some lovely vintage lamps. But all I have room for is a floor lamp.
If it makes you feel any better, some of the worst mistakes I’ve ever made have been for myself, simply because I took the lazy way out, and oops!
There is a brand called Krusteaz, and they make the BEST meyer lemon pound cake mix, with lemon glaze. Quick and easy to make and moist lemony and DELISH!
A mix? Wow! I’ve always baked from scratch, but I’ll take your recommendation. My mom did and so I have no fear of it. However, I found the Krusteaz pound cake at Walmart. lol
Petroleum Jelly! LOL! Thanks Kim H for your recipe – I’m going to try it! And thanks Laurel for a wonderful post on end tables & lamps. Sometimes, I see an interior designer use tall end tables next to a sofa, and it looks SO pretty in the photo. But I think, I’d knock my glass trying to set it UP on the table – beverage everywhere – guaranteed.
Well, then, let’s not sit on the same sofa, because I’ll be the one knocking my glass off the other table. Do you know how many glasses of knocked off the coffee table? I bet you can guess why, too. Thank heavens that wool is so forgiving!
I love all these lamps and they are so practical. These round concrete, or whatever, balls they sell take up the whole table.
And I can’t find almond meal anywhere, only almond flour.
If you should ever find yourself in New Orleans, go to the Bakery Bar and get a slice of doberge cake. It’s worth the trip.
I have heard from a reliable source that 99% of bakeries use mixes or start with a mix.
I just had a flashback to 6th-grade home-ec and that horrid mix of flour and lard(?) that was kept in a jar. Everything tasted like playdough. Okay, I’ve never actually eaten playdough. However, they say that taste is 75% – 95% of taste. So, the smell of some baked goods is identical to playdough.
Wouldn’t almond meal be finely ground almonds? Someone correct me if I’m wrong. But, you can probably make it in a blender or food processor.
Carrie -I looked at them thinking to buy…but I saw someone had beat me to it. The early bird gets the worm or in this case the lamps! 🙂
The best lemon cake is Glazed Lemon Cake from The Silver (original) Palate. Lots of butter and lemon. No one has not asked for seconds or the recipe!
Enjoy your posts! I love vintage too.
I’ve been consistently disappointed with Flour’s baked goods too. Their sandwiches are great but, not surprisingly, crazy expensive. I miss Rosie’s Bakery–I think there are a few surviving stores worth seeking out–or her great cookbook if you want to bake yourself.
Nice to see one of my favorite posts of yours updated!
I got side-tracked last post, and never made my lemon poppyseed muffins. I’m just glad to know those gorgeous cakes are often just eye-candy!
My husband and I were musicians once for good friends’ wedding in Baltimore, and they had a Dr. Seuss looking wedding cake by Duff! I eat gf, but decided to risk a bite. Not worth it. The pre-wedding homemade sangria by our hostess was better! I’m super-excited to try Kim H’s recipe…yummy!
And those lamps…I must be a maximalist….I want to buy them all! Beautiful lamps are like earrings…just complete the outfit, IMO.
Really appreciate the guidance for pairing tables & lamps…thank you!!!!!!
Love the lamps, Laurel. I must say, I am so disappointed for your cake experience! I have the same reaction from most of the baked goods I buy at Whole Foods and some local bakeries. You need butter, cream cheese, or cream to make good frosting. You may just have to break down and bake your own cake if you want it
to be good. Sounds like a great excuse for a party!
Laurel, I agree with you about Flour Bakery. I have been underwhelmed by their goods. I bake and have to say what comes out of my oven puts Flour to shame. All thanks to my german mother and aunt who were amazing home bakers. Candidly the best baked goods are not found in American bakeries – which are just sad – even Boston’s. Americans do not bake, so how could anyone know what is really good. Supermarkets in Germany have long aisles of baking ingredients unlike what you will find at Roche Bros or Sudbury Farms. The French Patisserie and German Konditorei are worth a plane ticket to enjoy some of the best pastries, macarons and cakes baked. PS – I checked my lamps and tables – and was relieved to find they were in the heights and widths of your recommendations. 😉
A great pair of lamps is my design crack. I can’t look away. As for your lemon cake tragedy, nothing worse than unmet pastry desires. I’m attaching my daughter’s favorite-limoncello cake with mascarpone frosting.
It’s a lemon lover’s dream. Just remember, once you open the limoncello, keep it in the freezer and use within a couple months. Buon appetito.
That recipe sounds divine! Thanks so much!
I love your blog, but Bostonians are all horrified! You can’t bail on Flour until you’ve had the sticky buns! Also, the sandwiches—the S. End location is best, roasted chicken with avocado and jicama. I agree with you about the cupcakes though.
Please forgive me, Morgan, but I tried the sticky buns the second time there, along with the gluten-free raspberry muffin. The latter was actually, not bad, except, I don’t enjoy crunching down on raspberry seeds. If they had used strawberries instead, I would’ve given it a high mark. As for the sticky buns, I’m not a fan. The bun itself was lacking in that buttery flavor I was expecting. It was also tough, chewy, incredibly dense, and hard. The sticky part was also hard to bite into, cloyingly sweet, and sticky as in one notch below super glue.
Yes, I tried both room temperature and heated up. Nothing helped; I threw most of it out.
The first time there, I was with a first (and only date) who I realized afterward was probably cheating on an “ex” who was not in any way an ex. I’m done with online dating, as well.
Anyway, he did buy me a piece of carrot cake. It was also overly sweet, and had that plastic playdough taste I believe comes from the cheap shortening they use in place of butter.
On top of it being bad, one piece of cake is $7.50.
I will never forget the first time I had carrot cake. It was in the late 60s and it was actually a side dish for a fancy dinner my mom made for company. Hands down, it was absolutely the best thing I’ve ever eaten. She baked it in a ring-shaped jello mold. haha. But, that made it easy to slice this delicacy. It was buttery, incredibly moist, fluffy and yes sweet, but not too sweet and verrry difficult to stop eating. It did not have the intense spices one is subjected to in today’s carrot cakes. I’m not saying carrot cake should have no spice, but I feel that spice is sometimes used to mask inferior ingredients. It’s like putting perfume on a body that hasn’t been washed in a month. ewww
Until I left home about five years later, my mommy made me carrot cake or cupcakes with cream cheese frosting for every birthday. One year, I could not stop eating them. My mom was an amazing baker!!!
Are you using dry or already cooked polenta? This sounds great!
I grabbed those green glazed lamps right up! Thank you!
Oh, wonderful Carrie! I just checked, and both green lamps have sold, so I added another one.
Dear Laurel, I got so excited at the idea of sharing my lemon cake recipe I haven’t actually read the lamps and end tables post yet! In my not so H O, this is the best lemon cake in the world, suitable for gluten-free guests (if using gf baking powder) and wonderful as breakfast with black coffee, as pudding with cream, sour cream or ice cream. Etc etc. Cream 8oz softened butter into 8oz golden castor sugar, to which add 8oz almond meal, then 3 eggs a little at a time, whisking thoroughly. Fold in juice of one, and grated zest of two, unwaxed lemons, 4oz polenta, 1tsp baking powder and a pinch of salt. (Or just whizz the lot up in a mixer.) Bake at 325f for 50 mins (or a bit cooler for an hour or so) in a 9ins tin. Do your usual ‘is it cooked?’ test. Leave to cool. Proportions of the drizzle are taste dependent – I add extra lemon juice to make mine moist and lemony sharp. In a small pan heat the juice of the other lemon (or 1.5 or 2!) with and a dessert spoon of honey as a drizzle. Adjust to taste. Prick cake every square inch or so. Drizzle. Seive icing sugar if you want it to look finished. Try not to eat it all at once! Now, lamp tables…
That sounds fantastic. Thanks for sharing. Last year, I made a gluten-free lemon polenta cake and used the wrong kind of polenta. I had to dump it, although the flavor was very good, the texture was like biting down on tiny pebbles. lol