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The Best Desk Lamps, According to Architects and Interior Designers

Thursday, August 20, 2020   /   by The Villages Home Search

The Best Desk Lamps, According to Architects and Interior Designers

So you’ve got the standing desk and the ergonomic office chair all set up in your new work-from-home station, plus an external monitor, keyboard, and mouse for your laptop to help you maintain proper posture. Beyond those essentials, you may also want to consider adding a desk lamp to your home-office setup: Not only will it provide a bit more lighting than the blue-light glow emitted by your computer screen, a lamp can add an element of (functional) design to your work space, making even the most cobbled-together desks look a bit more put together. To find the best, most stylish desk lamps — from tried-and-true classic task lamps to contemporary light sculptures — we consulted a group of interesting people with good eyes for these kinds of things, including architects, interior designers, and other folks who value form as much as function. Read on for their picks, which come at a range of prices and include a desk lamp for just about everyone.




Best under-$100 desk lamps


Mustard yellow lamp with round shade.

If you’re looking for something simple that gets the job done, many of the people we spoke with directed us to objectively affordable lamps that don’t look cheap — like this iron one, which Shannon Retseck, the founder of textile and home-goods line Cuttalossa, told us about. The lamp has an angled arm and a swiveling, flared shade, giving it a “no-fuss design,” according to Retseck, who adds that its “fun hue brings a pop of color to the office, which can often be a sterile space.” In addition to the mustard yellow shown, this lamp is also available in black, mint green, and white.



Chrome-plated lamp with cup-shaped shade.

Even less expensive is this desk lamp from Ikea, which architect Páll Hjaltason, the owner and founder of Plús Arkitektar, recommends for its practicality and affordability. “I bought a lot of them for my growing studio, so they’re everywhere,” he says. Made of nickel-plated steel coated in acrylic, the lamp’s head has an LED light, and its adjustable arm allows you to direct the glow as you please. Hjaltason likes that the design is “generic” and that the lamp sits on the desk as opposed to being fastened to it, the way some other lamps on this list (like the one below) require. The low price, he adds, means “I can always buy more of them” should he need a replacement. Shown in nickel, the lamp is also available in black, dark green, and dark red.



Silver lamp with a clamp.

While not a proper desk lamp, this just as versatile (and even cheaper) clamp lamp is what architect Peter Dumbadze uses at his own desk. “I’ve used these lamps for years, as I can buy them at my local hardware store, Mazzone Hardware in Carroll Gardens.” What he likes about a clamp lamp is its “utilitarian style,” which he says works not only with his industrial shelving but also his desk (an Eames Aluminum Group conference table): “I position the lamps such that I can bounce light off of the walls and ceiling, helping to provide even lighting.” At $13, it’s affordable enough that you can buy more than one and place them anywhere you might need an extra light source.



Upright black lamp with white bulb.

This mini-lamp that Chris Black recommends is just as easy to place wherever you may need it: Its base attaches to any smooth surface (like a desk or even a wall mirror) by way of an integrated suction cup. Designed by Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni and first introduced back in 1962, it’s “timeless, practical, and chic,” according to Chris.




Bent black and silver lamp with conical head.

Mark Warren, a co-founder and designer for ceramics company Haand, recommends this LED work light from Wisamic, calling it “powerful and cheap.” It requires a bit more elbow grease to install — you have to mount it to a surface with the provided hardware and connect the plug yourself (it comes with wires for connection) — but once built, the lamp should last you forever, according to Warren, who notes that it’s “waterproof and explosionproof.”



Black lamp with cylindrical base and long arm.

This slim LED desk lamp has been a constant table-side companion for Noroof Architects partner Scott Oliver. “I bought a version of this halogen model 30-plus years ago — and lo and behold, it is still around,” he says. While he originally bought it as a bedside lamp, “it became my go-to lamp as it left the bedside, and became my drawing lamp when I was in grad school doing design competitions.” The lamp, which has a tilting head and a touch-dimmer switch to help control its light, comes in silver and white as well as black.



Best under-$200 desk lamps


Short lamp with ring-shaped base and green cup-like shade.

For something more traditional with a touch of flair, consider this banker-style desk lamp that Retseck recommends. The green shade and brass arm recall the typical color scheme of banker’s lamps, giving it a “nostalgic vibe,” she says. But the cutout, circular base lends it a modern touch that keeps it from looking too classic.



Small lamp with black base and frame.

Decorator Carrie Carrollo loves this lamp from Hay. “Because my work spaces have always been multifunctional, I prefer lamps that don’t look like an obvious desk lamp,” she told us. Its simple design features a slender arm made from powder-coated die-cast aluminum and steel. The light rotates 360 degrees and can be set to emit both ambient and direct light. According to Carrollo, the “sleek lamp provides enough light without compromising good design aesthetics.” What’s more: It’s currently on sale for 15 percent off.



Wavy white lamp on wooden legs.

Another atypical-looking desk lamp is this sculptural 3-D–printed lamp from Wooj, an industrial- and furniture-design studio based in Brooklyn. It comes recommended by Phantila Phataraprasit, a co-founder of Sabai, a new direct-to-consumer sofa company. “The design has a great ethereal vibe that really lights up a space, giving it a dreamy, airy feel,” she says. The lamp is made of heat-resistant, corn-based plastic and sits atop a three-legged base that comes in colors such as black, terra-cotta, and green.



Lamp with square framed base and red pleated shade.

Liza Curtiss and Corey Kingston, the co-founders of architecture-and-design studio Le Whit, call this Hay lamp “sophisticated and fun.” They love that its conical, pleated shade comes in a wide range of colors like red, green, lavender, and yellow, and they tell us it “pulls the traditional pleated shade into a more playful future.” Black likes this one, too, calling it “sophisticated” and adding that the shade makes it look “like something straight out of a dimly lit cocktail bar in Firenze.”



Lamp with round blue and brown base, and white shade.

“This lamp is tiny, but that’s actually it’s biggest strength,” Carrollo says of this dimmable mushroom lamp that’s just under nine inches tall. “Living in small New York City apartments, my work spaces have always needed to be multifunctional — a bistro table I could work and eat from or a desk that could double as a vanity and storage.” This lamp would appeal to anyone who works similarly, she says. “It leaves enough room for me to actually use the surface I’m working on while still lighting up the area.” Designed by Jaime Hayon for &Tradition, this lamp is cordless — making it easy to move to whatever surface may become your work space — and charges via USB, providing ten hours of light on an eight-hour charge. Black is also a fan of the Setago, calling it “charming” and noting that “it produces a lovely, soft, even light.”



Paper leg with thin black legs.

Designers love Isamu Noguchi’s Akari light sculptures as both tabletop and floor lamps, so it makes sense to hear that a smaller one like this would work well in an office setting. “I’ve used this specific light for decades,” says Jonathan Marvel, the founder of Marvel Architects. “It is made out of paper and split bamboo and is lightweight and delicate.” Former Strategist senior editor Simone Kitchens also wrote about how she used a Noguchi lamp to give her desk, which wasn’t “blessed with a ton of natural light,” a “cozy, glow-y living-room feel.” Adds Marvel, “I love the fact that Noguchi took the craft of traditional paper lanterns and turned it into a contemporary light fixture as well as an affordable work of art.”



White lamp with silver arm.

In the genre of task lamps, Luxos are perhaps the most well known (and classic), with the L1 model being the apparent inspiration for the Pixar logo. (Jane Greenwood, a principal at Kostow Greenwood Architects, calls it “the classic workhorse lamp found in many architectural offices for more than 50 years.”) Curbed architecture critic Alexandra Lange is also a fan of the brand’s lamps, particularly this style from its LS series. “This is the desk lamp my architect husband actually has multiples of,” she says, calling it “the black T-shirt of architect desk lamps.” It has adjustable arms with external springs that allow for more flexibility, along with an adjustable shade.




Best under-$300 desk lamps


Blue lamp with flat round base and bent arms.


Lamp with square black base and bent arms.

If a Luxo lamp is the black T-shirt of architect task lamps, then an Anglepoise is perhaps the industry’s white T-shirt of task lamps. As architect Mei Lun Xue puts it, “It’s super-classic and looks good everywhere.” The British company’s various task lamps are the runaway favorite among our architects and interior designers, with the more affordable Type 75 model getting slightly more nods than the Original 1227. Both styles have adjustable arms and shades, but the Type 75 shade is a bit more streamlined, while the Original 1227 shade looks more technical. “Both are elegant in their own right, with a classic silhouette and form that they’ve kept fresh with new finishes and colors,” says Brian Wilson, a co-founder of Pair, an office-furniture company based in San Francisco. Ming Thompson, a co-founder of architecture and interior-design firm Atelier Cho Thompson, is a fan of Anglepoise’s Type 75 lamp, noting it strikes “a balance between simple, modern forms and exposed mechanical elements” and would be at home on both “an architect’s drafting table and a work-from-home desk.”




Thin white lamp with a round base.

The Pixo Plus table lamp from Pablo Designs also received multiple mentions, including from interior designer Kendall Wilkinson and Angie Lee, a partner and design director of interiors at FXCollaborative. Says Lee, “The Pixo has a friendly, playful silhouette that blends high-tech LED and USB-charging capability and is surprisingly warm in lighting temperature.” Its head rotates 360 degrees, and its stem rotates and tilts 180 degrees so you can direct light exactly where you want it. More nifty design details, according to Lee, include the “elegant concave base platform that can hold various tchotchkes or electronics” and the hidden USB charging port under the lip of the base, which she calls “brilliant.” Wilkinson points out yet another feature: the lamp’s full-range dimmer, which allows users to “customize your ideal illumination.” She also loves all the colors and finishes the lamp comes in — which include white, orange, neon yellow, blue, and silver — saying there’s “surely an option to fit almost any aesthetic.”




White mushroom-shaped lamp.

Flos’s mushroom-style Bellhop lamp received praise from architectural agency THIS X THAT’s co-founders, Danielle Rago and Honora Shea, and from Nina Edwards Anker, the principal and founder of architecture and interior-design practice nea studio. Rago and Shea love this tinier option for its scale, saying “it’s miniature in size, so you can bring it anywhere.” (Adding to its go-anywhere ability: It charges via USB and boasts a 24-hour battery life when charged, according to the manufacturer.) They add that the “glow is soft” and, also important, say you’ll never tire of looking at this lamp: “It looks like candy for your desk.”



Black lamp with cylindrical base and twin half domes.

At home, Thompson uses CB2’s Domes lamp, which stands apart from others on this list thanks to its unusual design of a cylindrical marble base topped with two dome lights covered by matte-black iron shades. She says the lamp is “sort of a modern library table lamp, casting light downward in a warm glow” and that its striking silhouette and deep color “cut an arresting figure.”



Light blue lamp with square base and elongated head.

While this may look like a lamp you’d find tucked away in the corner of a vintage shop, interior designers Virginia Toledo and Jessica Geller of Toledo Geller say its thoughtful details are a big reason why it’s worth the higher price. “From the highly functional integrated USB ports and outlets to the high-style leather touch sensor and fabric-wrapped cord, this little lamp has it all.” Other features they like include the fact that its cone-style shade can rotate 360 degrees and pivot 180 degrees. And they have two words for the lamp’s combination of sky-blue color accented by saddle leather: “Super chic.”



Dark gray lamp with small rectangular base.

Another lamp that’s made to last, the Roxter utility work light comes recommended by Warren, who says “it is a workhorse and built to be abused.” The lamp has a gooseneck light, a flexible arm that can be manipulated to just about any position, and a magnetic base meant to adhere to machinery. If you’re wondering why Warren can speak so authoritatively to the lamp’s durability, it’s because he inherited his Roxter lamp from his grandfather, who used it in his garage workshop. “It has an incredibly strong magnet in its base that is designed to clamp on to metal lathes and heavy equipment and not get knocked off by vibrations,” he says.



Flat round white lamp attached to a white cylindrical base.

Noguchi isn’t the only maker of lamps that double as art: This 3-D–printed lamp recommended by Jenny Kaplan, a co-founder of design service An Aesthetic Pursuit, can be placed upright or on its side, making it a sculptural statement piece. Designed by Ammunition for lighting company Gantri, Kaplan says she “loves the geometric stripes in the lamp, which add a simple design detail to any room in an understated way.”



Best splurge-worthy desk lamps


Thin black lamp with bent arm.

While Greenwood loves the L-1 Luxo lamp (describing it as “sitting at the pinnacle of mid-century design”), her personal favorite is the Tolomeo table lamp, which was designed by Michele De Lucchi and Giancarlo Fassina and made in Italy for Artemide. Design-wise, she says it sits “at the cusp of the technology boom” thanks to details like its aluminum material, fully adjustable arm with polished die-cast aluminum joints, and tension-control knobs. The lamp’s shade rotates 360 degrees by way of “a unique ‘paper clip’ handle,” explains Greenwood, who calls the piece “a wonderful blend of clean lines, circular hinges, and exposed cabling.” It comes with multiple base options, including a weighted base, table clamp, and inset pivot.



A row of thin bent lamps in red, black, and white.

This lamp by Koncept is as minimalist as you can get, and it comes recommended by Guy Geier, a managing partner at FXCollaborative. It has a telescoping arm that allows you to adjust the lamp’s height, a round base with a built-in USB charging port, and a narrow dimmable LED light controlled by touch (you can also toggle the light’s temperature between warm and cool). The lamp’s head also rotates and, for those who forget to turn off the lights at the end of the day, it can be set to shut off automatically using a timer. “I researched a number of sources before deciding on this,” says Geier. “The light has modern, simple, clean lines, and I like its matte-black finish and LED dimmable light source.” In addition to black, it’s available in red, silver, and white.




Black and white lamps with round bases and bent arms.

Clifford Selbert, the founding partner of Selbert Perkins Design, says that he’s owned many desk lamps over the years, including the Luxo, which was his first. Now, he uses the NJP lamp, which was designed as a reinterpretation of a classic architect’s lamp by Japan’s Nendo studio for Louis Poulsen. “It updates the Luxo approach with a more elegant design, and it provides beautiful diffused light,” says Selbert, who notes the lamp has two streamlined arm joints and a shade that “stays cool to the touch and allows for easy adjustment.” The “warm” light itself “has multiple brightness levels,” he adds. Selbert also appreciates the lamp’s “small footprint” and the fact that it “accommodates a variety of mounting options,” including a table base, inset pivot, and clamp.



Rounded matte black lamp arched downward.

For a splurge-worthy lamp that looks unlike any other on this list, production designer Anastasia White recommends Entler’s ceramic table lamp. It has a more organic shape that features brass hardware and accents — details she calls “modern, classic, and fun” — and a cloth-covered cord. White loves the functionality of the downward-focused light coupled with the “anthropomorphic nature of the form,” which she says “gives the sense of a creature watching over your work.” While White prefers the matte-black finish, it’s available in an array of gloss and matte glazes, including pink, yellow, chartreuse, and lavender.


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