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I have a deep and abiding respect for lamps. How could you not admire these workhorses, which not only brighten up our lives, but look like a million bucks while doing so? Like fine pieces of art, lamps bring character to our homes and help finish a room. And, like art, high-quality lamps can be pricey, so it’s important to pick lamps that look perfect in your home and that will capture your heart for years to come.

If you’d like to brighten your home with a new lamp, read on for some illuminating advice from Nell Hill’s designers Rich and Beth and myself. Then, join us for the Barbara Cosgrove Lamps Trunk Show at Nell Hill’s Briarcliff on Sept. 24, from 1-4 p.m. Barbara’s amazing lamps have been featured in publications like Elle Decor, House Beautiful, In Style and Metropolitan Home. Come meet Barbara and check out her new lighting lineup during this special engagement. 

First, Pinpoint the Purpose

Most rooms in your home will call on the power of three different types of lighting: task, accent and overhead. Start by surveying your space to see what’s missing.

I have to come clean and confess that I’m not a huge fan of overhead lights because they tend to cast a harsh, unforgiving light. In fact, Rich cautions, “No one under the age of 30 should be sitting in overhead light.” So I tend to illuminate the rooms in my home with task and accent lights whenever I can. Wall sconces make a great alternative – they brighten up your space without a harsh flood of light. But in rooms where overhead lighting is a must, such as your dining room, Beth urges installing dimmer switches so you can soften the light.

The job of task lighting is to give you the proper amount of light to accomplish whatever job you need to get done, from paying the bills to reading that best-selling novel you can’t put down.

When you need a pop of light to brighten a dark corner or give your room a warm glow, look to accent lights to save the day. In addition to positioning accent lights in prominent places, like on a buffet or side table, I also like to tuck them into unusual spots, like on the kitchen counter, in a bookcase or on the vanity in the powder room.

Pick a Style that Brightens Your Day

I think the lamps we pick for our homes should do a lot more than bring light into our rooms. They should also reflect our style and personality. When you go looking for lamps, think of it as a treasure hunt. Scout for a lamp that will blend with the style of your home and match the scale of your room and furnishings. Then, refuse to settle for anything that does not steal your heart.

I’m thankful that the days when we were expected to buy a set of four matching brass lamps are long gone because I’m a big fan of using a wide variety of dissimilar lamps in my home. Why not try mixing it up a bit in your room? For instance, you could pair a chunky lamp made from a weathered urn or an old wooden finial with a lamp made from a fine porcelain vase.  I have two really fun lamps available at Nell Hill’s Online right now. One features a fun rooster base and is a steal at only $39. The other, the Verdi urn table lamp, is a timeless classic that will work in just about any room and with any décor. It’s also a great price. (Just click the “shop online” button at the top of the Nell Hill’s Web site home page to access Nell Hill’s Online.)

Here’s Rich with one of his favorite lamps at Nell Hill’s Briarcliff. This classic piece will never go out of style, with its subtle Asian design and blue and white color palette.

Beth is crazy about this fun and funky lamp that resembles a stack of crystal blocks. “It’s crisp and clean and really adds to a room, yet doesn’t compete with the rest of the objects in the room,” she explains.

Dwell on the Details

Part of the fun of picking a lamp is finding one that is perfect, right down to the last detail. Carefully consider the shape of the lamp. Do you want one with straight lines or curves? Do you prefer a thinner lamp base or one that’s hefty? Which will work better for the space – a short or tall lamp? (If you fall in love with a lamp that’s a bit too short, you can elevate it with a riser, like a stack of books.)

Pay close attention to the color of the lamp’s shade. If you want to use the lamp for task lighting, get one with a light color shade because it will give off more light. If you’re looking for mood lighting, you can’t beat a lamp with a black shade. Colored lamp shades, like red or gold, are also a great choice for accent lights.

Note the kind of fabric used to cover the shade. Rich points out that different kinds of fabric provides different quality of light and will dress up or dress down a lamp base. For instance, a linen lamp shade will give a more casual look than one made of silk.

I also like lamps that have unique features, like unusual finials. It’s hard to see in this picture, but the lamp pictured here has a delightful blue and white china finial that compliments the Asian motif of the lamp base.

Ready to begin your hunt for fabulous lamps? Be sure to start at Nell Hill’s. All three of our stores are loaded with a huge variety of great lamps, from tiny accent lights to floor lamps, wall sconces and even unusual chandeliers. We’d love to help you light up your life!

Next Week … Want to add some sparkle and flash to your rooms? All you need is a simple mirror or two. Next week I’ll share some tip for perking up your walls, displays and table settings with mirrors. Can’t wait to talk to you then!

See you soon,

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20 Responses to “Turn on to Great Lamps”

  1. Robin Says:

    Love the lamp with the crystal base as well as the blue and white one pictured with Rich. What are the prices on these?

  2. Patti Dame Says:

    Wonderful as usual – keep the pictures coming!

  3. Laura Gabriel Says:

    The girls from Denver want to know how to purchase the silver sconces in the 3rd picture! Thanks so much!

  4. Sandi Preuss Says:

    Thanks for the advice, picking lamps has always been a puzzle for me. Picking lamp shades is even harder. Thanks again!

  5. cornelia adkins Says:

    Carol: Shopped your store for years. Now live in southern california (seal beach, CA) and enjoyed your articles in our Orange County Register. Have not seen your name recently…
    Great designer information. Thank you, Cornelia.

  6. Martha Says:

    Always love getting these pictures! What color is the granite pictured with the blue lamp and white canisters? (picture 2)
    Can’t wait to get back to KC and go shopping!

  7. Mary Carol Says:

    Hi Laura and Girls from Denver–Very beautiful aren’t they? Just call Janet @877-746-4320 and she can give you all the details to make that happen.

  8. Pam Says:

    I’ve loved all the decorating advise you give. I recently bought a vintage funky lamp, but the shade is awful. Do you sell shades separately? Thanks a million. Pam

  9. Mary Carol Says:

    Robin—The blue and white tea caddie lamp featured with Rich is $352.00–and is 30″ high. The crystal lamp previewed with Beth is $601.75 and 25″ tall.

  10. Mary Carol Says:

    Pam–We do not sell lamp shades in our stores—it will take just the right one to go with your vintage lamp–good luck!

  11. Rita Welsh Says:

    Where are most of the blue/white lamps located- which location?
    Thank you

  12. Marilyn Comer Says:

    Wonderful article! Lamp-shopping is no simple task, and I appreciate all of the tips. You Kansans are most fortunate to have Nell Hill’s. I’m not fond of overhead lighting either. (Cannot understand why restaurants place spotlights over tables.) The only overhead lighting in my home are antique crystal chandeliers in the DR and library BUT they’re on dimmers. The color of lampshades always confounds me…how much can we mix it up? Two colors, such as black and ivory in one room? It’s beyond hot here in the east, so we were talking about heading north to Quebec; I really think we ought to visit my in-laws in Kansas instead — it’s been a while since I’ve been to Nell’s! LOVE your blog.

  13. Mary Carol Says:

    Martha–That was a serving cart we sold with a marble top—it had grey and whites in the marble.

  14. Suzy Says:

    My mother was a very wise woman and many years ago she told me that overhead light in a room was much too unflattering. Many of the rooms in our home did not have overhead lights at all. The expected switch beside the door controlled one of the lamps in the room instead. However, I must say that she was a pushover for beautiful chandeliers… all complete with a dimmer switch for more flattering light!

  15. Tessa Says:

    It is so hard to find pretty lamps — please sell them at your on-line store:)

  16. Mary Carol Says:

    Rita–Most of the blue and white lamps are located at the Briarcliff store—and there are several at the moment. Like anything that can certainly change though. Just have a few of the smaller blue and white at the Atchison stores–Come see us!

  17. carol Says:

    What is the price of the red/ white small teapot/teacup set pictured on the 7th picture down?


  18. Mary Carol Says:

    Hi Carol–The 15 piece tea-set sells for $111.25, and the single teapot/cup (in limited quanities) is $15.75. Call for more details–877-746-4320.

  19. PATRICIA Says:


  20. Oakley Flak Jacket Says:

    Hello there,I love reading through your article post – Turn on to Great Lamps, I wanted to leave a little comment to support you and wish you a good continuation……All the best for all your blogging efforts.

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