The Pragmatic White Lamp

In most homes, lighting is a common issue. There isn’t enough of it or, more likely, it’s the wrong kind. Lamps are your friends. Overhead lights (especially the kind that you can’t “dim”) are the enemy. And the 40 watt lightbulb is Lord of this world, but more on that later. I find one of the easiest ways to create atmosphere and give most rooms a finished feel can be accomplished with a white lamp.

Most of my white lamps came from my incredibly stylish grandmother, who has a habit of painting or spraying things white to give them new life. This wrought iron lamp went through this process, I’m pretty sure, and works perfectly with the vintage paper shade. The white lamp and accessories juxtapose the dark wood of the dresser nicely, making what could feel like a heavy piece appear lighter.

In my son’s nursery (stay tuned for the full “tour” soon) we needed some additional light in the changing station. This twisting white candlestick lamp does the trick, and fits perfectly with a cream paper shade.

In my bedroom, I have an antique washstand that also belonged to my grandmother that I have adopted as my dressing table. The problem comes at night when I’m attempting to apply my make-up and there isn’t enough light, especially since we have no overhead in our bedroom. This short white lamp solved this issued; I’ve paired it with a caramel colored shade simply because it was what I had on hand, but I actually think it works.

By far the most substantial of the collection, this white ceramic lamp with lattice detailing and cream paper shade serves as the focal point of my living room. A gift from my mom who knew exactly what this room needed, the oversized drum shade gives the otherwise classically appointed corner (complete with a shell alcove, no less!) a much needed modern touch.

To get on the white lamp train, here are some tips:

  • Any lamp can be white! Just paint it or spray it white. Use a high-gloss variety of paint for a polished finish.
  • I prefer to pair all lamps with paper or what are known as “card” shades. It’s how they do it in London, and it’s how we should do it here. It makes for better light, and a cleaner, less old fashioned look.
  • Don’t go for symmetry. I think matching lamps can look nice if it’s the right lamp. Often, however, this approach feels too decorated. Just use one white lamp on your surfaces and call it a day!

About Cate

Cate is a former decorating editor of a shelter magazine based in Manhattan, who has recently moved from the Big Apple to Charlottesville with husband and baby. An interior design enthusiast, she enjoys all things aesthetic.
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8 Responses to The Pragmatic White Lamp

  1. Kristin says:

    LOVE. any suggestions on where to buy lampshades?

  2. Jill S says:

    You are giving me the courage to spray paint our black lamps white.

    **** Deep breath *****

  3. Stephanie says:

    Cate, I can’t ever bring myself to spend a lot of money on
    shades…should i just accept it? Where do u go to buy paper shades
    under 50.00? Your home always makes me smile. I love your dressing
    table. What is your preffered brand of spray paint??

    • Cate says:

      Well, a few thoughts. Yes, on the one hand you sort of have to accept that you have “throw down” some cash for the card shades, but they really do make a difference! But the smaller ones are on the cheaper side. The best place to find them in town is at The Shade Shop.

  4. Mel says:

    Target has some really good looking lattice lamps on sale 45 Hicks. Really good looking

  5. Tom says:

    Cate: Thanks SO much for mentioning The Shade Shop! Our
    shades are priced based on quality and the fact that we’re a LOCAL
    shop. In addition, it’s very important to have your lamp with you
    when you select a shade. Our knowledgeable staff will take the time
    to ensure the right fit, the best harp size, etc. Not something you
    always get with an ordered shade or one from the big box stores.
    We’d LOVE the opportunity to assist and provide special discounts
    for your readers! Thanks. Tom

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