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Much like that friend who is always getting the group together for happy hour and gassing you up with positive affirmations, the best floor lamps act like the glue (the yes men, really) of any warmly lit living space. They really tie the room together, man, and shine a light on everything around them.
But these lamps can also brighten up a space with much more than just pure wattage and artificial sunlight. It doesn’t matter if you lean toward more avant-garde or middle-of-the-road design choices, because floor lamps are the type of furniture that can just as easily be conversation pieces as designs of pure function. And while searching for a floor lamp is certainly less urgent than, say, a sectional or a bed frame, it's kinda hard to see the rest of your furniture without one, no?
Curb appeal is important, but there are a few technical features you’ll want to think about. Light comes in all shades and levels. Ever walked into a dimly-lit room, spent the entire time squinting, and then nursed a headache for the rest of the day? Don’t be that person. Ambient lighting is cool, but finding a floor lamp that can do it all will make you (and your guests) happier in the long run. Think about lamp height and shape: Does the light reach far enough to actually make a difference? Is there a tiny little table built in that is just asking to be bumped into? These things matter.
In terms of shape and height, get to know what's out there before you take just any leggy lamp home with you. Your standard club floor lamp is always a safe entry-level choice that consists of a basic shade and stem (of varying heights), with an on/off switch that ideally doesn't require nearly singeing your hand to do so. Other types of lamps will direct the light however you so choose, from arc lamps that shine light downwards in a concentrated circle (all the better to read with) to torchiere lights that direct a wide beam upwards for a personal lights show on your ceiling.
Paper lights perfect an earthy, ambient, Noguchi-esque vibe that you can pair with warm woods and low-lying furniture. Sculptural lamps, like the ceramic ones by designer Eny Lee Parker that rule Instagram, might telegraph that you have a MoMA membership, or just more artistic leanings. A spindly tower lamp could translate as an homage to a bustling cityscape as it hulks in the corner of your living room, or just serve as a flex for your high ceilings.
But enough conjecturing, let’s cut to the fun part: shopping. We haven't had the pleasure of testing all of these floor lamps on the hardwoods and tiles of our own walk-ups, but we think the hardest part is nailing down a good style first. So we've plucked some of our favorite well-reviewed designs, added in our own favorite tried-and-trues, then called out all the reasons why they're worth your time and money. Ahead, our top picks for the floor lamps that truly shine as art objets and practical illuminators.
You don’t often get negative space in the neck of a lamp and it’s certainly not something you would likely seek out—but maybe you should. This design hails from Melbourne-based design group VUUE and features a steel matte base, a simple linen shade, and an attached light diffuser. The thing we like about it is that it will look just as good in a room full of furniture name-drops as it will in a more modest space. It’s certainly one that will pass the “keep or curb” test come moving day.
If you’re on a budget and you still want that good, old midcentury charm in your own space, go with a classic arc lamp. Great for reading nooks, this lamp will get you a nod of approval from in-the-know design buddies without you having to do too much research into time-tested silhouettes.
There’s something bug-like about the legs of this floor lamp—if it could, it might cozy up on the couch as you settle in for a night of movies. But not in a creepy way, more of an “I’m here, I’m full of personality, and I’m just going to hang out in the corner” kind of way.
We’ll go ahead and say it: This might just be the best floor lamp you can score for around $100. The frosted white globes are modern and not overly trendy, making it a lamp that can settle into lots of different decor styles in a chameleon-like manner. If you buy directly from the Brightech site, it also always offers free shipping, and what's not to like about that?
If this task lamp had a script, it would be saying “Who, me?” The slightly off-kilter lines are playful, but the black color gives it the necessary seriousness for an important room, like a home office. Plus, it’s dimmable and functions well for both setting the mood and helping you dial in on work ahead of that looming deadline.
If what your space needs is a statement maker, this elevated lamp is here to break the ice. The brushed-brass base adds a little bit of shine and polished elegance, while lighting the room with not one, but two bulbs. It's definitely an investment piece, but then again, it's hardly an ordinary lamp.
Gantri's known for its 3D-printed, made-to-order lamps, and this one takes its modern designs and punches it up in three colorways. Each represents different versions of your identity: sunrise, which sports a happy-go-lucky yellow base; sand, a modern minimalist take with a touch of chrome; and forest, a monochromatic situation that’s just a touch more fun than your average neutral. The overall design is inspired by water (hence the name “Drops”) and will add a healthy dose of ambient light to your space.
We love Hay for its complete dedication to serving up timeless silhouettes with small blasts of personality. This particular design looks like a goth version of last year's abundantly trendy and whimsical mushroom lamps, except this one's shape is actually inspired by Mongolian Pao tents. That’s a fun fact to deliver every time someone asks you where you got this lamp (and trust us, they will).
Here's what you get when a floor lamp takes an architecture course. Rattan always seems to be having a moment, but the woven texture of this tubular paper lampshade is a subtle nod to the trend. And in case you weren’t aware that the lamp is the complete focus here, the cord is also clear and features a subtle on-off switch.
A lot of torchiere lamps look like yard sale antiques, but this gleaming Barbell lamp (so called because it resembles a lengthy set of weights) is anything but dated. It shines light upwards to radiate light in the room, and plays with symmetry for a polished, easy-on-the-eyes effect.
This is about as interactive as a lamp can get. You can direct the glow of this lamp by moving the shade, pushing it toward a wall for a larger impact, or moving it closer to you for a spotlight effect. Be warned: Your friend who assists in photo shoots will either love or hate this lamp.
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By The Editors of GQ
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