The Best Bedside Lamps: Size Guide

Most of us like to have a bedside light to read at night or to give us adequate lighting so we don’t stub our toe on the way to bed. The lamp you use next to your bed needs to be the right scale based on the size of your bed and the table it’s sitting on. Here are some simple rules for how to choose the best size lamp for your bedside.

When choosing new lamps, scale is an important part of decorating. When the scale is WRONG it’s a lot easier to see than when it’s right. Our eye notices if something is not quite right, even if we can’t tell what it is.

For example, if you looked at the picture below you might not notice the nightstand lamp at first. But if you are thinking about buying lamps for your bedroom, you will start to notice lamps in every photo. In this bedroom, the bedside lamp is too small. It’s pretty, but not an ideal fit. The scale is wrong for the size of the bed

bedside lamp size

It’s important that the size of your lamp is large enough to balance out the bed AND give enough light for reading.

#1 How Tall Should The Lamp Be Beside The Bed

We haven’t addressed the size of a nightstand. Assume for this discussion that your nightstand is approximately the same as the height of the mattress, which is a good height. As a general rule the height of the lamp that sits atop the table should be roughly the same height as the table, within a couple of inches. A 30-inch bedside lamp looks in proportion on a 30-inch nightstand. I like to have a lamp that is one or two inches taller than the side tables.

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Here’s an example of a good proportion from Restoration Hardware. The lamps in this photo are about the same height as the tables, maybe even a bit taller. You don’t have to get lamps that are this large overall if you prefer something smaller, but they are the right height.

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#2 What If I Don’t Have Room for a Table?

If the size of the room doesn’t allow for a table on both sides of your bed, sconces or floor lamps are a good alternative. Here’s an example of two twin beds in a space without enough room for two tables. There is a single lamp between the beds and a sconce above each bed for reading.

bedside table lamps

Bedside sconces come in two varieties. Some are wired into the wall and some plug in. The plug in type are often less expensive to put up because you don’t have to worry about electrical wiring.

#3 Should I Use Matching Lamps on Both Sides?

The answer to this question really depends on your own style. I prefer the bedroom table lamps to match because I like the symmetry of it, but it’s not a requirement. I personally prefer for the lamps to match even if the bedside tables don’t.

If you don’t have the space to have matching lamps, put lamps that fit your space. For example, if you have a tighter space and not enough room on one side for a large lamp you can use a floor lamp on the tighter side. Or if you have a tight space you can use sconces on both sides of the bed.

This is an example of lamps that don’t match (and they are a too small). Do you like the feel of this?

lamps that don't match
Different Lamps Beside the Bed

#4 What Color Should Bed lamps Be?

This isn’t about the correct lamp size, but choosing lighting is an important part of your design. Think of lighting like jewelry for an outfit. Lamps are the bling. Choosing a color depends on the rest of your room. There are a few ways to choose.

  1. Hardware color – Starting with the hardware in your bedroom is a great way to narrow down your lighting choices. For example, what finish/color are the door knobs and curtain rods? If your room has brass door knobs, a brass lamp will work. Once you know the right size you can search for “brass 30 inch lamp” and find a smaller selection of lamps that will work in your bedroom.
  2. Using The Fabrics – You can use the fabrics on your bed or in your curtains as a guide for lighting color. For example, if your room is shades of blue, you can look for bedside lamps that complement your blue fabrics.
  3. Statement Lamps – Glass lamps are an example of a statement lamp that can work with any color scheme.

The bedside lamps are the jewelry for your bedroom’s decor. They should be in proportion to the bed and nightstand, so they don’t look too big or small. An easy way to make sure you have the right bedroom lighting is to consider these three things: size, scale, color. The bedside light is an essential part of any good lighting design – even if you don’t need one just yet!

To learn more lamps and lighting, check out these posts that cover all the details to make sure you get the right lamp for your space.

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