Desk Lamps Buying Guide

The only thing worse than having to come into the office Monday morning is facing the buzzing, fluorescent lights when you get there. So if you're looking for desk lamps, consider yourself lucky--whatever you pick will be infinitely better than the overhead lighting most of us have to put up with, so don't stress about choosing the perfect one. Just appreciate the fact that you get to use one. And that you have the corner office. You do, don't you?

The bulb you put into your desk lamp will be a big part of the kind of light you end up with, so read our guide to light bulbs before shopping; that way, your lamp will be compatible with the kind of light you need. Brilliant! Meanwhile here's a quick visual guide to your bulb options.


Incandescent Bulbs 

  • The old school, filament burning kind.
  • Hot to the touch.
  • Use about 2% of the energy they consume to produce light.
  • Fire hazard.
  • Pretty, yellowish, old-fashioned light.

Fluorescent Lights 

  • Cool to the touch.
  • Not a fire hazard.
  • Sometimes buzzes.
  • Harsh, white light.
  • Very energy efficient and long lasting.

Halogen Lamps 

  • The filament in these lasts much longer than in incandescent bulbs.
  • Don't touch after use--these get HOT.
  • In fact, don't touch at all, since the oils will ruin the bulb.


  • White glow mimics natural light.
  • Built in mirror "directs" light, wasting less of it.
  • Last 50-100x longer than traditional bulbs.
  • Expensive.
  • Difficult to dim, and some may find light too bright.

Get the right look for your space

Lamp Designs

Upright necked lamps 

  • Traditional, dignified, classic.
  • May take up desk space due to the base.
  • Modern styles may have a long, thing, rectangular base than cuts down on space.

Jointed lamps 

  • These let you put the light exactly where you need it.
  • Great for jobs with lots of detail work.
  • Some may rotate 360 degrees, depending on the model.

Goosenecked lamps 

  • Even greater about of flexibility than jointed lamps.
  • Depending on size of base (some even clamp), take up virtually no desk space.

Fancy, Old Fashioned, stained glass 

  • More personality than most lamps.
  • Stylish, can be purchased to match desk.
  • Heavy.
  • Can be expensive.
  • Can also be cheap (garage sales!)

Computer Desk Lamps

  • An adjustable, piano-lamp style fixture.
  • Focuses light only on your keyboard.

Other Options

Multi-Necked Lamps 

  • Visually interesting.
  • Lets you decide how much light you want and where you want it.
  • Play with different arrangements of the adjustable necks. 

Multi-Setting Lamps 

  • Adjust amount/kind of light you want throughout the day.
  • Compact unit, unlike the multi-neck lamp.

Floor/Desk Lamp Combination 

  • Match your desk lamp with a floor lamp.
  • No-brainer coordination. 

Related Buying Guides


Low-Voltage Halogen Lamps

Computer Desks

Home Office Essentials

Indoor Light Fixtures