A great table lamp can have an outsize effect on a room.

Even in a space that has been thoughtfully designed, from the carpets to the curtains, it’s often possible to point to a single element that takes it all to another level. And more often than not, “oddly, it’s the lamp,” said the interior designer Steven Gambrel.

That’s why Mr. Gambrel is always on the hunt for exceptional lamps at flea markets and antiques stores across the United States and Europe. “I love odd shapes and glazes, and I prefer lamps with height,” he said. The large-scale ones he likes, he adds, are frequently ceramic or blown glass.

Occasionally, he turns vintage finds into lamps that he uses in his projects. “Right now, I’m wiring a Japanese bronze vessel,” he said. “Sometimes we use large 19th-century glass bottles — which are great for beach houses — big, mirrored mercury-glass vessels or old apothecary jars.”

But whether a lamp is new, antique or a D.I.Y. creation, what matters is that it’s an interesting shape or color, Mr. Gambrel said: “It really helps give that extra spirit to the decorating.”

  • How many table lamps do you need in a living room? “The idea is to balance a room with no less than three points of light,” Mr. Gambrel said. “Perhaps a pair flanking a sofa, and then one between two club chairs on the other side of a room.”

  • Do they need to match? Not necessarily, he noted: “Oftentimes, I try to create an oddball grouping of lamps.” Just remember to “take into consideration the heights of the tables,” he said. “And try to balance the lamps, so the shades are all at a similar height.”

  • How do the cord and lampshade look? With most lamps, “we have them rewired with twisted silk cords,” Mr. Gambrel said. “Then each lampshade is custom made with matching painted bands around the edge or a whipstitch.”


Egg-shaped ceramic-and-brass lamp by Thomas O’Brien for Visual Comfort

From $669 at Circa Lighting: 877-762-2323 or circalighting.com

Rattan woven lamp with linen barrel shade

$398 at Serena & Lily: 866-597-2742 or serenaandlily.com

Indigo ceramic lamp by Amanda Nisbet on gilt-wood base

$3,955 at Christopher Spitzmiller: 212-563-3030 or christopherspitzmiller.com

Demijohn-shaped blown-glass lamp

From $179 at Pottery Barn: 888-779-5176 or potterybarn.com

Ceramic lamp with white glaze

$495 at Lillian August: 855-576-4144 or lillianaugust.com

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