Bedside lights have a nebulous place in lamp taxonomy: Many good bedside lights could double as table lamps, desk lamps, or night lights; bedside lighting can also include wall-mounted sconces and even floor lamps. Still, after consulting 15 experts, I was able to distill some essential qualities. Bedside lights should either be dim or dimmable, conducive to winding down at the end of the day and signaling to your brain via lower, warmer light that it’s time to go to sleep. (This is also a good reason to keep your phone in another room, or at least out of arm’s reach.) Since they’re sharing night-table real estate with water glasses, books, alarm clocks, and other little objects, they should be on the compact side, sturdy and hard to knock over.
For nighttime readers, directional light is useful: “If you’re gonna be reading in bed, I think it’s really important to have lighting that’s adjustable,” says interior designer Liz Lipkin, and “if you’re sharing a bed with someone and you want to read, that person will be less disturbed by something with a directional shade.” Even if you don’t read in bed, a bedside lamp should fulfill the amorphous aesthetic quality of being a good “last light on” — the final light you turn off before going to sleep, a starring role in your nightly ritual that requires a design you find soothing and beautiful. The only aesthetic criteria for last light on is that you like it, and we’ve found lamps for everyone, including German resin mushroom for cottagecore homes, a concrete-based globe, and a subtly UFO-shaped lamp with a handmade ceramic shade. If you’re looking for other types of lamps, visit our Lighting District for a roundup of our 100 favorite lighting implements.
What we’re looking for
Since bedside lights illuminate a small area and cast a warm, low glow conducive to winding down for the night, they should emit less light than floor lamps or overhead lights. Some fixtures on this list have built-in LEDs or come with bulbs included, and we’ve listed the brightness of each; if you’re buying and installing your own lightbulb, look for a brightness of around 450 lumens or lower.
Several of the experts we spoke to mentioned dimmability as a useful feature in a bedside lamp, which allows you to adjust the lamp to ideal light levels for reading, watching TV, or keeping a light on at its dimmest illumination while you fall asleep. Some lamps cycle through a few preset brightness levels, and others have smooth dimming — we’ve noted which are which below. (And even if a lamp doesn’t dim on its own, check out our guide to LED bulbs and dimmer switches for some reliable workarounds.)
Brightness: 220 lumens | Dimmable: Click button with three preset levels
Far and away, the most frequently mentioned and highest-rated fixture among the experts we spoke to is Hay’s Matin table lamp, a light with a square wire base and a pleated cotton shade that comes in two sizes and seven colors. “This little light balances timeless design elements like chrome detailing and a pleated shade with the distinctive quirks Hay is known for, such as rich, punchy colors and a playful sense of proportion,” writes designer and architect Ming Thompson. It’s a favorite of SNL’s Chloe Fineman, who has one Matin lamp in New York and one in L.A.; Liza Curtiss and Corey Kingston, the co-founders of architecture-and-design studio Le Whit; Strategist contributor Chris Black; and social-media strategist Utibe Mbagwu, who named it the best thing she bought in 2020.
The lamp can live on your desk, but its low, diffused light works well on a bedside table, particularly for nighttime readers. Evan Dent, the manager of 192 Books in Chelsea, received it as a gift from his girlfriend: “I often like to read a little later into the night than my girlfriend wants to stay up, so she got me this lamp,” he says. “The shade shapes the light pretty well so that you can keep reading without disturbing someone trying to sleep next to you.” (Another reader-friendly quality: Dent uses the lamp’s open square base to contain books and other bedside ephemera.) Strategist deals editor Sam Daly has owned hers since 2020, and “I cherish it,” she says. She says the pleats can collect dust, but are easy enough to clean — you can use a microfiber cloth, but Daly prefers a can of compressed air.
Best sculptural bedside light
Brightness: 4-watt LED | Dimmable: No
First designed in 1951, Akari lamps by designer Isamu Noguchi are “nearly ubiquitous as an accessible design object, and for good reason,” says Herman Miller creative director Kelsey Keith. “They’re relatively well priced and emit an irresistible glow.” The lamp has a washi-paper and bamboo-ribbed shade that diffuses the glow of an LED bulb inside. “I’ve used this specific light for decades,” says Jonathan Marvel, the founder of Marvel Architects. The lamp comes in dozens of styles, including pendants and floor lamps, and the petite, nightstand-size 1N earned a place on both the Strategist Home Catalogue and the Strategist 100, our list of our most stood-behind products.
Best globe bedside light
Brightness: 450 lumens | Dimmable: Smooth dimming knob
“The architects I know use this everywhere,” writes Thompson of this Jonas Wagell lamp. The large, oval-shaped bulb contains a warm 450-lumen LED, and a single knob works as both an on/off switch and a dimmer. The base comes in nine finishes, including Carrara marble, concrete, polished brass, and different shades of powder-coated metal, and there’s also a portable, USB-rechargeable version. Thompson calls it “a classic that can move from bedside to library shelf to console table over the years.”
Best ceramic bedside light
Brightness: Bulb not included; 60-watt maximum | Dimmable: No
Strategist writer Lauren Ro uses Anthropologie’s organic-shaped ceramic lamp on her bedside table and describes it as “super-beautifully made,” with a large linen shade that diffuses light well for nighttime reading. Despite its small footprint, it feels “very substantial,” Ro says, and reminds her of more expensive designer lights, like the Eny Lee Parker Oo Lamp.
Best cottagecore bedside light
Brightness: 1.5-watt LED | Dimmable: No
This cute mushroom-shaped resin lamp is illuminated via an LED lightbulb inside, with cutouts on the mushroom cap that cast a pattern on your ceiling. Strategist senior editor Chelsea Peng bought hers about five years ago after seeing one in creative director Lolita Jacobs’s apartment; she reports that it’s still in great shape, with no paint loss. “It’s very sturdy, very German construction,” she says. The mushroom comes in a few colors and sizes, including a skinnier model, which is useful if you don’t have enough space on your nightstand for its stout base. It’s on the dimmer end of the spectrum and doesn’t cast enough light to read by on its own, but Peng describes it as a “very vibey last light” to turn off before going to sleep.
Best organic-shaped 3-D-printed bedside light
Brightness: 450 lumens | Dimmable: No
Phantila Phataraprasit, a co-founder of furniture company Sabai, recommends Wooj’s 3-D-printed Wavy lamp for its “ethereal vibe” and “dreamy, airy feel.” Strategist staff writer Dominique Pariso also owns one and has “influenced another friend into buying one,” who also loves it. “I’m really impressed by the amount of light it throws off and the quality,” she says. “The lamp is very lightweight and easy to move around.” Similar to Peng’s mushroom lamp, it makes a vibey last light on before bed — “at night, I only have this one and my Pampshade baguette light on,” Pariso says.
Best geometric 3-D-printed lamp
Brightness: 850 lumens | Dimmable: Smooth dimming on cord
Another 3-D-printed light company, Gantri makes some of our favorite desk lamps and floor lamps; the brand is popular for its collaborations with designers and the lamps’ strong, lightweight builds. Strategist junior writer Brenley Goertzen received this columnar geometric lamp as a gift from her parents “and I’m obsessed,” she says. “I love the soft pale light.” The dimmer means she can adjust light levels for reading or watching TV in bed without glare, and she also appreciates its sturdiness: “I have beef with lampshades because, with other lamps I’ve owned, they have ripped or broken after toppling over,” she says, but the Gantri light hasn’t had similar problems: it even survived a move from New York to Minnesota without damage.
Best vintage bedside light
Brightness: 40 watt maximum | Dimmable: No
Featured on our list of dozens of tips for buying on Etsy, this cute little flower-shaped lamp was designed by Morten Kjelstrup and Allan Østgaard for Ikea in the 1990s (they were also the designers of the iconic cartoon-proportioned Mammut kids’ chairs and tables, which remain in production). It has a shade that comes in petal pink or fuchsia and a spring green base with a matching green power cord. Many vintage Ikea lamps on the market have EU plugs (they’re fully compatible with U.S. sockets with an adapter; you only have to worry about blowing out a fixture plugging a U.S. appliances into a European outlet, not vice versa), and the Etsy store Glasatelier69 offers the option to throw in an EU-to-U.S. plug adapter for an extra $6.
Best bedside floor lamp
Brightness: Bulb not included; 60-watt maximum | Dimmable: Yes
“I moved away from doing table lamps at home because I like the adjustability and the flexibility of either a floor lamp or a wall-mounted sconce,” says Lipkin. She especially likes this metal Visual Comfort lamp, which comes in four finishes, including antique brass. “It’s very clean and minimal,” she says, and importantly for a bedside light, it is “so adjustable. You can adjust the height and the direction of the shade so that you don’t have bright light shining on you.” It rotates, and the arm also pivots. And despite its small footprint, it’s not flimsy: “It’s substantial enough that you’re not going to knock it over, but it also doesn’t take up a lot of space.”
Best splurge bedside light
Brightness: 450 lumens | Dimmable: Smooth dimming knob
Brooklyn lighting company In Common With’s Alien lamp has a handmade, hump-molded ceramic shade “that looks like it’s still in formation on the pottery wheel,” says Thompson. “The shade’s imperfect indentations and edges are juxtaposed with the sharp, clean metal of the base.” The lamp comes with two LED bulbs and is fully dimmable via a knob at its base.
Best bedside sconce
Brightness: Bulb not included; 40-watt maximum | Dimmable: No
“I think more people are asking for wall-mounted sconces as opposed to table lamps,” says Lipkin — she imagines they’re popular because they both save space on smaller nightstands and “feel more luxe.” “People tend to associate them with being hard-wired, and there are really good plug-in options as well,” she says, especially this adjustable brass-and-wood sconce from Lostine, a company she looks to for “beautiful fixtures.” Similar to the Visual Comfort lamp, she appreciates that the lamp is fully adjustable: “You can bring the bulb forward when you need it and put it back when you don’t.”
• Chris Black, Strategist columnist
• Liza Curtiss, co-founder of Le Whit
• Sam Daly, Strategist deals editor
• Evan Dent, manager of 192 Books
• Chloe Fineman, actor and SNL cast member
• Brenley Goertzen, Strategist junior writer
• Kelsey Keith, Herman Miller creative director
• Corey Kingston, co-founder of Le Whit
• Liz Lipkin, interior designer
• Jonathan Marvel, founder of Marvel Architects
• Utibe Mbagwu, social media strategist
• Dominique Pariso, Strategist writer
• Chelsea Peng, Strategist senior editor
• Phantila Phataraprasit, co-founder of Sabai
• Ming Thompson, architect at Atelier Cho Thompson
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