best in class

The 11 Very Best Desk Lamps

Photo: retailer

A desk lamp’s job is to illuminate your work space in the most efficient way possible. How it looks is also an important consideration to make, and largely one that’s subjective. It’s why certain architects swear by an industrial-style task lamp that hasn’t changed since the ’30s, while other design-world people might prefer sleeker, dimmable 3-D-printed options they can tote from room to room. When seeking your own perfect lighting setup, there are some key elements you want to look for, like adjustability, design, and light source. Here, we consulted architects, interior designers, and other folks who value form as much as function. Read on for their picks, which come at a range of prices and include a desk lamp for just about everyone.

Best overall | Best with clamp mount | Best (less-expensive) clamp lamp | Best affordable industrial | Best affordable retro-style | Best adjustable with USB and wireless charging | Best with weight-balanced adjustable arm | Best with pleated shade | Best portable | Best 3-D-printed | Best colorful

What we’re looking for

Adjustability: A good desk lamp should be adjustable, allowing you to direct light to suit your needs. Some allow you to pivot or rotate the head of the lamp, while others allow you to also adjust the light fixture’s neck (or arm) by way of articulated joints or a telescoping arm. Whether you require a fully adjustable light or one that’s less technical, the lamp should be easy to operate.

Design: Related to adjustability is the lamp’s design and how it looks. Lamps with articulating parts will, by nature, have a more industrial look, while more stationary ones will emphasize style over functionality. Depending on your preference, consider a lamp’s aesthetic in relation to your work space. Do you want something that fades into the background or a lamp that’s more of an objet that adds a bit of color or style to your desk?

Light: Most desk lamps come with an LED light, an incandescent bulb, or a CFL bulb, and depending on the lamp itself, bulbs can be swapped out depending on your preference. (Generally speaking, an LED light is more energy efficient than a filament bulb and will last a lot longer.) For some folks, the more important consideration may be whether the lights come with a dimmer function, which allows you to adjust the brightness of the light, so I called that out where relevant.

Best overall desk lamp

Adjustable | Industrial

British company Anglepoise has been making task lamps since the 1930s, and its various styles are the runaway favorite among the architects and interior designers we spoke to. As architect Mei Lun Xue puts it, “Anglepoise lamps are super-classic and look good everywhere.” The two most popular models are the Original 1227 Task light designed in 1935, and the more modern Type 75, which is a bit more streamlined and received slightly more nods from our panelists. “Both are elegant in their own right, with a classic silhouette and form that they’ve kept fresh with new finishes and colors,” says Brian Wilson, a co-founder of Pair, an office-furniture company based in San Francisco. Ming Thompson, a co-founder of architecture and interior-design firm Atelier Cho Thompson, is a fan of Anglepoise’s Type 75 lamp, noting it strikes “a balance between simple, modern forms and exposed mechanical elements,” and would be at home on both “an architect’s drafting table and a work-from-home desk.” With a spring-loaded articulated arm and adjustable shade, it comes with a CFL bulb and is available in several jaunty colors, including yellow ochre and Saxon blue.

Best industrial desk lamp with clamp mount

Adjustable | Industrial

While Anglepoise’s Type 75 model is a bit more modernized and rounded, Luxo task lamps are more mechanical-looking with exposed springs and knobs — with the L1 model being the apparent inspiration for the Pixar logo. Which is why Jane Greenwood, a principal at Kostow Greenwood Architects, calls the L1 “the classic workhorse lamp found in many architectural offices for more than 50 years.” Architecture critic Alexandra Lange is also a fan of the brand’s lamps, particularly this style from its LS series. “This is the desk lamp my architect husband actually has multiples of,” she says, calling it “the black T-shirt of architect desk lamps.” It has adjustable arms with external springs that allow for more flexibility, along with an adjustable shade. This model comes with an edge clamp mount, allowing you to attach it to the side of a table (as opposed to sitting on a base).

Best (less expensive) clamp lamp

Adjustable | Industrial

While not a proper desk lamp, this just as versatile (and even cheaper) clamp lamp is what architect Peter Dumbadze uses at his desk. “I’ve used these lamps for years, as I can buy them at my local hardware store, Mazzone Hardware in Carroll Gardens.” The lamp’s “utilitarian style” works not only with his industrial shelving but also his desk (an Eames Aluminum Group conference table). “I position the lamps such that I can bounce light off the walls and ceiling, helping to provide even lighting,” Dumbadze says. At under $20, this lamp is affordable enough that you can buy more than one and place them anywhere you may need an extra light source. It also comes with an adjustable shade so you can focus the light where you please.

Best affordable industrial desk lamp

Adjustable | Industrial

If you like the look of the task lamps above but want something compact and affordable, consider this one from Ikea, which architect Páll Hjaltason, the owner and founder of Plús Arkitektar, recommends for its practicality and affordability. “I bought a lot of them for my growing studio, so they’re everywhere,” he says. Made of nickel-plated steel coated in acrylic, the lamp’s head has an LED light, and its adjustable arm allows you to direct the glow as you please. Hjaltason likes that the design is “generic” and that the lamp sits on the desk as opposed to being fastened to it, something other lamps on this list (like the one above and below) require. The low price, he adds, means “I can always buy more of them” should he need a replacement.

Best affordable retro-style desk lamp

Adjustable | Mid-Century Modern | Dimmable

If you’re looking for another affordable lamp that’s streamlined and doesn’t look cheap, consider this iron one, which Shannon Retseck, the founder of textile and home-goods line Cuttalossa, recommends for its “no-fuss design.” This lamp has an angled arm and a swiveling, flared shade as well as a dimmable light (a low-wattage LED bulb is recommended).

Best adjustable desk lamp with USB and wireless charging

Adjustable | Minimalist | Dimmable

The Pixo Plus table lamp from Pablo Designs received multiple mentions, including from interior designer Kendall Wilkinson and Angie Lee, a partner and design director of interiors at FXCollaborative. Says Lee, “The Pixo has a friendly, playful silhouette that blends high-tech LED and USB-charging capability and is surprisingly warm in lighting temperature.” Its head rotates 360 degrees, and its stem rotates and tilts 180 degrees so you can direct light exactly where you want it. More design details, according to Lee, include the “elegant concave base platform that holds various tchotchkes or electronics” (and doubles as a wireless charging base). There’s also a hidden USB charging port under the lip of the base, which she calls “brilliant.” Wilkinson points out yet another feature: the lamp’s full-range dimmer, which allows users to “customize your ideal illumination.” She also loves all the colors and finishes the lamp comes in — which include white, orange, neon yellow, blue, and silver — saying there’s “surely an option to fit almost any aesthetic.”