best in class

The 17 Very Best Desk Lamps

Photo: The Strategist; Photo: Retailer

In this article

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, I consulted 26 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.

What we’re looking for


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.


Because many of these lamps are designed to be used as task lamps in a work space like an architecture studio, some come with different base options. A standard base sits on the tabletop, while a clamp attaches to the side of a desk. Then there’s a pivot base, which is inserted into a hole in the table.


Related to adjustability is the lamp’s design and how it looks. Lamps with articulating parts will, by nature, have a more industrial look and are called task lamps because the light source can be directed toward a specific task like reading or drafting, for example. More stationary ones will emphasize style over functionality. Depending on your preference and work needs, consider a lamp’s purpose and aesthetic in relation to your work space. Do you want something that’s all about where the light shines, or a lamp that’s more of an objet (with an ambient glow) that adds a bit of color or style to your desk?


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

From $320

Adjustability: Articulated arm, head | Base: Standard | Style: Task, 10 colors

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

Adjustability: Articulated arm, 360-degree rotating head | Base: Standard, clamp, in-set pivot | Style: Task, 3 colors

Another architect favorite is the Tolomeo table lamp, designed in 1989 by Michele De Lucchi and Giancarlo Fassina and made in Italy for Artemide. Jane Greenwood, a principal at Kostow Greenwood Architects, says that its design sits “at the cusp of the technology boom” thanks to details like its aluminum material, fully adjustable articulated arm with polished die-cast aluminum joints, and tension-control knobs. The shade also rotates 360 degrees. Taken together, the piece is “a wonderful blend of clean lines, circular hinges, and exposed cabling,” according to Greenwood. Lane Rick and Can Bui, co-founders and principals of collaborative architecture and design studio Office of Things, also use the Tolomeo in their office. They particularly appreciate that its adjustability is “very precise,” says Bui, and that “materially, the aluminum is pleasant to touch and the weight feels substantial, an unexpectedly nice thing to find in a desk lamp.” Plus, adds Bui, “The series has been around since the ’80s, and we think it has just about attained a classic design status.”

Best (less expensive) industrial desk lamp

Adjustability: Articulated arm, head | Base: Standard | Style: Task

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 desk lamp with clamp mount

Adjustability: Articulated arm, head | Base: Clamp | Style: Task

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 Greenwood 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 modern desk lamp

Adjustability: Articulated arm, 30-degree tilting head| Base: Standard, clamp, in-set pivot | Style: Task, 4 colors, select color temperature | Dimmable: Yes | Other: 3 light intensities, timer

Clifford Selbert, the founding partner of Selbert Perkins Design, says that he’s owned many desk lamps over the years, including the Luxo, which was his first. Now he uses the NJP lamp, which was designed by Japan’s Nendo studio for Louis Poulsen as a reinterpretation of the classic architect’s lamp. “It updates the Luxo approach with a more elegant design, and it provides beautiful diffused light,” says Selbert, who notes the lamp has two streamlined arm joints and a shade that “stays cool to the touch and allows for easy adjustment.” Henry Ng, architect and co-founder of Ideas of Order, loves this lamp for its “minimalist lines, playful geometry, beautifully expressed mechanics, and ease of movement.” You can choose from two color temperatures (warm or cool), and the LED light itself has multiple brightness levels. Selbert adds that he appreciates the lamp’s small footprint and the fact that it “accommodates a variety of mounting options,” including a table base, inset pivot, and clamp.

Best (less expensive) desk lamp with clamp mount

Adjustability: Shade | Base: Clamp | Style: Work light

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 weight-balanced desk lamp

From $480
Photo: The Strategist; Photo: Retailer

Adjustability: Counter-weight balanced arms, head, 360-degree rotating base | Base: Standard | Style: Task

For architect Daniel Frisch, the Tizio lamp, designed in 1972 by Richard Sapper for Artemide, is his all-time No. 1. Unlike other adjustable lamps in this story, the Tizio is free of visible springs, wires, and knobs, and instead uses two counterweights to change the direction of the light source. This feature also contributes to its overall streamlined appearance. “The sleek lines and expressed counterweight epitomize to me the best in functional Italian design,” says Frisch, who first encountered it while studying abroad in Vicenza. Made of aluminum, it comes with an adjustable head with a reflector and a 360-degree swiveling base, and can take both halogen and LED bulbs. As Frisch puts it, “It may be the only task lamp that is a true pleasure to adjust.” It’s available in two sizes, the original and the micro, which is about 40 percent smaller.

Best (less expensive) weight-balanced desk lamp

Adjustability: Counter-weight balanced arms, tilting head | Base: Standard | Style: Task, three colors | Dimmable: Yes

This slim LED desk lamp is a more affordable weight-balanced option and has been a constant table-side companion for Noroof Architects partner Scott Oliver. “I bought a version of this halogen model 30-plus years ago — and lo and behold, it is still around,” he says. While he originally bought it as a bedside lamp, “it became my go-to lamp as it left the bedside, and became my drawing lamp when I was in grad school doing design competitions.” The lamp employs a counterbalance to adjust the arm up and down and also has a tilting head for directing the light, which is dimmable. Shown here in black, it comes in silver and white as well.

Best desk lamp with USB and wireless charging

Adjustability: Tilting stem, 360-degree rotating head | Base: Standard | Style: Task, eight colors | Dimmable: Yes

The Pixo Plus table lamp from Pablo Designs also 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.”

Best dimmable desk lamp

Photo: The Strategist; Photo: Retailer

Adjustability: Articulated arm, rotating and tilting head | Base: Standard | Style: Task | Dimmable: Yes | Other: Motion sensor

The Demetra lamp, a newer style from Artemide designed in 2012 by Naoto Fukasawa, is another one that Ng recommends for its combination of “incredibly elegant form, amazing engineering that allows for smooth ergonomics, and light quality.” It features a disclike head that rotates and tilts and also includes a built-in dimmer, plus two articulated arms with minimal wiring for easy adjusting that Ng especially appreciates. “The expression of the tensioning system is such an elegant take on the classic architect’s lamp,” he says. The Demetra also includes a motion sensor that will automatically turn off the lamp after 12 minutes of inactivity. Available in three shades, it comes with three base options.

Best minimalist desk lamp

Adjustability: 90-degree tilting arm, 180-degree tilting head | Base: Standard | Style: Task | Dimmable: Yes | Other: Three color modes

Frisch owns the now-discontinued Leaf lamp from Herman Miller, which features a twisty flat stem and long, leaflike LED shade. While he loves the light, the lamp he uses most is this minimalist fixture with a similar, albeit sleeker and more industrial, shape from Lepro. “This figure outperforms the Leaf — and at an unbelievable price,” says Frisch. The LED lamp can be adjusted via a tilting arm and shade and comes with a dimmer and three color modes: pure white light, neutral white light, and a soft yellowish warm light.

Best colorful desk lamp

Adjustability: Articulated arm, 360-degree rotating head | Base: Standard | Style: Task, 22 colors

For another investment-worthy, adjustable desk lamp with a design pedigree, Margie Lavender, a principal architect at Ike Kligerman Barkley, recommends the Signal SI333 that French industrial designer Jean-Louis Domecq created for Jieldé back in 1950. Manufactured in Lyon, France, the lamp is “great for drawing or project tables when you need to adjust the light over a large surface,” says Lavender. Each comes with its own serial number (so no two are exactly alike), and Lavender likes that the lamp has “multiple arms that give it a whimsical touch.” It also has an adjustable shade. Another detail that adds whimsy: It’s available in lots of colors (no less than 22), including orange, red, pink, bright blue, and the “water green” shown.

Best retro-style desk lamp

Adjustability: Swiveling head | Base: Standard | Style: Task

If you’re looking for an 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 desk lamp with pleated shade

From $195
Photo-Illustration: Retailer

Adjustability: None | Base: Standard | Style: Pleated shade, seven colors | Dimmable: Yes

If adjustability is less important to you and you want something that will add a bit of flair to your desk, consider Hay’s Matin lamp, which Liza Curtiss and Corey Kingston, the co-founders of architecture-and-design studio Le Whit, call “sophisticated and fun.” They love that its conical, pleated shade comes in a wide range of colors like red, green, lavender, and yellow, and they tell us it “pulls the traditional pleated shade into a more playful future.” Strategist contributor Chris Black likes this one, too, calling it “sophisticated” and adding that the shade makes it look “like something straight out of a dimly lit cocktail bar in Firenze.” While it’s not adjustable, it comes with a dimmable, LED light.

Best desk lamp with paper shade

Adjustability: None | Base: Standard | Style: Paper shade

Designers love Isamu Noguchi’s Akari light sculptures as both tabletop and floor lamps, so it makes sense to hear that a smaller one like this would work well in an office setting. “I’ve used this specific light for decades,” says Jonathan Marvel, the founder of Marvel Architects. “It is made out of paper and split bamboo and is lightweight and delicate.” Strategist senior editor Simone Kitchens also wrote about how she used a Noguchi lamp to give her desk, which wasn’t “blessed with a ton of natural light,” a “cozy, glow-y living-room feel.” Adds Marvel, “I love the fact that Noguchi took the craft of traditional paper lanterns and turned it into a contemporary light fixture as well as an affordable work of art.”

Best portable desk lamp

Adjustability: None | Base: Standard | Style: Portable, six colors | Dimmable: Yes | Other: USB charging

While this lamp doesn’t have adjustable parts to speak of, it’s still highly functional because of its portability, which is why it’s no surprise that it received praise from three people: Nina Edwards Anker, the principal and founder of the architecture and interior-design practice nea studio, and architectural agency THIS X THAT’s co-founders Danielle Rago and Honora Shea. (Rago and Shea, along with Anker, Thompson, Curtiss, and Kingston, are members of the Female Design Council, a collective of female-identified professionals working in design.) Rago and Shea love this tinier option for its scale, saying, “It’s miniature in size, so you can bring it anywhere.” Adding to its go-anywhere ability: The LED lamp charges via USB and features a 24-hour battery life when charged, according to the manufacturer. They add that the “glow is soft” and, also important, say you’ll never tire of looking at this lamp: “It looks like candy for your desk.” Shown in burnt orange, it’s also available in an array of colors, including yellow, white, blue, and brown. (If you’re looking to spend about $200 less, consider this portable lamp from Hay that former Strategist writer Chloe Anello calls the best thing she bought last year.)

Best 3-D-printed desk lamp

Adjustability: Tilting head | Base: Standard | Style: Contemporary, 3D-printed | Dimmable: Yes

Architectural designer Madelynn Ringo is one of three folks who recommended a desk lamp from the lighting company Gantri, which works on its pieces with various designers. (Other fans of Gantri include Jenny Kaplan, a co-founder of design service An Aesthetic Pursuit, and environments designer Katie Li.) This one, the least expensive of the three recommendations, was created by industrial designer Mona Sharma. The head is not only adjustable (it moves up and down) but dimmable, and the lamp has a “great rounded shape that puts stylish focus on the task at hand,” says Ringo. The Buddy Light — and all of Gantri’s lamps — is 3-D-printed using proprietary plant polymers, which the brand claims are the “world’s first plant-derived polylactic-acid blends” created specifically for lighting products. It comes with an LED bulb.

[Editor’s note: Gantri’s Buddy lamps are made to order. Delivery is currently estimated for June.]

Some more desk lamps we’ve written about

Our experts

• Nina Edwards Anker, principal and founder of nea studio
Chris Black, former Strategist columnist
• Can Bui, co-founder and principal of Office of Things
• Liza Curtiss and Corey Kingston, co-founders of architecture-and-design studio Le Whit
Peter Dumbadze, architect
• Daniel Frisch, principal architect of Daniel Frisch Architecture
• Jane Greenwood, principal at Kostow Greenwood Architects
• Páll Hjaltason, owner and founder of Plús Arkitektar
• Jenny Kaplan, co-founder of design service An Aesthetic Pursuit
• Simone Kitchens, Strategist senior editor
Alexandra Lange, architecture and design critic
• Margie Lavender, a principal architect at Ike Kligerman Barkley
• Angie Lee, partner and design director of interiors at FXCollaborative
Katie Li, environments designer
• Jonathan Marvel, founder of Marvel Design
• Henry Ng, architect and co-founder of Ideas of Order
• Scott Oliver, partner at Noroof Architects
• Danielle Rago and Honora Shea, co-founders of architectural agency THIS X THAT
• Shannon Retseck, founder of textile and home-goods line Cuttalossa
• Lane Rick, co-founder and principal of Office of Things
Madelynn Ringo, architectural designer
• Clifford Selbert, founding partner of Selbert Perkins Design
• Ming Thompson, co-founder of Atelier Cho Thompson
Kendall Wilkinson, interior designer
• Brian Wilson, co-founder of Pair
Mei Lun Xue, architect

Additional reporting by Alexandra Ilyashov

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best women’s jeans, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, ultra-flattering pants, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

The 17 Very Best Desk Lamps