Apart from a desk, a decent chair and a computer to work on, the home workspace doesn’t need much else, but there are few stranger sights than a desk without a lamp. Romanticized from their affiliation with architects, sketch artists and other creative people whose jobs probably no longer require a lamp, the desk lamp is something of a reference point for a person’s taste.
Top your desk with a banker’s lamp and it’s apparent you have an affinity for a time gone by (or have seen it in any movie ever). Clamp the design classic Luxo L-1 to the edge of your desk and everyone will know you once had dreams of being an architect yourself, or are just a really big fan of Pixar. That said, there are loads of styles and brands to choose from, so we cut it down to the 14 best you can buy online at every price point.
Tensor CFL Desk Lamp
Tensor is an understated, everyman’s brand and always has been. The brand made some of the most mass market-popular desk lamps of the ’60s on the back of affordable prices and a sturdy, quiet design philosophy. Now, a vintage lamp will run you quite a bit, but its new lamps carry its reasonable cost, high performance ethos into the future.
Is there a category Ikea doesn’t make a serviceable product in? The Forsa lamp comes in every color, is suprisingly sturdy and steals some of the best design traits in lamp design. In expected Ikea fashion, it is easily the most affordable worth buying.
Tensor Banker’s Lamp
For better or worse, no compilation of desk lamps is complete without the hallowed banker’s lamp. Its head doesn’t really swivel, it’s not particularly graceful and the look of it hasn’t much changed since its invention over a century ago. But all the same, it’s an American classic. The only things necessary to qualify are a metal base (brass, preferably) and a green glass shade that, at the time of invention, was thought to reduce eyestrain more effectively than other colors.
Ikea’s take on the old-fashioned desk lamp is brought into the 21st century with its wireless charging capabilities. There’s also a USB port for wired charging.
TaoTronics LED Lamp
TaoTronics makes many variations on its utilitarian desk lamp and each sells like crazy. This one embodies much of what the brand is about — affordable, useful, adaptable lighting to get shit done.
Article Leap Table Lamp
Count this as a nice-looking, budget version of Serge Mouille’s lauded “chapeau”-headed lamps. The matte black shade tilts up or down and provides a wide, semi-dramatic lighting to your desk.
Frama E27 Table Lamp
Lamps don’t get much more industrial or primitive than this table lamp from Frama. The Copenhagen-based brand’s E27 table lamp features a steel base that houses an exposed light bulb — use a decorative bulb, like one from Philips’ Edison collection, to get the most out of the lamp.
Hay Turn On Lamp
Hay’s entire collection of Scandi-influenced houseware is full of winners like this dimmable table lamp. The contrast between the cylindrical aluminum base and the opal glass diffuser on top creates a standout piece that looks just as good off as it does on.
Umbra Shift Cup Lamp
The Cup Lamp isn’t really all that complicated. It’s a lamp with a base that doubles as a useful storage cup. It’s a quiet, minimalist LED-lit lamp with a useful dimming knob and USB port.
Fully Beam LED Task Lamp
Fully is the master of office space ergonomics and functionality. Its Beam LED lamp has loads of brightness levels and maneuverability. It also looks quite nice if you’re into industrial minimalism.
Schoolhouse Graduate Lamp
As a brand, Schoolhouse is like the cool version of your parents saying “it was better back then.” It scans products of the past, identifies the too often overlooked and revives them with its own twists. In this case, a weighty Art Deco-period lamp in either porcelain black or shiny steel.
Anglepoise Original 1227 Mini
Though often mistaken as the hopping Pixar lamp, it is no less famous. The Type 1227 released in Britain in 1935 and its spring balance system and industrial aesthetic were an instant hit. Since it’s found its way into multiple design museums, on British postage stamps and atop the desk of a legion of creatives. This is the slightly smaller version, ideal for lighting up desks and not getting in the way.
Menu JWDA Concrete Table Lamp
For those who think industrial design is too aggressive, look no further than Menu’s take on the industrial-style lamp. The JWDA’s concrete base is assuaged by a modern brass dimmer, controlling the light within the rounded glass diffuser.
Muuto Leaf Table Lamp
Muuto applies its minimal design aesthetic to the Leaf Table Lamp, a desk lamp with 54 integrated 8W LED lights housed in an asymmetrical lampshade, reminiscent of a leaf.
Luxo Ovelo LED Task Light
Think of it as a modern L-1 lamp. Luxo’s trademark spring-balanced arm is as smooth and malleable as ever, and the modestly sized lamp head provides all the light one would need. There are many statement pieces in the desk lighting category, but few are as impacting as Luxo.
Pablo Designs PIXO Optical Lamp
Pablo Designs has gifted the world many functional, playful lighting solutions, and the PIXO lamp is no different. Engineered to generate the most light in the smallest physical footprint, it’s dimmable, swivels and, notably, comes in colors other than black and white.
Flos Tab LED Table Lamp
When Flos opened up shop at the tail end of the 1960s it was viewed as future-forward in aesthetics and material use. Today, it’s still viewed that way. The Tab LED lamp is uses a porcelain reflector and V-shade to broaden and soften the glow of the LED, and the head of the lamp swivels up, down and concentrically.
Humanscale Horizon Desk Lamp
The Horizon desk lamp is as close to a work of art as you can get — so much so that it’s in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art. We love its dimming capabilities and the precision-brass ball joint, which make for smooth and easy adjusting.
Artemide Tizio 35 Table Lamp
Artemide is to lighting what Herman Miller is to furniture. The Italian-made Tizio 35 is a modern design icon with 360-degree mobility and an intuitive counterweight system for precise directional lighting.
Vipp Desk Lamp
The grail. Weirdly enough, Danish-born Vipp made its name making very nice trashcans (so well-designed they’ve found themselves in the Museum of Modern Art’s tightly-curated store), but has since graduated to a small but discerning group of other homewares, including its gorgeous lamp. Its arm uses spring balance, but clears up the clutter by keeping it hidden inside and the head sports a 1,539 tiny perforations and a matte glass shield for soft, idyllic light diffusion.