simple stuff: bedside reading lamps.

August 21, 2019
plug-in wall lamps

The reading light that hung above my bed as a kid never sat quite flush against the wall (or not for long anyway). It rocked when I turned it on and off and it slumped at an angle that made it look just a little dopey. It was a plug-in fixture with an articulating arm and to better achieve the soft glow of “candlelight” that I told my parents I preferred to read by, I would drape a polyester blanket over the brass shade. Yes, it’s a wonder I didn’t burn the house down.

I don’t mean to scare anyone with that childhood anecdote, but I’ve been thinking about that lamp lately and I think the memory illustrates two truths: 1) There’s something special about the bedside lamp you use to read bedtime stories as a kid. 2.) Bedtime isn’t the moment for the harsh glare of an overhead lamp.

A bedside lamp needs to be something that’s easy to reach. It needs to be unobtrusive. Bright enough to read by, but nothing like a floodlight. It’s a lamp with a glow that I’m after. You might say, like candlelight.

Here are a few finds that I’ve gathered in my search for my kids’ room:

Radar Plug-In Sconce from Schoolhouse Electric: I keep returning to this fixture. I think it might be a bit too modern and a bit too industrial for the rest of our apartment but it’s kind of jaunty and has an air of summer camp about it that’s appealing for a kids’ room.

Hector Small Dome Clip Lamp by Original BTC: I love these bone china lamps (in all of there many forms) so much. I’m not actually sure the clamp configuration would work with our particular set-up, but I had to include this longtime favorite anyway.

Nymane Reading Wall Lamp from Ikea: These simple powder-coated steel fixtures are also appealing and come recommended by another reader. I think the simple lines here could work well paired with the more modern lines of the bunks. If I’m feeling brave, I might take the bus down to Ikea and check them out in person.

Lovell Porcelain Wall Sconce from Barn Light Electric: This is by far the most customizable option that I’ve found. It doesn’t have the same magic glow of the BTC lamp, but the shape is similarly classic and with the right combination of finishes I think it could look lovely. (I’d choose white on white, if you had any doubt.)

Jansko LED Clamp Light from Ikea: This lamp wins the prize for the most number of recommendations in yesterday’s post. It’s not something I would have picked out myself, but I can see the appeal and it’s growing on me. It’s certainly the least obtrusive option in terms of hardware and size, to say nothing of price.

Isaac Plug-In Sconce from Schoolhouse Electric: These little globe lights have enjoyed lots of time in the limelight. I’m not sure they’d be my first choice in our apartment, but in searching for simple plug-in sconces, their ubiquity makes sense. They’re beautifully made by a trusted company and they’re small and compact in a lighting world where so much is not.

What do you think? I’m not sure any of them are exactly right, but time will tell. And no matter. I’ve never shied away from a Goldilocks moment. If you have others to recommend, let me know!

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  • Reply Auberie August 21, 2019 at 9:29 am

    Regarding the JASNKO from IKEA, it is a great lamp and I have it at my parents’ place (which I only left at the beginning of the year). It still works after years and hours of reading and basically giving me light in my room. I really like its lines as well, however I wouldn’t buy it anymore because the LED-bulb isn’t replaceable. I know that LED will shine for a long time but I would still prefer something where I could change the bulb shall it ever fail.
    Thanks for your article! I always like to read them!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE August 21, 2019 at 9:56 am

      Ah, interesting! Thanks for the intel.

      • Reply Karin August 21, 2019 at 2:33 pm

        Is it just me, or after all those warnings on baby monitor cords about strangulation hazards I get worried about cords near the beds while the kids are sleeping? I would love reading lights by their beds, had one growing up and love the ones chosen in this article. But after those giant caution stickers on monitor cords I cannot bring myself to install them.

        • Reply ERIN BOYLE August 21, 2019 at 5:33 pm

          Lots of ways to make sure cords stay clear of kids and flush with walls, but I think your personal comfort trumps all!

      • Reply SEM August 22, 2019 at 6:18 pm

        I think the IKEA nymane looks sharp for the price. Plus it seems your style. I had a jasko and I wasn’t a fan. We had the desktop model and the neck always slumped and sagged. I could never achieve a custom arc/direction.

    • Reply Sarah August 21, 2019 at 1:08 pm

      I second Auberie. Very happy with my Jansko: practical, adapting, currently living in „its“ third apartment (5 years of use so far). BUT: would not buy it again for the same reason.

  • Reply maryann August 21, 2019 at 9:49 am

    Another vote for the Jansko. My kids have had bunks and Jansko lights for years now and they are really great task lights. They are bright, but focused enough that the whole room isn’t super bright if someone has one on and the other person is trying to sleep. Plus they don’t get super hot, which I have found with some task lights. And they have withstood so much shuffling around, e.g., sometimes you need to light up your fort (and/or clamp your fort wall [or blanket] to a bunk), sometimes you need to spotlight the show on the top bunk with both lights, etc. I love all your choices above. Tough decision!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE August 21, 2019 at 9:57 am

      Ha! Good point re: the shuffle!

  • Reply Kathleen August 21, 2019 at 10:28 am

    I am going to chime in with some hesitation about the Jansko. We had three of these for our boys, used on bunk beds, and the clamps eventually broke from moving them around so much, and I think at least one of the lights may have burned out too. If your kids are not quite as hard on their stuff as mine can be, they might be totally fine, but we replaced the Janskos with lights that actually screw into the wall and they seem to have held up better for us.

  • Reply Sarah August 21, 2019 at 10:36 am

    I would back all the comments re: the Jansko lights — great for moving, focused, durability, etc. — but I would warn that they are *super* bright (there’s no such thing as a ‘soft glow’ where they’re concerned!) Food for thought 😀

  • Reply Megan August 21, 2019 at 10:49 am

    I don’t have a specific lamp in mind, but I love the orange glow of a salt lamp for making a room cozy and offering some light. I have a white ceramic night light that large salt chunks get poured into, and I also have a free standing small “table” lamp. If I find any links I’ll leave them in a reply comment.

  • Reply Manuela August 21, 2019 at 11:13 am

    I used to run a hostel and every bunk bed had a ikea jansjo lamp. They are terrific, we never had to replace a bulb and they are very sturdy. We had to fix lots of things at the hostel, but never the lamps and they were hard used.

  • Reply Melina August 21, 2019 at 1:29 pm

    Not quite the same style as what you’ve listed, but we have a himalayan salt lamp for our daughter and the glow is just right. We actually originally brought it to transform the hospital room when I gave birth to her! (It worked) And we have been singing or reading by it’s glow every night for the 2.5 years since then.

  • Reply julie August 21, 2019 at 1:33 pm

    ohhhh it is SO hard to find the right bedside light! but we have been very happy with this one for the past several years:

    good luck!

  • Reply kim m August 21, 2019 at 2:34 pm

    Perhaps try to solicit an expedited “gift” from this Quebec company. I understand there is a plug in cord.

    I’ve been admiring them since seeing a feature on Remodelista. Customized colour combos hence the long lead time. I also love BTC. We splurged on a dining pendant years ago but sadly no place for it at our new home. Perhaps one day I will work on my nerve to treat myself again to one of their lamps.

    Personally, I don’t get the Ikea clamp light other than price and ease of installation. Sorry, just me!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE August 21, 2019 at 5:32 pm

      Beautiful! And re: the Ikea clamp…I think you nailed the appeal on the head 😉

  • Reply Jessica August 21, 2019 at 3:37 pm

    My husband and I have loved our two Ranarp wall/clamp lights (from Ikea) so much — they’ve lived in three homes, crossed the country twice, and never failed us. Ours are screwed into the wall on each side of our bed, but they also offer a clip option if you want to clip it to a headboard or some other fixed place. We aim ours up, and they provide the loveliest soft glow.

    For our toddler, we happened to have an extra string of globe lights, so we strung around her window. We plugged them into a smart plug that has a button for her to press to turn them off. We can operate them remotely (and ensure they’re turned off when we’re not home) and she has complete ownership of whether they’re on or off. She loves being in charge of the light in her bedroom!

    • Reply Elizabeth August 21, 2019 at 9:42 pm

      Jessica: I’d love to know about this smart-plug-with-button you have — might you provide a link? Sounds like just the ticket for my toddler’s room. Thanks!

      • Reply Jessica August 26, 2019 at 9:26 am

        Hi Elizabeth — we have the wemo mini smart plug. (It can also be controlled with Alexa/google, so you can ask your smart device to turn it on/off once it have it set up!) Hope this helps!

  • Reply Anna August 21, 2019 at 3:42 pm

    I usually read a sentence/a page/a chapter or more before falling asleep and, yes, harsh lights are a hard no. As this nightly reading ritual helps me switch moods from on to off, I usually go for Kindle and a dimmed side table light/candle, though.
    If we are daydreaming and looking for options not just for kiddos, but for grown readers too, then I would go for Aalto’s Golden Bell in white
    If I’m being practical and realistic, then Hay’s Noc
    But I’m very into Isaac Plug-In Sconce too, don’t know how I missed it!? Have been looking for options for summer house, so thanks for the round up.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE August 21, 2019 at 5:33 pm

      Good ones! Thank you!

  • Reply Whitney Olson August 21, 2019 at 6:20 pm

    The bubblegum ball schoolhouse sconce dives off a harsh/direct light. Just fyi.

  • Reply Tammy August 21, 2019 at 6:22 pm

    I have two of the Radar sconces (hardwired) in my studio, and I absolutely love them. They’re incredibly sturdy and well-made (no surprise, because they’re from Schoolhouse), so I imagine they’d hold up really well to being used by children.

  • Reply MissEm August 21, 2019 at 7:03 pm

    I was just at ikea today (I survived!) to look at sconces for bunkbeds! I love that Lowell lamp but my wallet looked pained at the thought of two of them. They had a “now or never” tag on the jansko, and tbh I found it too bright. But the nymane was quite nice. Obtrusive, simple, and DIMMABLE. That was very exciting to discover!

    • Reply MissEm August 21, 2019 at 7:04 pm

      unobtrusive, not obtrusive

      • Reply Sanna August 22, 2019 at 2:28 am

        What about dimmers and ’dirty electricity’? I’d like to learn more about this topic? Erin, please write your thoughts about the topic. Thanks!

        • Reply ERIN BOYLE August 22, 2019 at 8:07 am

          Hi Sanna, This is the first I’ve heard about dirty electricity so I can’t say I have formed a real opinion here! A quick search turned up this explainer from Well + Good. Anecdotally I have had a hard finding LED bulbs that I can tolerate in my home. I often find them to be too harsh and buzzy feeling. Maybe related? Food for thought.

          • mado August 22, 2019 at 10:21 am

            You’ve probably tried this already but getting the “warm” LEDS makes all the difference to me. I’ve also searched many hardware stores to find the lowest number (watts I think?) LEDS, they always seem brighter than the equivalent marked on the package to me.

  • Reply Emily August 21, 2019 at 7:12 pm

    Erin! When we moved last year I ended up going with the Nyman after HOURS of searching for the perfect, simple bedside sconce. It’s dim enough to have on as a nightlight (or when you are telling bedtime stories but want the kiddo to start to doze) but then you can adjust it to be bright for reading glossy magazines. Super easy installation and honestly, seems so solid for the price and brand. Profile is not bothersome nor too “design-y” for something you want to sort of blend in to the background. The only thing I regret is how long I took to bite the bullet and how many hours and tabs of browsing I went through. Text me if you need Maine recs! Or a playground meet up!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE August 21, 2019 at 8:45 pm

      Ahhh! Good to know! (Texting you in the am!)

  • Reply Ute August 22, 2019 at 6:48 am

    We have these in the kitchen and the bedroom and like them a lot: .

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE August 22, 2019 at 7:59 am

      Thanks so much for sharing! Lovely.

  • Reply Jessica August 22, 2019 at 9:26 am

    My vote is Barn Light Electric’s Lovell Lamp (did you see the number of colors they offer it in – I love the Jadite)! Currently going down the rabbit hole of looking at all of their other lights… ahhh.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE August 22, 2019 at 9:28 am

      I did!


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