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What Is The Difference Between Table And Buffet Lamp?

When choosing a lamp for your home, you may find a mix of buffet and table lamps being offered.

If you’ve never come across the terms, you might be confused.

Table lamps are widely known, but buffet lamps are less so, and they can be confused.

Generally, buffet lamps and table lamps are similar but are different sizes – a buffet lamp will be taller but often slimmer, too, while a table lamp may be shorter but thicker in design. Buffet lamps are used more for ambient or accent lighting, while table lamps are used primarily for task lighting.

In this guide, I’ll explain:

  • The main differences between a buffet lamp and a table lamp
  • The average sizes of the lamps, compared
  • The best place to put the respective lamps

What Is A Buffet And Table Lamp?

dining table with buffet lamp

At first glance, buffet and table lamps almost seem interchangeable.

In fact, don’t be surprised if some retailers lump them together and treat them as one category.

You might even find some cheap lamps described as “buffet table lamps” or similar when the seller doesn’t know the difference (or tries to use poor SEO).

They are different, though, and have different uses. Buffet lamps are designed for ambient and accent lighting – they help to create a gentle ambiance in a wider space.

Table lamps can be used for ambient lighting too, but they are generally used more for task lighting – providing a stronger light in a closer space so that you can see what you’re doing next to them.

Because table lamps are usually thicker, they may be part of only one or two accessories on the stand where they sit.

They’re more prominent in that small space as a piece of furniture.

Meanwhile, slimmer buffet lamps will often be used in a busier space.

Indeed, they’re named for being used on a buffet – the furniture item similar to a sideboard, where food plates may be left for guests.

Because buffets and sideboards tend to be lower than many side tables, buffet lamps tend to be taller.

This also helps with illuminating the wider space of the room.

They are similar in how they work by shining light – the actual bulb fixtures and directions of the light will broadly be the same, and they accept the same light shade fittings.

It’s just the distance from the light and the surface that impacts their use. You’d typically use similar wattages of the bulb in each.

You certainly would want to avoid adding a brighter bulb to a taller buffet lamp to compensate for it is further from the surface – that will spoil the gentle lighting effect it is intended to give.

How Much Taller Is A Buffet Lamp Compared To A Table Lamp?

 table lamp on books with fruits next to it

Lamp shapes and sizes vary, but as a rule of thumb, expect the average table lamp to be between 25 and 30 inches in height, while the average buffet lamp will be between 32 and 36 inches.

You can get smaller table lamps than that, just as you can get taller buffet lamps.

But on average, buffet lamps can be as little as two inches taller than table lamps or as much as 11 inches taller.

That’s because of their intended uses – table lamps need to be closer to their subject.

As a guide, the combined height of a lamp and the surface on which it sits should be within the 58-64 inch range.

That includes floor lamps, too – they should be within that same height range.

This interior design rule of thumb helps keep all lighting within the same visual range.

If you scan your eyes around the room and look up and down to see the various lampshades, it messes with the cohesion of the design and looks strange.

Where Is The Best Place To Put Buffet And Table Lamp?

table lamp in bedroom

The best places to put buffet and table lamps are linked to their purpose.

Buffet lamps work better in rooms with lower furniture, like side tables or buffets, and you want to create a gentle, ambient light that sets the mood.

So they are absolutely perfect for dining rooms.

Meanwhile, table lamps are suited to side tables or on chests of drawers and are best placed near where you will be sitting or lying – so next to a sofa or alongside a bed.

That way, you can use the table lamp as your lighting for reading a book or doing a craft.

So table lamps are more commonly found in bedrooms and living areas.

People use a floor lamp if they want ambient lighting in these rooms.

Though table lamps can be used for this purpose – they aren’t exclusively for task lighting. So that’s up to you.

Make your choice based on that rule of keeping lampshades in the 58-64 inch range.

Final Words

The table and buffet lamp differ, despite how some might use the terms.

They are distinctive, even if they look quite similar, especially when browsing online, where you can’t necessarily see their scale.

Choosing the right one for your home typically relies on the surface you’re placing it on and its height, so you can get that good eye line of lighting within the home.

Do you have any table lamps or buffet lamps at home? Did you know, or have you had to measure them to check?