Complete Guide to Lampshades

how to choose lampshades

Complete Guide to Lampshades

A complete guide to how to choose lampshades

A new lamp and shade can be remarkable in its ability to transform a room.  The key is to pick one that is perfect for both the room and the look you would like to create.  With so many shapes and styles of lampshades to choose from, it’s important to make sure it not only looks right in the room, but is also the right size and shape for the base.

1. Matching the right size lamp to the room

First think carefully about the space it is going to go.  For example, a large more sparingly furnished room can take a larger lamp than a small cluttered one.  Think about the piece of furniture it will stand on, whether it will be one of a pair, and to what extent you would like it to make a statement and dominate the space.

2. Buying the base and shade

In an ideal world you might buy your lampshade and base together to be sure of the finished effect, but whilst this is not always possible, it can also limit the choice.   When buying separately, it is almost always best to buy the base first, taking into account the finished size which could add half as much again with a shade.

Whilst there is a huge array of lamp bases to choose from from ceramic to metal and anything in-between; vintage bases, old coloured glass bottles, ginger jars and driftwood are also popular options, especially when wired with coloured silk covered twisted flex.

3.  Matching the right size shade to the base

It is important that the shade is neither too big or too small for the base.  Whilst there are no complete hard and fast rules, in general:

  • the height of the shade should be about 3/4 of the height of the lamp base (unless on a tall thin base which suit smaller shades of approx 1/2 of the height of the lamp base)
  • the width of the shade base should be approximately equal to the height of the lamp from base to fitting
  • the shade should always be wider than the base
  • If in doubt, it is usually better to scale up the size of the shade, than scale down

4. Choosing the right shape lampshade

The main lampshade shapes are:

  • Empire – this is the classic shade shape with a base that is narrower than the top.  Larger empire shades work better with a straighter shape, with shades that are considerably larger at the base work better on small bases or for bedside tables
  • Square – like an empire but with a square or rectangular bottom – useful on a narrow console or bedside table pushed up against a wall, these can give a cleaner more contemporary look
  • Tall tapered – good on a tall thin base
  • Oval and Drum – a cylinder made in an oval or drum shape, giving a contemporary look

5. Choosing the right material

Lampshades can be made out of pretty much anything that can be mounted on a frame, but usual materials are linen, cotton, silk, parchment or paper.

They can be plain, printed, handpainted, dyed or marbled and can be mounted taught, pleated or gathered.  They can also be opaque or sheer,  lined or unlined.  Not only will the look you want dictate the materials and colours picked, but also think about how much light you would like.  Dark and lined shades are good for pooling light both down and up for atmosphere, whereas lighter and more translucent shades will emit more light.
Pictured here – Ikat lampshades from Melodi Horne lined in contrasting colours.


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