Mercury glass lamp with white lampshade

Picking the perfect shade is a lot like choosing the right jewelry – it has to fit the place and occasion, complement without overwhelming, and draw just enough attention to be noticed. And if you put it on and it doesn’t make your heart beat a little faster, keep looking. There’s something better.

What shape?

Ironically, the first thing you do when you’re trying to pick the perfect shade is to look at your lamp. What’s the general shape? If your base is round, then a round shade usually works best. A square or angular silhouette tends to look better with a square shade. And, of course, there are always exceptions to any decorating rule – candlestick lamps, with their combination of curves and angles, can handle just about any shape. And, if your lamp is square and your table is round, a round shade can complement both.

How to pick the perfect lampshade

What size?

Now that you know your shape, it’s time to grab a tape measure. Your shade should be about two-thirds the height of your lamp base (give or take an inch). Proportion is the key – too tall and the effect will be top heavy, too short and your lamp will look out of balance. And just like a slip, you never want your harp to show. If your lamp sits on a mantel or close to eye level, this is especially important.

To figure out the right width for your shade, measure your lamp base and multiply by two. For a round base, measure straight across; measure diagonally for a square base. The widest part of your shade should be at least a half-inch wider than the widest part of your base on each side. And when you’re considering width, don’t forget location. If your lamp is going next to a bed or in a busy hallway, pick a narrower shade to avoid flying elbows.

Candlestick lamp with charcoal linen lampshade

Translucent or opaque?

It all depends on what you want your lamp to do. Translucent shades of sheer fabric, paper or alternative materials are great for reading and adding ambient light to your room. Opaque shades of silk, thick parchment or laminated card direct light in defined, up-and-down beams, perfect for highlighting objects and setting a mood.

How to Pick the perfect lampshade

Smooth, pleats or something more daring?

Now we’re talking fashion. Smooth shades say cool, refined and contemporary. Pleats are cozier, more traditional and tend to pair well with antiques. And custom details like embroidery, decoupage and paint can transform your lampshade from accessory into a show-stopping focal point.

10 Shade Shopping Shortcuts

  • Round lamp base – round or hexagonal shade
  • Square or angular base – square shade
  • Can’t decide on a shape? go empire
  • Shade height – 2/3 height of lamp base
  • Shade width – 2x lamp base width
  • Pleats say traditional
  • Smooth leans contemporary
  • Hardware should be hidden
  • If you can, take your lamp with you
  • Mix opposites to make a contemporary statement

The Anatomy of a Lamp Shade

Diagram
Reflector
REFLECTOR

grooves in spider to keep
shade from sliding off bowl
Flame Clip
FLAME CLIP (FC)
Clip
CLIP (CL)
snaps onto light bulb
Uno
UNO
quarter sized hole in the
center of the spider with
screw threads
Harp
HARP
are made in 1/2″ increments
Glass Reflector BowlGLASS REFLECTOR BOWL
Bowls come in 3 sizes

 

How to Measure Shade Heights for Replacement

Four dimensions are important when measuring for shade replacement; top and bottom diameters, depth and drop. The following diagrams illustrate the necessary measurements.
Shade Height
Soft Shades
Soft Shades

a -Top Diameter
b – Bottom Diameter
c – Depth – (vertical height)
d – Fitter Recess (drop)

Hardback Shades
Hardback Shades
a – Top Diameter
b – Bottom Diameter
c – Side
d – Fitter Recess (drop)