Lamp Shade Buying Guide
Lamp Shades 101
Types of Lamp Shades
Hardback Lamp Shades
Softback Lamp Shades
Lamp Shade Styles
Bell Lamp Shades
Drum Lamp Shades
Empire Lamp Shades
Square & Rectangle Lamp Shades
Coolie Floor Lamp Shades
Hexagon Lamp Shades
Lamp Shade Buying Tips:
- Consider how you will use the lamp, whether for reading, general light or decoration
- Match the style and colour of the lamp shade to the lamp base
- Measure your lamp base to ensure the shade will fit
- Consider the drop size to ensure your lamp's hardware will be covered
- Pick a lighter coloured shade if you want more light to shine through
Lamp Shade Luminosity +
The degree and direction of light your lamp gives off can be controlled by the type of shade you select. Both hardback and soft lamp shades can be either translucent or opaque. Translucent shades let light through and diffuse it gently for a general glow. Opaque shades excel at focussing light and directing it for specific tasks such as reading. When choosing fabrics for translucent lighting, look for silks or satins. Hardback shades made with paper or parchment are good options for opaque lighting.
Lamp Shade Fitters +
The mechanism by which your lamp shade attaches to your lamp base is called the fitter. On many lamps, the fitter attaches to the lamp's harp. Fitter types can differ, depending on the type of lamp base you are combining with your shade. The commonly used washer fitter is placed between the harp and a finial, which screws in to keep your shade in place. Slip uno fitters sit between the bulb and socket and are held in place by the bulb. Threaded uno fitters are screwed into place for greater stability. Clip fitters, which are typically seen on chandelier shades, loop directly over the sides of the light bulb for quick and simple installation.
Lamp Shade Materials +
There are many different choices of lamp shade materials. A hardback lamp shade with an outer layer of paper or parchment will provide bright, focused lighting, ideal for working, reading or brightening up a dark corner. A soft shade with a cover made from silk, satin or velvet can create diffused light ideal for bedrooms, dining rooms and living rooms. Glass, linen, faux leather, metal, plastics and other materials can all work for lamp shades, each bringing its own unique aesthetic to your lamp and your room.
Decorative Accents +
From pleats to shirring to beads, decorative accents are a great way to add visual interest to a lamp. Shades featuring bold colours and patterns stand out and get noticed. To create subtle lighting in a bedroom or dining room, consider a shade made from frosted glass or a flocked fabric. Elegant details such as crystals or fringe can elevate a simple base, making your lamp appropriate for a formal environment. Similarly, funky details like an animal pattern can make the same base complement a more casual space.
Shop Accessories & Related Products:
Lamp Shade Maintenance Tips:
- Follow the manufacturer's care instructions to wash soft lamp shades
- Remove or replace the inner layer of a soft shade if it becomes torn
- Ensure fitters attached to the lamp's base are tightened securely
- Prevent fading and fire risk when tilting shade by ensuring sides do not touch light bulb
- Wipe down plastic or paper shades with a soft cloth
- Vacuum lamp shades with brush attachment to remove dust
How to Choose a Lamp Shade
When selecting a new lamp shade, consider how you will use the lamp. If you're looking to create lighting for reading or working, an opaque shade with a wide bottom (such as a bell, coolie or empire shape) is a good choice. This style of shade casts light downward and can be effective in reducing eye strain. For warm accent lighting that doesn't distract with brightness, your options include a silk or glass lamp shade. A drum lamp shade reflects light both upwards and downwards for good general coverage that will brighten up a bedroom or dining area.
Choosing a lamp shade that's the right size for your lamp is important for both fashion and function. Here are some basic rules to remember: your shade should be approximately three quarters the height of your base; the width of your shade should exceed the width of your base; and the taller your lamp, the larger your shade should be. Ensuring your shade is large enough to keep unsightly hardware concealed is essential from an aesthetic standpoint. For safety reasons, it should also allow adequate room for venting the light bulb. Another general rule is the bottom diameter of a table lamp shade should be 16 inches or less, while that of a floor lamp shade should be 16 inches or more.
Whether you are trying a new shade on an existing lamp base or buying both at the same time, coordination factors include size, shape, style and colour. A larger lamp base will require a larger lamp shade to provide visual balance and conceal the lamp hardware. If your lamp has a unique base that you want people to notice, go with a simple shade that won't steal the attention. Conversely, a dramatically shaped or brightly coloured shade will draw the eye upward to take attention away from a basic lamp base.
If your lamp base has a harp (a metal frame that connects the base to the shade), choose a shade with a washer fitter. This type of fitter allows you to attach your shade between the harp and a finial top cap that screws into the washer. If your lamp base doesn't have a harp, go for a slip uno fitter, which is built into the shade and slips over the socket. It's held in place between the bulb and the base by screwing in the light bulb. The threaded uno fitter is designed for down-bridge lamps. It attaches above the downward facing bulb. Other types of fitters include clip-ons, which feature a built-in wired loop that clips onto the light bulb (most commonly used in chandeliers), and chimney fitters, a type specific to hurricane-style lamps.
The distance between the top edge of your lamp shade and where your lamp-shade fitter attaches to the base is known as the "drop." The purpose of the drop is to hide the fitter hardware from view. In doing this, however, it also raises the position of your lamp shade. The drop distance will vary depending on the type of fitter on your lamp shade. Washer fitters have the lowest drop distance at ½ inch to an inch, while slip uno fitters have the highest with up to several inches of drop. In the case of lamps with harps, metal cylinders called "risers" can be added to increase the distance between the fitter and the harp so the shade sits higher on the base.
In choosing your new lamp shade, you'll also want to take into consideration the type of light bulb you intend to use with it. For instance, to avoid damage to your shade or risk of fire, you'll want to ensure there's a minimum of three inches of space between the bulb and shade. When using lower wattage incandescent bulbs or compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs, this distance can decrease to one or two inches. The higher the wattage, the more heat the bulb will produce, so ensure your lamp shade provides adequate ventilation and don't use a higher wattage than the one recommended for your shade.
Silk is a traditional and more formal choice for a lamp shade. Linen is the most common shade material as it brings a more casual aesthetic to a room. Leather shades have a masculine feel and can work well in a den or study. Glass and metal lampshades create a more modern look, while paper lampshades are among the least expensive. White and cream the most popular lamp shade colours, but you can also choose a colour that coordinates with your decor. Be aware, however, that shade colour can change when the lamp is turned on.