Decorating & Design

December 15, 2008

Shopping For Lampshades

Lampshades do much more than just cover a light bulb. Shades can diffuse light, cast a certain glow, establish a style or create a colour. They can affect or change the look of a lamp, depending on the size, colour and shape of the shade and are the perfect lighting accessory. The classic white lampshade is always a sure bet, but if you’re looking to inject a new colour or texture into a space then changing up your lampshades can instantly update the look of a room.

Modern spaces can be stylishly lit up using frosted glass, coloured paper or resin lampshades for punch, while neutral coloured shades will elegantly recede into the background. Traditional spaces glow warmly with parchment, leather and fabric as possible contenders. Chrome or nickel shaded fixtures also work well in traditional rooms, whether on desk lamps, wall sconces or floor lamps. Stained glass “Tiffany” style shades offer up an elegant, antique feel to more conventional interiors.

Oversized pendant drum lampshades are stylish, contemporary additions over a kitchen island, dining room table or workspace.

Shapes and sizes

When shopping for a lampshade, it’s helpful to have a style in mind that will work with your interior. If possible, bring along the lamp you are outfitting so that you can try out different shades in the store before making a purchase.

The shape of the lampshade will greatly affect the appearance of your lamp and should complement the size and look of the base. Barrel, bell, square, rectangular, drum, oval and flared are just a few of the possibilities.

While many sizes of shades exist, the most common are categorized into accent, table or chandelier types and come in a variety of sizes within those categories. A table lampshade should be about two-thirds the height of its base and as wide as the base’s largest diameter.

Shades are also categorized according to their construction and fall under either the “soft” or “hardback” variety. Soft shades are usually wire-framed and covered with fabric. “Hardback” shades are stiff shades covered with fabric or paper.

How the fabric is sewn onto the shade is another option to consider: pleated, box-pleated, “non-pleat” and box drape are just a few choices on the market.

Lampshade fittings

One final consideration is the lampshade’s hardware, also referred to as fittings. Here are the most common fittings available:

Spider with harp

This is a typical fitting for table and floor lampshades. Be sure to check if a harp comes with the shade you want. If you need to purchase the harp separately, choose one in a size that allows the shade to sit on the lamp base at a pleasing height. A finial is required to top off the harp and secure it to the lamp. While most harps come with a plain finial, they can also be purchased separately and are available in a range of styles and finishes.

Uno fitting

These are typically found on smaller table lamps. No harp is needed as the wire fitting is permanently attached to the shade. The shade attaches directly to the lamp socket.

Clip-on fitting

This type is found on accent lamps and chandeliers. The shade clips directly onto the bulb with no additional hardware needed.