How to Choose a Lampshade

Home Hacks

2010HomeHackspostBadge.jpg Project: Find new lampshades for lamps loaned to me from family members. I find this project intimidating because of the millions of questions I have about lampshades: what height? What shape? Should it match other shades? Contrast? Be bold? Or neutral? Watch me solve my problems, and maybe I can solve yours too.

What You Need

Measuring tape
Gut instincts


1. Take a look at your lamps.
Do you need new shades? We do. Our living room is a mix of modern and traditional furniture, so we'd like to add a modern touch to this traditional lamp.

2. Choose a size.
A good way to do this is to measure your current shade and eye for yourself if it needs one or two more inches. "The lampshade should be placed on the lamp base at a height so that the bottom edge falls midway on the neck, which is the small metal piece between the socket and the lamp base," writes Adrienne Breaux, our Austin contributor. "Though a small detail, this ensures that the socket is not visible and that the correct amount of light shines through the shade." The switch also shouldn't be visible.

When measuring, measure the top diameter, bottom diameter and slant.

Restoration's size options:
Size A Shade: 6-1/2" diam., 5-1/2"H
Size B Shade: 10" diam., 8"H
Size C Shade: 13" diam., 9"H
Size D Shade: 15-3/4" diam., 10-1/4"H
Size E Shade: 18" diam., 11-1/2"H
Size F Shade: 19-1/2" diam., 12-1/2"H

3. Note the fitting.
We can thank Adrienne again. Make sure you know whether the fitting is spider, uno, or clip-on before you fall in love with a shade that won't screw on to your lamp.

4. Choose a shape.
Restoration Hardware has a good selection of seven distinct shapes that will help you see differences in shapes: English-barrel, drum, empire, bell, pagoda, box-pleat and flare. (Pottery Barn also notes the tapered drum as an option.) And if you browse West Elm online, you'll see that the most modern type of shape is drum or square. For another great description of shapes, and what kinds of interiors they go with, check out Destination Lighting.

5. Choose color and style.
Are you going for a pop of color in the corner of your room? Or something neutral that won't distract from art? Browse Apartment Therapy home tours, and big box stores like Restoration Hardware, Pottery Barn, West Elm and Crate and Barrel.

Although I toyed with the idea of a fun and funky shade, like one from LiT Shades in Seattle, I remembered that when I set out to design our apartment from scratch almost a year ago, I wanted to let the multi-colored spines of books, colorful pillows, and our artwork do the talking in our living room. My background would be neutral, and I think the shade should be neutral too, as it will one day be in front of art. (I think I was leaning towards a patterned shade because our walls are bare — but once we frame our art, they will be filled.)

6. Should it coordinate, in color and shape with the other shades in the home?
The shades in our bedroom our black drums, but a black shade in our living room might be too dark. Since we already have two drums in our under-1,000-square-foot home, I don't want to go with something very traditional like a box-pleat. But it needs to be similar.

A lampshade like the one on this Morel light at Crate and Barrel would be perfect. It's a tapered drum in taupe; the taper makes the drum different, yet still similar, and the sheene adds interest to a neutral. Plus, taupe is our accent neutral.

7. Crate and Barrel doesn't sell their shades separately, so in the end, we are going to go with two Size F (19-1/2" diam., 12-1/2"H) drum shades in flax.

Additional Notes:
There are many online shade sources today, but for sure-fire lamp shade buying, bring your lamp or current shade to the store.

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Images: 1, 2, 6, Lindsey Roberts; 3, Destination Lighting; 4, Restoration Hardware; 6, LiT Shades and West Elm; 7, Crate and Barrel