How To Choose the Right Size Lamp Shade

updated May 21, 2019
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(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

Whether you’re buying something new or updating the old, pairing a new shade with a lamp can be tricky. We’ve got a few tips for you to keep in mind while you shop for that perfect shade.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

What You Need


  • Measuring tape
  • Lamp

Remember these five things:

  • The bottom edge of the lampshade should fall midway on the neck of the lamp.
  • You don’t want the socket or the switch to be visible.
  • When shade shopping, the shade size refers to the width across the bottom of the shade.
  • The best shade will mimic the base of the lamp, and the shape of the table.
  • Be sure of the fitting you need.


(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

Decide on size.

If you currently have a shade on your lamp, measure its: 1) height; 2) top and bottom diameters; and 3) slant (height down the side). Jot down each of these measurements. That number can be tricky to eyeball, so these measurements will be the resource for you to use while shopping.

(Image credit: FrameAngel)

Above, left: The height of the shade is traditionally one-third the height of lamp. Above, right: The diameter of the base of the shade should ideally be two times the diameter of the lamp base. Try to get as close as possible to these proportions (but an inch or two difference won’t matter too much).

Identify the fitter.

The “fitter” is how the shade connects to your lamp. There are a few different kinds, so be sure to fall in love with the shade that has the correct fitter for your lamp.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)
  • Spider Fitters are held in place by a finial and sit on top of the harp.
  • Slip Uno Fitters are held in place by the bulb, and sits on the socket.
  • Clip-on Fitters are found on smaller lampshades like those on chandeliers.
  • Reflector Bowl Spider Fitters have grooves in the spider arms so they can sit securely on the bowl, and are more than likely going to be found on older lamps.

Combine the size estimate with the fitter info and you have a good starting point for selecting your new shade – the fun stuff (style and color) is the easy part!

Lastly, if you are shopping in brick and mortar shops instead of online, don’t be afraid to tote your lamp around with you from store to store as you shop. It’s worth it to not have wasted trips to make returns – you’ll be glad you measured ahead. Happy hunting!

Re-edited from a post originally published 2.22.10