This Old-School, Nate Berkus-Approved Style Is Making a Comeback

published Aug 3, 2023
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Credit: Photos: Getty Images; Design: Apartment Therapy

When I took designer Corey Damen Jenkins’ MasterClass a few years ago, I fixated on one key takeaway: Look to your closet for interior design inspiration. Jenkins said that the recurring colors or motifs you typically gravitate toward apparel-wise can help define your interior decorating style. He even harped on the fashion industry’s influence on home design trends across the board, and there’s a new lighting style I’m noticing that looks practically runway-worthy: “skirted” lamp shades.

Fabric-covered lamp shades are nothing new, but designers and DIYers are layering material over pendants, sconces, and lamp shades in a far more voluminous and ruffled fashion than before. Imagine a sink skirt, but on a smaller scale. I first saw this trend in action at Maxwell Social, a new members-only New York City club, where designer Mollie Nitzken Brakefield of Slightly East created the space’s opulent-looking chandeliers and pendants (pictured below). These lights — made in collaboration with Maxwell Social founder, David Litwak, and interior designer Kyi Gyaw — feature Shantung silk, brass, and chainette fringe, all sourced in India.

Brakefield explains that this skirted lighting look is “all about the fabric” — the trick is allowing it to “organically fall” in order to create “a flouncier effect.” As for the style’s ongoing uptick in popularity, that can be attributed, she says, to a rise in the interest of vintage-inspired, highly tactile interiors. “In recent years, all types of skirted furniture have made a comeback, and lighting isn’t an exception,” Brakefield notes. “People are gravitating towards layered, textile-centered looks, which to me, is timeless. Skirted lighting adds coziness, softness, and character to a room.” 

Designers Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent are executing their own take on this up-and-coming trend, exhibiting skirted sconces (shown below) earlier this year at Design on a Dime, a shoppable event hosted by New York-based nonprofit Housing Works. Here, the pair actually tapped a professional to bring these custom lights to life, using fabric that coordinated with their drapery, set against brass adjustable bases.

Credit: Courtesy of Design on a Dime

If you have a spare lampshade and excess material on hand — or want to shop for something new that speaks to you — you can also recreate this look. Just find a local seamstress or tailor in your area to enlist on a project like this. (Although note that prices will vary based on the pro’s skill level and your location.)

Brakefield also speaks to how easily replicable these skirted fixtures can be as a DIY. “All you would need is recycled fabric of your choosing, elastic, thread, a sewing machine, and minimal sewing skills,” she says. As for types of fabric, Brakefield suggests gravitating toward more lightweight coverings, like cotton, linen, or silk. “If you are placing this over an old lampshade, especially a hardback shade, you won’t want anything too heavy, as that would block the light,” she adds. 

Brakefield’s designs from Maxwell Social will eventually be shoppable, but if you’re willing to DIY a skirted lamp shade, it’s a relatively affordable, low-stakes project that can have a major impact. Mix and match various fabrics for a dramatic addition to any light fixture in your space, or use this as an opportunity to test out a new color or print on a more miniscule level.