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4 Steps to Choosing Your PERFECT Lamp Shade

Choose Your Perfect Lamp ShadeDesign and Photo Credit: Tonya G. Kilpatrick

Choosing a lamp shade for your custom lamp is not as complicated as it may seem.  When a customer asks for help with the selection process, their first question is usually…

  1. What shape lamp shade should I be looking for?

Some people have a decided preference for one shade shape or another.  Some consider a drum shade as more traditional and a rectangular shade as more modern. But it is necessary to take into consideration the style of the lamp and the shape of the base of the lamp.  If the base is rounded, if the design includes curves, or if it is a tall, narrow lamp, frequently a drum shade will be your best choice.  If the base is square or rectangular or if the design features clean, modern lines and angles, a rectangular shade may be exactly what you need for your lamp. A caveat here: some lamps look fabulous, though entirely different, with either lamp shade style!  Each lamp shown below is the same lamp, but with a different shape and/or size lamp shade.

Different lamp shade sizes

The next question to consider is…

  1. What size lamp shade should I choose?

A lamp shade with a height that is approximately 60% – 70% of the height of your lovely table lamp (measured from the table to the base of the socket) should be about right.  Now, don’t get crazy and start measuring and doing the math!  Just let the “formula” confirm what your eye tells you.  When choosing a lamp shade for a floor lamp or a buffet lamp, select one that is approximately 30% – 40% of the height of your lamp.  In general, the width of your lamp shade should be approximately 2 x the width of the base of your lamp.

lamp shade size tool.

Some shoppers don’t even consider this next question

  1. What do I want the material construction of my lamp shade to accomplish in my home?

Yes, of course you want it to look pretty!  But do you want to maximize the light being produced by your gorgeous lamp, or do you want to primarily allow lighting for ambiance, or perhaps merely direct light only straight up and straight down?  These are all legitimate options, each accomplishing different design goals however, most consumers today seem to be making choices to maximize the lighting potential of their lamps.  If “more light!” is your mantra, select a soft-back shade with a fabric lining that will allow light to pass through the shade. You can take your quest one step further and select a light color for your shade.  The closer to white it is, the more light it will transfer into your room.  And strangely enough, choosing a larger shade will also improve the amount of light your lamp can transfer into your space! And finally…

  1. Is there anything else I should know so I don’t look stupid when I go lamp shade shopping?

I’m so glad you asked!  Yes!  Let me give you a few more pointers.

  • The hardware that connects your custom lamp to your shade is the harp and finial. Harps come in a variety of sizes and are hugely important for you to get your shade positioned beautifully on your custom lamp base.  If you don’t like the way a shade looks, try a different size harp!  It can make ALL the difference!  Finials sit on top of your lamp shade to tighten the shade onto the harp and sometimes, to look lovely!
  • If you need to measure a lamp shade, perhaps for replacement purposes, you will want the top width, the bottom width, and the side height. Both width measurements are the largest dimensions from the top and bottom of the shade.  The side height is measured from the bottom of the shade to the top of the shade.  With these dimensions in hand, you’ll look like a pro!

how to measure a lamp shade

  • When choosing a lamp shade, you want to maximize the visibility of your beautiful, custom lamp base without showing the harp or lamp socket.  (Unlike the lamp below.)  Think about where your lamp will be placed in your home and if your seating will be lower than the lamp, allowing you (and your guests) to see these parts.  Make whatever adjustments are necessary in your plan to prevent this situation.

Example of poorly fitting lamp harp.
Finally, choosing a lamp shade is ultimately all about what delights you!  We have customers come to us all the time saying something like, “I bought a pair of lamps and shades from you three (or six or eight) years ago, and I just love them!  They make me so happy!”  Trust your eye.  If you think the lamp shade complements the lamp base well and the proportions seem right, if it makes your heart skip a beat, go for it! Best wishes for beautiful lighting

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