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Buyer's Guides - Lampshade Buyer's Guide

Lampshade Buyer's Guide in Buyer's Guides

Posted on October 21, 2014 by LampsUSA Experts | 0 comments

Match the Lamp Base

Think Size, Shape, Style, Color. Larger lamp bases require larger shades. Square bases may look better with a square shade. Victorian bases need a Victorian shade, etc. The goal is to match to style, or "mood" of the base.
Bonus Color Tip - Most shades are off-white or cream because the diffuse the light while still lighting the room. Dark shades should be used only for room "ambience" and to add drama. They do not really allow much light to filter through. But if you have good layered lighting in the room, dark shades help mood-creation and take the focus off the lamp and towards what they are lighting. Lighter color shades will provide more light for reading, etc.

Compliment the Base

A shade should make the base look better without competing with it for attention. Decide if the lamp base will be the “star-of-the- show”, or “best-supporting actor”. If your base is really unique, choose a simple shade to draw attention to the special features of the lamp. Hide the Switch - Your shade should just barely cover the switch. Try different sized harps or add a shade riser to fine-tune your shade fit.

Lampshade Sizing Rules

Shade height should be about 3/4 the height of the base. The bottom of the shade should be wider than the widest part of the base. Shade width should approximately equal the height from bottom of base to socket.
Consider the Use
Reading lamps need a wider shade to provide plenty of light. 
Consider the Room
What is the color and style of your room? Will the lamp have a starring role or compliment its surroundings?
Consider the Bulb
Be sure you have 2-3 inch separation from bulb to shade, especially for higher wattage bulbs. Be sure the top opening is wide enough to vent the heat. Compact Fluorescent bulbs are great for most lamps because they burn cooler, but you may need larger harp since CFL's are taller than standard light bulbs.

Measuring a Lampshade

Find the right size shade for your lamp. Follow these tips for correct measuring.

Shade Dimensions are typically given Top x Bottom x Height on the SLANT. Be sure to measure the slant height and not the vertical height.
The taller the lamp, the larger the shade. Most table lamps take a shade with a bottom diameter (B) of 16" or less. Floor lamps take a shade with a bottom diameter (B) of 16" or 18" or larger.
Measure the lamp's height from the bottom of the base to just below the socket(s). The basic rule of thumb is that the shade you choose should have a bottom diameter (B) that's approximately equal to this measurement.
Dimensions are measured in inches.
Height is the most important factor in choosing your shade. The new shade must cover the hardware but must also be proportionate to the size of the base. 
If shade looks good, but vertical positioning is the only problem, the shade can be raised or lowered by using a different size harp and/or riser. 
Width is the next important factor for the shade. Again, it must be proportionate with the size of the base. Best to stay close to the dimensions of your current shade. We recommend measuring the shade being replaced (with height and width being the two most important measurements). 

Choosing the Right Fitter 

A "fitter" is simply the way the shade connects to your lamp. Most lamps have "spider" fitters. Other common fitters include UNO or clip-on fitters. Check your existing lamp against the diagram and descriptions below to determine what type of fitter you need:
Harp/Spider Fitters
If your lamp has a harp you will need a shade with a spider fitter. The spider fitter sits on top of the harp and is secured by a finial. If your new shade is not EXACTLY the same size as your old shade, a new harp may be all you need for a perfect fit. Harps typically vary from 7” to 12” and they affect the vertical position of your lampshade. Click tobrowse our selection of lamp harps. If you do not have a harp but wish to use a shade with a spider fitter you must also purchase a harp. Harps are made in different sizes, which affects the vertical position of the lampshade.
UNO Fitters
If your lamp requires an uno fitter you must purchase a lamp shade that has an UNO fitter. The UNO fitter is built-in to the lampshade. There are two types of UNO fitters:
Slip-UNO fitters 
Sit on the socket and are held in place by the bulb.
Threaded-UNO fitters
Typically for down-bridge lamps and feature a screw thread for installation above the downward-facing bulb.
Clip-on Fitters
Clip-on lamp shades are typically for chandeliers. The clip fitter is built into the lamp shade and clips over a standard medium or candelabra bulb.
Reflector Bowl Spider Fitters
If your lamp has a reflector bowl inside the shade, a reflector spider fitter may be needed to secure its position. These fitters feature grooves in the spider arms for the secure positioning of reflector bowl. Reflector bowls are not sold as part of the lamp shade - they are usually shipped with the lamp base.

Choosing the Right Drop

Shades with a spider-type or UNO-type fitter usually have some distance between the top edge of the shade down to the center of the fitter. This makes the fitting less visible when viewing the lamp from the side but does raise the position of the shade by the drop distance.
Shades with spider-type fitters typically feature a 1/2 to 1 inch drop.
Shades with a Slip-UNO fitter have several inches of drop which varies per-shade, since the fitter has to drop down to below the bulb.
Threaded-UNO fitter shades typically feature a drop of 1 to 2 inches so as to conceal electrical attachments above the shade.

Considering Bulb Heat

Light bulbs produce heat, no matter their wattage. If your new shade is too close to the bulb, it could discolor the shade or worse: start a fire! Here's how to avoid these problems and choose the right shade
If using a 40 or 60 Watt incandescent bulb, leave at least 1-2 inches between the bulb and the shade
If using a 75 or 100 Watt incandescent bulb, leave at least 2-3 inches between the bulb and the shade
If using a 150 Watt incandescent bulb or higher, leave at least 3-4 inches between the bulb and the shade
If you are using a compact fluorescent bulb, it will run cooler and requires less space - leave at least 1-2 inches around the bulb.
Never exceed the maximum wattage. This could not only cause the shade to catch fire, but could also cause an electrical fire.
If you are unsure about a replacement shade, choose a shade close in size and shape to your original shade
Be sure the top of the shade is open to vent the heat. Never cover the top of your shade with a cloth or other material, especially with hotter bulbs, as it may cause the shade to overheat and the shade or cover may ignite. Remove the plastic from your new shade once you know you will keep it.

 

 

Glossary of Lamp Shade Terms

Coolie Shade
Simple designed straight-sided shades that usually feature a bottom width 3-4 times larger than the top, resulting in a shade that emits most of the light from the bottom.

Drop
Distance from the top of the shade to the center of the fitter.

Drum/Cylinder Shades
Drum and cylinder shades typically feature vertical or near-vertical sides and differ mainly in their proportions. Drum shades tend to be wider and cylinder shades tend to be wider and cylinder shades tend to be taller. In some cases the difference between them is hard to distinguish - a tall drum shade may
be similar to a short cylinder shade.

Empire Shades
Simple designed straight-sided shade that usually feature a bottom about twice as wide as the top.

Faux Leather
A artificial shade fabric with a texture similar to leather, often accented with real or faux leather stitching.

Finial
An ornamental decoration made of ceramic, metal, stone, crystal, wood, etc. used to securely fasten the lampshade to the harp.

Fitters
The metal structure that attaches the shade to the lamp base. The most common type is the Spider Fitter which resembles a spoked wheel and connects to a harp with a finial. A Clip-On Fitter features metal loops allowing the shade to attach on top of the bulb. Larger clip-on shades are designed to attach directly to a standard Edison bulb, while smaller chandelier shades have smaller loops to fit a candelabra bulb. An Uno Fitter is designed with a larger center opening which fits snugly on the socket. Slip Uno Fitters feature a large drop and rest on the socket of a table lamp. Threaded Uno Fitters actually screw on to the socket so it can hang downward, typically on down-bridge floor lamps.

Flecks/Nubbly texture
A feature of the thread used to make a lamp shade, where sections of the thread are thicker or more frayed than others. When woven into a lamp shade this produces areas that are a different texture or color. This added dimension of texture is usually most visible when the light is shining through the shade. The degree of flecks ranges greatly from subtle to eccentric. Some shades will feature a second thread for the purposes of adding texture and dimension. Silk and Shantung shades often feature natural flecks or nubbly areas.

Floor/Empire/Coolie Shades
Slope-sided shades of varying degrees. Floor shades feature steep sides. Empire shades feature a medium slope and are typically in proportion for table lamps. Coolie shades feature the most gradual slope with a smaller top diameter and wider base, ideal for particular styles of lamps.

Frame
The metal structure of a lamp shade which maintains its shape and extends toward the center of the shade in the form of a fitter. The fitter is a part of the frame and in many cases is the only visible part of the frame. The frame is often outlined covered by a trim. Some lamps ship with a collapsible-frame shade where the vertical struts collapse and can be locked in place upon installation, re-expanding the shade.

Gallery
A vertical/flat band around the top and/or bottom edge of a lamp shade. This can take the form of tassels, beads, crystals, loops, braids, rope, lace or an extension of the main shade. The gallery is usually vertical and sometimes moves freely, but at rest forms a band around the shade, as if a `viewing gallery` or `decorative wall` around the shade. Sometimes a shade will feature a gallery or band around the top of the shade.

Gimp
A form of braid used to accent the edges of a lampshade. The gimp may also be referred to as braiding, rope, cord or other decorative term. Popular gimp styles feature a figure eight pattern.

Hardback
A stiff backing applied to the inner surface of a lamp shade to keep its shape over time. During the creation of a hardback lampshade, the fabric is laminated over a stiff but bendable backing material, typically a plastic such as a styrene. The hard backing helps the shade to keep its form, prevents drooping or warping, and extends the life of the shade. With a hardback shade it often becomes unnecessary to use extra metal framework running between the top and bottom of the shade, since the backing maintains the shape. This removes the shadows or blocks to light caused by the presence of vertical framework showing through the shade.

Harp
A vertical U-Shaped metal support used to attach the shade to the lamp base. Harps are typically 6-12” high. Changing the size of the harp often helps your shade fit better.

Jacquard
A leaf-like scroll pattern that is printed or embossed into a fabric, used to make a lampshade. `Jacquard` is a classic design having been used for many centuries. Jacquard shades feature leafy-scrolling patterns.

Lamp Base
The actual body, typically made of crystal, brass, ceramic, resin, stone, etc. The base is wired with a socket and cord.

Lampshade
Decorative covering, usually fabric, used to diffuse and direct the light from the bulb. A properly chosen shade will enhance the base and bring out its best features without competing with it for attention. (The life of the party can also use it as a hat late on a wild evening.)

Lining
An additional surface applied to the inside of a lamp shade, used to filter or reflect light. A reflective lining such as gold or silver helps to reflect light away from the shade surface and focuses it out of the top and bottom. This keeps the outer appearance of the shade the same color and tone as when the light is off. This is useful for dark or black shades that you want to stay dark-looking even when the lamp is on. It also prevents the shade from absorbing some of the light, increasing overall light output. A reflective lining also hides the appearance of a bright-spot from the light bulb, as seen through the shade. Other types of lining include plastic, linen and other fabrics, each with its own degree of diffusing and reflecting light. Some linings allow some light through while also increasing the output through the top and bottom of the shade.

Piping/Ribbing
Vertical pipes of material running up the outside edge of a lamp shade. Piping is a hollow pipe made of fabric, usually flattened and applied to the shade surface, but sometimes also made from braids or solid tubes. The piping accentuates the shape of the shade particularly in areas that are flat and void of features. A shade with piping typically features several pipes arranged evenly around the shade, or spaced attractively. Piping can conceal joins in the underlying shade surface and can create surface tension to help maintain the shape of a shade over time.

Pleated
Where the shade fabric folds back on itself creating a pleat. There are many forms of pleating creating different patterns, pleat sizes, edging and shapes. Sometimes the top and bottom of the side of the shade is stitched into place creating flat pleats, while the pleats may also proceed all the way to the top and bottom creating a sawtooth edge. Pleats can form straight lines or fan designs.

Reflector Bowl
An open-top bowl usually in the shape of a hemisphere and often made of frosted, opaque or colored glass. It sits on the socket along with the harp and causes the light to be deflected, diffused and reflected upwards. The glass is usually frosted/opaque to diffuse the light through the sides of the shade and to direct most of the light toward the ceiling for indirect lighting. It also disguises the bright center of the light bulb to reduce glare and present a more `even` light. Ridges on the reflector spider fitter allows the top of the shade be centered over the bowl and kept from slipping. Reflector bowls usually come with the lamp base.

Riser
A small metal cylinder used to raise the shade. Usually 1-2”, a riser screws in to the top of the harp and the shade sits on the riser and the finial screws on top of the riser. Risers are an alternative to changing the harp to properly fit your shade.

Scalloped
The variegated contour of the top and/or bottom edge of a lamp shade. The shape of the scallop suggests the shade material is draped and hanging. Scalloped edges are often offset by fancy trims, tassels and beads.

Shantung
A heavy lamp shade fabric with a rough nubby surface, made of spun wild silk, rayon or cotton. Non-silk shantung is intended to be an imitation of silk.

Slant Height
The measurement from the outermost tip of the top edge of a lamp shade, to the outermost tip of the bottom edge, on a diagonal and in a straight line. We use the slant height to describe the `height` (length of the side) of the shade. The slant height is easily measured outside the shade, even when the shade is installed, and should be measured in a straight line regardless of any curvature in the shape of the shade. Bell shades are just as easily measured, measuring in a straight line from top to bottom, ignoring the curved surface. (Since most shades do not have vertical sides, it is difficult to get an accurate vertical measurement, usually requires the shade to be removed from the lamp. It is easier and more intuitive to measure the outside of the shade on the slant from top to bottom.)

Socket
Metal receptacle at the top of the lamp base that holds the bulb and usually contains the switch. A slip UNO fitter or a harp generally sits beneath the socket.

Square/Rectangular/Hexagonal/Oval Shades
The shape of a lamp shade when viewed from above or below is typically a circle, but can be other shapes. Oval shades are popular and are wider than they are deep, requiring two diameter measurements for both the top and the bottom to describe their shape. An oval shade adds an extra dimension to your lamp. Shades are also found with square perimeters, rectangles, hexagons, indented/cut-corners and many other styles.

Trim
The way that a lampshade is finished and the surface contained around the top and bottom edges of the shade. The trim creates a more pleasing profile, conceals the edges of the main shade materials, highlights the shape of the shade and buffers the edges of the shade against knocks or damage. The trim also hides the metal frame of the lampshade which runs around the edges of the shade. Some shades such as certain types of pleated shades may not have any trim at all, to show off their jagged edges.

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