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Buyer's Guides - Lampshade Buyer's Guide

Lampshade Buyer's Guide

Posted on June 24, 2015 by Paul West | 2 comments

Finding the Perfect Lamp Shade

Choosing the right lamp shade for your lamp or fixture can be a little confusing, but with this lampshade guide we will empower you to choose exactly the right lamp shade. We will consider the size, proportions and shape of the shade in relation to the base, its functionality, and also the style, color and materials. Choosing the right lamp shade can be simple and easy once you understand which type of shade is best suited to your needs.

What you'll find in this guide

The Benefits of a Lamp Shade

The Practical Uses of Different Lamp Shades

How Lamp Shades Affect the Light

Hardback vs Softback Shades

Popular Lamp Shade Shapes

How to Match the Shade Shape to the Lamp Base

The benefits of a lamp shade

Lampshades provide a number of benefits for your room and for the people in your room.

  • Shields your eyes from the harsh glare of a light bulb
  • Directs and focuses light in a way that you find most useful - e.g. as ambient light, or for reading purposes
  • Provides a decorative element to complement your interior design and room theme
  • Funnels heat away from the bulb
  • Adds a color accent to your room
  • Works together with a lamp base or light fixture to position light where you need it
  • Filters and diffuses or reflects light to change the mood of a room between soft and strong

The Practical Uses of Different Lamp Shades

Different types of lamp shades serve a different purpose. Besides shielding your eyes from the glare of a light bulb, their shape is not purely for decorative reasons. The correct shade greatly affects the kind of light the lamp gives off, as well as where that light is directed. Different types of lamp shades correlate to different functions for practical purposes, be it sitting nearby, at a distance, or as an ambient light source. If you are not as concerned about how the lamp assists you in your daily activities, you may prefer to make a choice purely for decorative reasons.

An empire shade over a bedside dresser

An empire shade provides a spread of light for a bedside desk as well as for reading in bed.

A bell shade floor lamp over a comfortable chair

A bell shade atop a floor lamp provides a maximum area of illumination for sitting beneath to read.

A drum pendant shade

A slim drum on this pendant light, radiating strong and focussed light downward over a dining table as well as illuminating the room with ambient light via the ceiling.

Using both sides of a table lamp

A single table lamp with a bell lampshade provides a local spread of light for nearby seating.

Floor lamps beside a couch

A pair of floor lamps with narrow drum shades prove strong ambient and local light for a softer mood.

Decorative shade on a side table

The opaque shade on this lamp provides a decorative, less functional ambient light over a narrow side-table.

How Lamp Shades Affect the Light

Light emits from different shaped shades in different ways, which affects how far the light is useful and for what purposes. Light emitting from the top of the shade produces a reflected ambient light bouncing off the ceiling, while light emitting below produces a more focused light surrounding furniture. Additional light shines through the sides of the shade itself, whereby a white or light-colored shade allows the most light to pass through. Darker-colored shades and hardback shades tend to block more of the light.

The shape of light emitting from a lampshade

Drum shades provide an medium spread of light from both ends An empire shade provides most light from the bottom, the least from the top A bell shade provides a balance between light from the top and a wide spread of light from the bottom

Light from Drum or Cylinder Shades

Example of a drum shade
  • Focus most of the light directly out through the top and bottom
  • May or may not emit light through the sides of the shade, depending on if it is hard-back/lined or not
  • Taller cylinder shades create an even narrower funnel of light
  • Shallow drum shades can produce quite a wide spread of light depending on the angle between the bulb and the edges of the shade
  • Emit roughly the same amount of light through the top and bottom, providing focused and ambient light
  • Ideal over a table or on a tall floor lamp, or as a less functional table lamp

Light from Empire or Coolie Shades

Example of an empire shade
  • Flared bottom emits the most light, less from the top
  • Maximizes the spread of light output through the bottom to the surrounding area
  • Still covers the bulb enough to shield your eyes, but less suitable on a tall floor lamp since you may see the bulb when seated
  • Since the light is more spread out, it is more diffused, meaning the intensity of light in any given point on furniture etc may be less
  • While this shape produces more diffused light below, its amount is increased by having a narrower opening at the top

Light from Bell Shades

Example of a bell shade
  • Attempts to keep more ambient light emitting from the top of the shade while also emphasizing light from the bottom
  • A good tradeoff between a drum/cylinder shade and an empire/coolie shade
  • Usually emits some light through the sides of the shade since bell shades are less often lined/hard-back due to difficulty of construction
  • Diffuses light from the bottom by spreading the light out, possibly even more than an empire shade, making it more ambient while also reflecting ambient light from the ceiling
  • The combination of a non-lined bell shade emitting light through the sides of the shade, as well as a large amount of ambient light produced above and below, makes the bell shade in general a more ambient light source

TIP: Also consider also what other sources of light are in the room - if you have bright light from a main light fixture, your lamps may provide accent lighting, or mood lighting when used alone. If you need them to be a primary light source for sitting and reading, opt for a more flared shape of shade such as empire/coolie, provided it complements the style of the base. Also consider a hard-backed shade for increasing the light output from below the shade.

Hardback vs Softback Shades

Gold-lined hardback lampshade
A gold-lined black lamp shade reflects light within the shade and tints it a golden color.

Hard-Back Lamp Shades

Lampshades hold their shape either due to a hard lining or with the use of a metal framework. A `hard-backed` shade is typically lined with plastic or or other materials designed to prevent light from passing through the sides of the shade. The hard lining allows the shape of the shade to be quite firm and less likely to change over time. The firm backing is glued into place behind a more attractive outer material.

Benefits of a hard-back shade

  • More of the light has to be reflected away from the interior surface (which is typically white or gold)
  • More of it will pass out through the top and bottom of the shade
  • A hardback shade can maximize the amount of light emitted above and below the shade
  • Brightens the overall perceived light output
  • Helpful when the wattage of the bulb is quite high and the light is bright, to shield your eyes when viewing the lamp from the side, yet harnessing the light output from below
  • Useful when you are using the surrounding light output for practical purposes, such as reading or other activities.
  • Require less supportive hardware in order to maintain the shape of the shade
  • Reflective surface may be tinted gold which will influence the color of the light output, making it warmer
Hardback lampshade in a room
A hard-back shade reflects maximum light from beneath the shade while shielding your eyes.

Side-Effects of a hard-back shade

  • Light is blocked from passing through the sides of the shade
  • The shade itself does not appear to illuminate as much when the lamp is switched on.
  • Reflective surface, if tinted gold, will change the color of the light, which may be undesirable
  • May cost a little more to ship to you since the shade has to ship fully assembled to maintain its shape
  • Focuses light strongly so does not provide as much diffused ambient light, but a hard-backed drum shade can maximize ambient lighting

Soft-Back Lamp Shades

A soft-back shade does not have a firm lining, although it may still potentially be lined. The lining, however, would be flexible, such as a linen or paper, and so does not provide support for maintaining the shape of the lampshade. As a result, soft-back or `un-backed` shades require additional vertical supports between the bottom and top of the shade to maintain shape.

Soft-back lamp shade
This soft-backed lampshade emits light through the shade itself, for a softer light, and reveals a textured pattern in the shade material.

Benefits of a softer shade

  • Allows light to pass through the sides of the shade
  • The shades are usually lighter in color to allow more light to escape
  • The closer the shade is to white the less it will absorb parts of the light spectrum, and thus allows more light to pass through
  • A softer shade illuminates the room partly through a diffused light passing through the shade itself, and so less light bounces around inside the shade to be emitted from the top and bottom, resulting in a softer light
  • Well suited for general ambient illumination as well as some focused light below the shade, thus multi-purpose
  • Given it is structured by a metal framework, that framework can be designed to be collapsible, which may reduce shipping costs
  • Allows for the use of attractive textures and patterns or multiple colors which show up as the light emanates through the shade material
  • Permits the use of interesting materials which might not be as effective when the shade does not emit light through the sides, such as paper, linen, certain fabrics or textured materials

Side-Effects of a softer shade

  • Metal supports can tend to show up as shadows or darkened areas showing through the shade when the light is switched on
  • Metal structure blocks the light a little and has some potential to become distorted if damaged
  • The presence of the metal frame may cause a slight local distortion in the shape of the shade, since fabrics and other materials may tend to dip inward in-between the supports
  • While the metal framework around the top and bottom of the shade maintain a perfect shape, toward the center of the shade the shape may be slightly less than perfect
  • Since light passes through the shade, the bulb can at least partly be seen and there may be some degree of brightness when viewing from the side
  • Generally not so common in darker colors, since the aim it so allow light to pass through and light is blocked more as the material absorbs color

Popular Lamp Shade Shapes

Let's take a look at the main lamp shade shapes, so you can get an idea of what may be available or which shape might suit your lamp or light fixture.

Cylinder-shaped lamp shadesView some Cylinder Shades

Cylinder Shades

Cylinder-shaped lamp shades are taller than they are wide, with vertical straight sides. These tall shades are best for unusually tall lamp bases, or floor lamps. They funnel equal amounts of light out of the top and bottom without spreading the light outwards, producing a large amount of ambient reflected light.

Because they are so much taller than wide, their proportions look good on narrow lamp bases. Their very open-ended nature maximizes the amount of light output.

Drum-shaped lamp shadesView some Drum shades

Drum Shades

Drum-shaped shades are similar to cylinder shades except they are flatter, typically wider than they are tall, similar to a musical drum. Drum shades look good on a variety of table lamps and floor lamps, but also can be suited to pendant light fixtures. With vertical sides, maximum light emits through the top and bottom of the drum shade producing ambient reflected light in the room.

When used in an overhead pendant it provides ample light output for visual clarity. On a table lamp the drum shade gives a contemporary, modern look. A drum shade is well suited to a lamp base with wide proportions. Being open-ended allows a maximum amount of  light to be released through both ends of the shade. 

Floor-shaped lamp shadesView some Floor shades

Floor Shades

Floor lamps typically require a slightly larger shade than table lamps. Also due to the height of the lamp, they tend to look better with a drum or floor-style shade. A floor shade is almost a drum shade, except the sides are slightly slanted. This shape complements the proportions of the floor lamp.

A floor shade distributes light out through the bottom with a slight spread, illuminating a larger area around the lamp base. Similarly the top of the floor shade is less open, slightly restricting the amount of ambient reflected light shining out through the top. Often a floor lamp is located near to a seating area, and thus provides a cone of light which can extend at least partly across the furniture. Floor lamps in general provide a large amount of light close to functional spaces.

Empire-shaped lamp shadesView some Empire shades

Empire Shades

Empire-shaped lampshades strike a balance between slanted sides and visually-appealing proportions. These straight-sided shades are found commonly on many table lamps and some floor lamps. The narrower opening at the top is still large enough to vent heat from the light bulb, yet allows the bottom of the shade to flare more in order to spread light outwards.

This wider cone of light illuminates a wider area beneath and to the sides of the lamp, providing a hotspot of local light ideal for reading and other activities. Since most of the light is cast downwards, there is less ambient light reflected off the ceiling and more light spread outward near to seating areas or or top of furniture.

Coolie-shaped lamp shadesView some Coolie shades

Coolie Shades

A coolie lamp shade features a very wide spread of light, since the top of the shade is very narrow and the bottom very open. The sides of the coolie shade are heavily slanted. Coolie shades tend to be flatter (less height) due to the proportions of the shape.

The coolie shade restricts ambient light emitting from the top of the shade, while maximizing the amount of light spreading out from the bottom. The shape of the shade also directs the light to spread as widely as possible to the sides of the shade for maximum coverage. This can be useful when your lamp is serving to illuminate tasks or projects or for reading.

Bell-shaped lamp shadesView some Bell shades

Bell Shades

The bell shade is very popular and provides an elegant, relaxed shape. The sides of the shade curve inwards producing a shape that resembles a `bell`. The flare at the bottom helps to distribute light outwards for maximum coverage, while the top of the shade remains quite wide to help facilitate the escape of heat and ambient light.

The bell shade is well suited to table lamps with a more curved base shape.

Oval-shaped lamp shadesView some Oval shades

Oval Shades

With an oval-shaped shade, looking down on the shade from above reveals an oval shape rather than a perfect circle. The shade wider than it is deep, front-to-back. An oval or flatter style of lamp base goes well with it. It can help to situate a lamp on a narrower piece of furniture closer to a wall without extruding into the room, helping to ensure the lamp will not be knocked over by passers by.

Oval shades are less common but look good when their shape complements the shape of the base. An oval shade may have an oval profile from the top, while having any of the other shapes when viewed from the side, such as an oval bell, an oval empire, an oval drum etc.

Square-shaped lamp shadesView some Square shades

Square and Rectangular Shades

Square and rectangle-shaped shades complement a lamp base which is very rectangular in appearance. Suited mainly to contemporary modern lamps, they work well with floor lamps and table lamps. The rectangular shade has flat edges rather than circular edges, and thus produces corners. Some varieties of square shade also feature a 'cut corner' as a decorative modification to its shape.

Square or rectangular shades are most obvious when viewed from above or at an angle, but from the side may feature a bell shape (pagoda), drum shape, or empire shape. Rectangular or square shades with a very narrow or no opening in the top may be thought of as a pyramid shade.

Hexagonal-shaped lamp shadesView some Hexagon shades

Hexagon and Octagon Shades

Unusual-shaped shades includes hexagons and octagons, with 6 or 8 flat sides. A little more extreme than simply a cut-cornered square shade, these shades feature equal-length edges around the top and bottom of the shade.

This design is more for visual appeal and functions similarly to most other shades depending on the side profile of the shape. These could be bell or empire or drum shades which, when viewed from above or below, reveal a hexagonal or octagonal shape. These shape shades are much less commonplace than most other types.

Tiffany-style lampsView some Tiffany lamps

Tiffany shades

Louis Tiffany created the Tiffany Lamp, featuring metal or soldered structures with hundreds of pieces of colored glass. These intricate designs produce a heavy, long-lasting attractive shade. Tiffany shades come in all kinds of shapes and sizes and designs. Since the shade can be constructed piece-by-piece, they often exhibit unusual shapes and beautiful colors not found in typical lamp shades.

Usually a tiffany shade is specifically designed to match a fit to a particular lamp base, so finding a replacement usually entails contacting the manufacturer of the original lamp. Tiffany shades tend to also be quite expensive, although for a reason - their magnificent beauty when lit makes them a family treasure. Tiffany shades can be found on floor lamps, accent lamps, desk lamps, table lamps, and even a wide variety of tiffany light fixtures.

Art-glass style lampsView some Art-Glass lamps

Art-Glass Shades

Art-glass is a special kind of toughened glass designed to be lighter and less fragile than real or tiffany glass. Lamps with an art-glass shade make a bold statement. Commonly a single piece of art glass is used in a very unique hand-crafted shape. Since art-glass can be molded into endless shapes, it can be manipulated to resemble flowers, animals or even traditional shade shapes with unusual edge designs.

In addition to the shape, art-glass shades feature extraordinary patterns of vibrant color, with swirls of multiple hues mixed in. While art-glass lamps are readily available, finding replacement glass shades is less simple - usually through contacting the manufacturer of the original lamp, since each piece is so uniquely specific to the lamp itself.

Miniature chandelier lamp shadesView some Chandelier shades

Mini Chandelier Shades

Chandelier light fixtures feature multiple arms extending outward with individual light bulbs at the ends. Rather than be blinded by dazzling light, the bulbs are typically shielded with miniature lampshades. These extra-small shades are just large enough to cover the light bulb with little extra.

Chandelier lamp shades come in as many varieties of shape and design and color as for lamps. A typical chandelier may feature 4 to 6 or even 9 bulbs, and so replacing a complete set of chandelier shades can give your chandelier a completely new look.

How to Match the Shade Shape to the Lamp Base

The shape of the base of your lamp has a great deal to do with the appropriate shape for its lampshade. A well-chosen shade should complement the base's profile, drawing upon shapes and angles in order for the shade to be a `continuation` of the design theme. Different shaped lamp bases call for different shade shapes that are ideally suited to them.

A bell shade on a curved base

A base featuring a curved profile is complemented by a curved bell shade. You can see here the pattern of a curve ending in a platform is repeated from the base to the shade, albeit inverted. Bell shades match well to a curved base profile.

Rounded drums in base and shade

A barrel, drum or cone-style lamp base is reflected well by a rounded drum/cylinder shade. Rounded/cylindrical bases tend to work better with rounded shades than square shades.

Repeated shapes in base and shade

Sometimes shapes are directly repeated in the base as in the shade. Here, trapezium shapes occur multiple times and the shade is an extension of the base's design theme. Since the base's view from above/below is a square, the square shade works well.

Repeated rectangles in base and shade

Bases with a square or rectangular profile do well complemented with a rectangular shade. Since these angular shapes tend to be more modern, a square/rectangular shade is a good match.

Repeated pyramids in base and shade

Sometimes the shape of the shade may reflect the shape of only a portion of the base. Here, trapezium/pyramid shapes are repeated in the shade and the foot of the base, as well as in the patterning of the shade itself.

Mirrored proportions

Proportions of shade and base should be reasonably similar. Here an unusually tall/thin lamp base is well complemented by an unusually flat/thin drum shade, continuing the theme of elegance. Also very narrow lamp bases look good with a drum or rectangle shade.

Contrasting shapes in base and shade

While both lamp base and shade here are circular, since the base features a bold shape, the shade chosen is also a boldly contrasting shape. Use a partly contradictory or balancing shape of shade for added drama. Notice the shade is still round and the base is still round when viewed from above or below.

Balanced curves in shade and base

While this lamp base bends outward, the shade bends inward. Both elements thus feature a curved surface, but they work together to form a balance. This also produces a flowing visual line from the bottom of the lamp to the top. Notice also the need for a square-style shade due to the base's square sides.

Deciding which shade shape would match your base

Fancy lamp base with plain shade

A plain lampshade allows this show-stealing lamp base to draw your attention without competing.

When you are missing the old shade from your lamp, and with only the base to work with, here are some guidelines for choosing a new replacement shade. If your lamp already has a shade which you are replacing, you could look for a similar shape and style, or consider these rules for choosing something fresh.

Step 1: Look for the patterns in your lamp base when viewed from the side. Is it curvy? Is it very angular? Cone-like? Highly rounded? Rectangular? This gives you a clue about what the shape of the shade might be, unless you plan to go with a strongly contrasting profile

Step 2: Consider the shape of your base when viewed from above or below. If it is square-looking, you are better off with a shade which also looks square when viewed from above or below. Remember that how the base and shade look from the side can be quite different to how it looks from above/below.

Step 3: Consider the proportions of the base. Is it very narrow, or quite wide? Now take that sense of proportion and rotate it 90 degrees to the left or right. If your lamp base is quite tall and narrow, you would do well with a 'flat' shade. If your lamp base is quite wide, you would do well with a taller/thicker shade.

Step 4: 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. If the base is simpler, the shade could stand out more both in color and shape.

A properly fitted lampshade will match or compliment the lamp base in Size, Proportions, Shape, Style, and Color. Larger lamp bases will also require larger shades. The goal is to match to style, "mood" and design of the base, otherwise your lamp might look like it `doesn't go together`.

Floor Lamp Tip: Floor lamps are much taller than table lamps, typically a drum shade or `floor shade` with a slight slant usually looks best. Or if the base is somewhat curved then a bell shade may be suitable. Generally empire or coolie shades are less popular for floor lamps because they may tend not to be tall enough to balance the size of the base. Floor shades are also generally larger in order to keep within the proportions of the taller base.

Matching with your furniture

Lamp shade matches furniture

As an extension of your lamp, consider the furniture it sits on or is near to. What shapes do you see there? What are the proportions like, as a whole and for individual parts?

  • Rectangular furniture: is likely to be best complemented by a more angular or rectangular shade
  • Sculptured rounded furniture: is likely to match best with a more rounded shade especially if the furniture has rounded corners
  • Proportions: Is the furniture wide and flat or tall and narrow? Consider how your lamp may complement or balance the shape
  • Decor: Consider the rest of your room's theme. Think about the textures and colors and shapes that your lamp could tie into. Is there a strong color that you'd like to match or contrast with?

 

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. The most common finial thread size for harps is 1/4"-27.
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 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. Finials often attach to a 1/4"-27 thread.

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. Harp threads are often 1/4"-27.

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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Comments

  • Carol Griffin

    Very helpful & informative. How useful will be determined by how successful I am in obtaining the lampshade I need for less than a zillion dollars! :)

  • Terry

    Very informative article. I wish I had read it before I purchased and returned several lampshades. Now I have a much better idea about the features of a lampshade; and I will consider these features when I choose the shade for my pole lamp. Thank you!

 

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