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<<Back  to Buying Guides>>

Lampshade Buying Guide
Shop LampshadesLampshade Buying TipsMaesuring a LampshadeChoosing a FitterLampshade DropLampshade Glossary

Buying Tips - How to Choose the Right Lamp Shade

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.

Sizing Rules of Thumb

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.

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Candelabra Shades - SHOP
Small shades that usually feature a clip-on fitter, candelabra shades are designed for chandeliers.

Coolie Shade- SHOP
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.

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

Drum/Cylinder Shades - SHOP
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
[read more...]

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

Fitters - SHOP
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.
[read more...]

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
[read more...]

Floor/Empire/Coolie Shades - SHOP
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.
[read more...]

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
[read more...]

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
[read more...]

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.

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
[read more...]

Harp - SHOP
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.

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 - SHOP
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.)

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
[read more...]

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
[read more...]

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
[read more...]

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
[read more...]

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.

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.

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
[read more...]

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 - SHOP
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,
[read more...]

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
[read more...]

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Measuring a Lampshade(see diagram below)

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.

Measuring Lampshades

  • 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).

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Choosing the Right Fitter (see diagram below)

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.

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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 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.

Lampshade bulb safe distances

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Steve Brielmaier – Lighting and Lamp Design   

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