Saturday, March 20, 2010

How to select the right lamp shade by Nashville Interior Designer

This room below is what I call DESIGN MAGIC! The scale is beautiful, the colors are striking, and the LAMPS are the perfect size in proportion to the sofa, for reading, knitting, doing crosswords or anything that requires SEEING stuff! A+ for meeting our GO BIG or GO HOME motto!

In an effort to over come all your decorating woes, I thought I would do a follow-up on our 'How to select the right lamp' post. I could not believe the overwhelming response I received! I think that it is truly great that everyone is running out to purchase great lamps, on behalf of my advice. Wow, so this is what Oprah feels like! Ha!

First and for most-Make sure the shade is the right SCALE. Students, if you still haven't gotten this one, I'm in BIG trouble! These lamps are wrong, wrong, wrong:

Too small, too low. What am I suppose to do? Crawl under my lamp to read my cartoons at night? I might as well sit on the floor! Compare these photos, to the beautiful photo above. Do you SEE the difference? The lamps above are tall and will cast light where it needs to be. The lamps shown above are USELESS. The light is so low that it is pointless to have them. I shouldn't have to twist myself into a pretzel to use my lamps at night-or crawl around on the COLD floor!

First-Choose a harp that is the right size for the lamp. The standard height is 10" but they are available in a multitude of sizes.
The size of the harp determines where the shade will sit on the lamp and this is very important. If the shade is too high the socket shell and cap will show. (see diagram above for terminology) These lamps below have their "unmentionables" showing. But by making it a decorative element it extends the lamp shade upward allowing for a taller lamp and offers more light. So in this case, unmentionables are A-ok!

Big Site                                                             Blink decor

Next choosing a lamp shade. Measure your lamp. Find the widest horizontal measurement. The shade you choose should not be more than 2" wider than that measurement. But the BEST rule of thumb-LOOK at it. Here is an example I did in my office. Clearly the first choice is WAY too big!

Remember when you are choosing a lamp shade you have to keep the lamp style in consideration. A  decorative lamp, needs a simple shade (like this one below). Also notice this lamps "unmentionables" are not showing.

Last but not least, Shade types. There are different TYPES of shades that are available (these are THE MOST popular:)

This is an example of a DRUM shade

Real simple      
 BARREL shade (similar to DRUM but has a slight taper)                                                                            



There are numerous more, but the above are most prominent in lamp trends today. The most popular is the barrel and drum shade. They are probably most favored because they are sleek, simple, and produce the most light. I need to SEE stuff!! (if you look back to the first photo above from the New York Times, that shade is a ribbed EMPIRE)

Lamps and shades is a wonderful book on how to view shades in a whole different way. It offers a ton of inspiring ideas and also explains in more detail how to update or improve the lamps in your own home!

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Need more help? Want more info? Email me and let me know your questions, and I will answer them here!


  1. Even though I have a very small house with very challenging design considerations I am truly enjoying your posts.
    thank you

  2. I love those lamps in the first picture, Amanda! Yes, I do see the "unmentionables" as an issue sometimes. The thing that always gets me though ~ take the plastic off the lampshades ~ PLEASE! I always hear about dust being the excuse but dust gets on the plastic, too!

  3. Muchísimas gracias por sus consejos, son muy práticos.
    Un saludo

  4. Excellent post darling, I did not know what all those tiny pieces were called! Every client I have we end up at a store in town called the Victoria Lampshade shop where we revitalize an old lamp with a new shade (and sometimes a new harp and finial) and my clients are always so tickled walking out because it's like they have a new lamp :)

  5. Hi, My name is Tammy and I'm a recovering lamp addict. I think it may be time to get off this wagon and get some new lamps !

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  8. Great post!! I always have trouble finding shades for my lamps!!

  9. The fabric gives the lamp a whole new look. It looks simple but chic making it really a great deal ion the room.

  10. I am seriously impressed with your blog. You just don't post eye-candy pictures but try to give lesson and note-worthy tips to your readers as well. Most of the time people just pick lamps because of the design. This post is definitely helpful and gives a very nice perspective in choosing the best lamp. Great post!

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