Lamp Shades

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HOW TO PICK THE PERFECT VINTAGE LAMPSHADE FOR YOUR LAMP

If you’d just as soon put a vintage lamp shade on your head as try and match it to a lamp, you’re not alone. Choosing a vintage lamp shade from scratch is just about one of the trickiest design tasks we can think of. Go with too big of a vintage lamp shade and it can dwarf your lamp, while going too small can make your lamp look like a big fish in a little pond. And while we’ll admit it sounds like fun, who has time to buy a dozen vintage lamp shades and then facilitate a lamp shade fashion show?

To shed a light on the things, we’ve broken down the basics on choosing the perfect vintage lamp shade. Equip yourself with this lamp shade cheat sheet and we guarantee that you’ll be rewarded with one enlightened combo!

THE SIZE OF THE MATTER

First things first, when it comes to vintage and used lamp shades, we need to have a frank discussion about size. For table lamps, follow these two basic rules and you’ll be golden: (1) your vintage lamp shade should be approximately ¾ of the size of your lamp base (2) your used lamp shade’s circumference should measure approximately an inch wider than the widest point of your lamp base. Sound complicated? We promise, it’s all basic instinct.

Thankfully; if you’re looking for a used lamp shade for a floor lamp, things can be reduced to this one basic wisdom: choose a shade that has a circumference of 18 inches or wider. Yep, that’s it. A snap, right?

One last tip to bear in mind when it comes to size? Ensure that your used lamp shade covers the lamp harp, hardware, and bears no less than 1” of the lamp neck. In some cases, a used lamp shade that falls short of covering these “unmentionables” can be remedied with a smaller harp, but be careful, as lamps usually come factory-equipped with the best-fitting harp.

SHAPING UP

If you think about the way certain face shapes take to certain hats, a lamp is much the same. To make the most befitting statement, try matching your used lamp shade’s shape to your lamp’s shape. Meaning, if you have a square lamp, go for a square lamp shade. Some even go as far as to say that your used lamp shade should also mimic the shape of the table on which it sits. And while we agree that this does put a nice polish on the edges, don’t let yourself get too bogged down in the particulars—lamp shades aren’t a perfect science.

Other shapes to know and consider include the Empire lamp shade—a cone with the top lopped off—and the drum, which features a cylinder shape. Because both of these shades showcase circular silhouettes, they’ll lend themselves to circular (read: cylinder, urn-shaped, or candlestick) lamps nicely. If you have a square lamp but want something a bit more gussied up than a standard square, try a pagoda lamp shade.

Of course, sometimes rules are meant to be broken, and if you’re short on space there’s no better excuse to grab a square lamp shade to top a candlestick or spindle lamp. The square, if you think about it, will allow you to cozy your lamp right up against the wall, creating extra room on a narrow console or more room to pass by in a cramped entry.

MATERIAL CHOICES

Before choosing a material for your vintage lamp shade, it’s best to decide how much transparency you’ll need. While lighting in a dining room needn’t be bright enough to read by, bedside lighting will likely require that it is. Transparency is more often linked to a used lamp shade’s color than material, so opt for a vintage lamp shade in a white or off-white color if a high wattage shine is your aim, and reserve shades in opaque hues—like blacks and charcoals—for spaces where cinematics take precedence over function.

With color out of the way, it’s time to move on to making decisions about your used lamp shade’s material. Among our favorite lamp shade materials is parchment. Parchment has more in common with paper than fabric making it excellent at diffusing light and providing a clean, rolled look.

Looking for something slightly more substantial? Silk and cotton lampshades will also provide ample light while lending lamps a polished, “finished” appearance. Among the other tallies that cotton can log into the “pros” column is the way it translate print. If you crave an Ikat print lamp shade or a dip-dyed shade, look for cotton, which soaks up color like water on a hot summer’s day and showcases a clean, crisp print. Both silk and cotton also come in rolled and pleated finishes—but word to the wise? Save the pleats for uber-traditional spaces, as they can sometimes read as a bit stodgy.

A final material to consider—especially if you’re in the market for a rustic lamp shade—is linen. Linen’s subtle crosshatch texture will play to time-worn furnishings like a song, exuding a durability that fussier materials like silk lack.