Navigating the world of lamps and lampshades can be a tricky business. You’ve fallen in love with a lamp base but now you need to choose a lampshade to go with it. Where do you begin? You could go through every single lampshade and try it on the lamp but that is both a) time consuming and b) not possible if you’re buying online. We’re sharing our expert guide on how to measure a lampshade and advice on the best lampshade sizes, guaranteed to help you find the perfect fit.
To find the best size lampshade, start by measuring the lamp itself using a tape measure (or ruler). For the height, measure from the lamp base to the bottom of the rod, so the rod and the bulb holder are not included in the measurement. Make a note of the height (shown as c) and width (d). There are three golden rules to remember when it comes to how to measure your lampshade:
Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. Keeping everything in proportion is vital so your lamp isn’t dwarfed by a giant shade or unbalanced by a small one. If your lamp is in between two sizes of lampshade, choose the larger of the two as proportionally it works better and will distribute more light. A shade that is too small for a lamp looks parsimonious!
Floor lamps are a little trickier when it comes to working out what size and shape of lampshade is needed. Often they are tall and narrow, so shape-wise they’ll suit drum, empire, rectangular or square lampshades. To determine what lampshade size you need for your floor lamp, measure the height of the lamp base from the bottom to the top of the bulb rod, then divide by four to get an approximate height for the shade. Don’t forget to take into account how much room you have around your shade – you can always go a size down if it’s too close to other pieces of furniture – and also trust your eye.
The perfect sized lampshade should hide the fittings underneath without encroaching upon the lamp base itself. Bear in mind where you will be positioning your lamp in the room - will there be plenty of space around it, or will it be in close proximity to a wall, a piece of furniture or placed near the path of frequent footfall? If it has limited space, it makes sense to choose one with a narrow profile and pair it with an equally narrow shade, then it’s less likely to get damaged or knocked over.
Now you’ve worked out the correct size of lampshade, you need to decide on the right shape. From the classic shape of an empire shade to the more modern rectangular style, there’s a wide selection to choose from (and too much choice can sometimes be a bad thing). A general rule of thumb is that you should aim to mirror the shape of the base in your lampshade. If the base is straight, square or rectangular, the lampshade needs to reflect the straight lines and be square or rectangular as well. If the base is tapered or round, the lampshade should be sloping, or rounded i.e. empire, drum or cone. Column lamps are the exception to the rule as they suit any shape of lampshade.
The colour of your lampshade can alter depending on the time of year, as well as your own personal taste and the decor of the room it will be living in. During spring and summer, opt for pale, neutral hues such as off-white and cream, then switch to darker colours when autumn arrives. A natural-coloured lampshade looks good all year round and will work in any scheme, so it’s a safe choice if you’re undecided about what colour to choose. If your lamp base features lots of colours, picking one and highlighting that particular colour in your lampshade can also look really effective.
Depending on the style of lampshade, some fabrics make more sense than others. If you’re searching for a simple lampshade, one made from card, cotton or linen ticks that box nicely. These work well all year round so if you’re not likely to swap your lampshades seasonally, they would be the obvious choice. For something more elegant, silk is a wonderful alternative, and the best choice of fabric for a pleated lampshade. The style and material of the lamp itself can also influence the fabric used for the lampshade. A base with a smooth finish might call for a contrasting lampshade with lots of texture and detail; likewise, a lampshade with a similar feel as the base helps to unify the lamp.
If you tend to err on the side of caution when it comes to using bold patterns in your home decor, now is your chance to experiment with a design you love using a patterned lampshade. For simple lamp bases such as the traditional column style, a patterned lampshade can draw attention to a previously unremarkable lamp. Don’t let the lampshade compete with your lamp base; a show-stopping lamp base that features multiple colours requires a more subdued lampshade, so it remains the focus. Our hand-made patterned card lampshades work well with lots of lamp designs. You could also use a plain coloured lamp base like the red one below, and pair it with a boldly patterned shade. Most of the fabrics used for our lampshades are used on cushions as well, so it’s easy to match your shade with other accessories for a co-ordinated scheme.
When fitting your lampshade, wait until daylight and ensure that the lamp is turned off. First, you will need to check the fitting of your new lampshade. Most of our lampshades either have a duplex fitting and require a shade carrier (to ensure stable use) or have a fixed fitting that comes with a converter ring, making the shade compatible with either an E14 or an E27 bulb holder. If your shade requires a shade carrier, unscrew the ring-shaped socket cap located at the top of your lamp base. Loop the smaller ring of your shade carrier over the neck of your lamp base then screw the cap back in place to keep it secure. Once this is in place, you can screw in your chosen lightbulb. Lampshades with duplex fittings simply rest on top of the shade carrier and aren't designed to be directly secured to the base. If your lampshade has a fixed fitting, there’s no need for a shade carrier. Attach the shade directly to the base using the socket cap provided. You can then screw in a bulb of choice.
These tips are a great start for those previously unversed in fitting a lampshade, but most of the time, just trust your instincts; your eye will naturally know what type of lampshade looks best with each lamp base. If you need a little extra help, why not take a look at our do’s and don’ts to remember when choosing your lampshade.