A lamp shade is a cover that sits on top of a lamp base and diffuses light emitted from a lightbulb. Besides its practical function, a well chosen lamp shade can be an excellent decorative accent that carries a color theme, adds a pop of pattern and incorporates a particular design style. Lamp shades come in various shapes, styles, sizes and materials as well as different price points. Some are better suited for table and floor lamps, while others are designed specifically for wall sconces or chandeliers. Keep reading to learn more about the different types of lamp shades available and how to choose the right one for your lamp and home.
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Empire Lamp Shade
Best for: table and floor lamps, wall sconces
An empire lamp shade is a classic style of shade that flares out on the bottom. It comes in various sizes, from mini shades made for wall sconces to large table and floor lamp shades. The degree of the slope also varies, being more gentle on the mini shades and often more dramatic on larger shades. Regardless of the size and slope, it's a timeless type of lamp shade that looks simple and elegant and works with any style, from modern to traditional.
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Pleated Lamp Shade
Best for: table and floor lamps, wall sconces, shade chandeliers
Pleated lamp shades are a traditional look that has been making a comeback in the past few years. You may instantly think of heavily patterned matching lamp shades and window treatments, but pleated lamp shades have come a long way. They are available in a variety sizes, styles and fabrics. The distinguishing characteristic of this type of lamp shade is the gathered fabric all around the shade that's either solid or features a (usually) small-scale print.
03 of 09
Mini Lamp Shade
Best for: wall sconces, shaded candle chandeliers
Mini lamp shades are specifically designed for wall sconces and shade chandeliers. A wall sconce typically has one or two mini shades, while a chandelier can have as many as eight. Mini shades either have an empire, bell or round shape and while most are covered in solid fabric, some do feature prints such as this sweet floral print double sconce. A shade chandelier is a traditional look and a popular choice for a dining room light fixture, as the shades slightly dim the bright glow of the lightbulbs, creating a more pleasant dining ambience.
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Stained Glass Lamp Shade
Best for: table and floor lights
When you see a stained glass lamp shade, chances are you think of the antique Tiffany lamps that made this style popular. The original Art Nouveau lamps are highly prized antiques, but replicas continue to be made and are available at a range of price points. The glass shades incorporate bright colors that cast a warm glow and patterns featuring flowers, birds and various geometric shapes outlined with dark copper lines. If you're on the hunt for a vintage stained glass shade, antique shops and dealers, flea markets and online sellers are good places to look. For new versions of this classic type of shade for table and floor lamps, check any major lighting retailers.Continue to 5 of 9 below.
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Drum Lamp Shade
Best for: pendant lights, floor lamps and semi-flush mounts
A drum lamp shade is shallow in height and features a cylindrical shape that has the same top and bottom diameter. A classic and timeless shape, it's often seen in midcentury modern designs because of its clean lines and simple style. It's a versatile shade that emits as much light from the top as it does from the bottom, and can be used for table and floor lamps as well as semi-flush mounts. It gives off a lot of light, which is one of the reasons why it's a hugely popular type of lamp shade.
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Square and Rectangular Lamp Shade
Best for: table and floor lamps
For a streamlined, modern look, use a square or rectangular shade for your table or floor lamps. Similar to a round shade, it has the same top and bottom diameter and gives off lots of light. The flat sides look clean, simple and uncluttered, and are a great choice for bedroom lamps, a floor lamp next to the sofa, or an accent light on your entryway console.
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Bell Lamp Shade
Best for: table and floor lamps
Similar to an empire lamp shade, a bell shade flares out at the bottom but also features a curved shape. It is more traditional in style and makes for a great decorative accent that adds a cozy atmosphere and warmth. Because of its shape, light is mainly emitted from the bottom so it doesn't provide quite as much illumination as other shades do, but it's a great option for ambient lighting.
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Glass Lamp Shade
Best for: pendant lights, table and floor lamps
Glass lamp shades are mainly used for pendant lights such as those above a kitchen island, but many lighting stores offer a glass shade option for table and floor lamps as well. Sometimes the class is clear, other times it's tinted, bubbled or white, which is referred to as milk glass. Since the lightbulb is exposed when a glass shade is used, choose a visually appealing bulb such as an antique Edison one that'll add to the overall appearance of the lamp.Continue to 9 of 9 below.
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Round Lamp Shade
Best for: table and floor lamps
Perhaps the most common type of lamp shade, a round shade is similar to a drum shade, except that its sides are taller. It's the most versatile of all the shades as it can easily be paired with any lamp base — everything from a round base such as the one pictured to a teardrop, urn or pillar base.
Choosing a Lamp Shade
When choosing a lamp shade, consider the following; What shape and size is the lamp base? How bright do you need the lamp to be — does it serve a practical purpose or is it mostly a decorative accent for ambient lighting? What is the design style of the room the lamp will be placed in, is it more on the traditional side or is it an ultra modern space? And finally, what room is the lamp shade for?
To get the proportions right, here is the general rule of thumb for when it comes to lamp shade width and height. The widest diameter of the shade should be approximately twice the size of the widest diameter of the lamp base. As for height, the shade should be at least one-third of the height of the base for a balanced, to-scale look. Measure your lamp base before purchasing the shade to ensure it will fit both physically and visually. If the lamp is needed for illumination as opposed to purely decorative purposes, consider the material of the shade in addition to its shape. A more light-filtering shade such as one made from linen will give off more ambient lighting while an opaque shade will produce more direct light from the top and or bottom of the shade.
Don't forget to consider the fitters when choosing a lamp shade as they determine how the shade is attached to the lamp base. The three most commonly used types of fitters are a spider, an uno and a screw-on fitter, and it's essential that you choose a shade with the fitter that corresponds with your lamp base otherwise you won't be able to attach the two. Consider the finish of the lamp finial, harp and base as well, and make sure that it matches the shade hardware for a cohesive, intentional look.