The lamp shade is one of the most important elements of a table lamp. It has to support the base, blend in without overwhelming and create a focal point that draws the eye. This can seem like a tall order, but learning how to select the right lampshade for your base and style is easy once you know some basic rules.
The most important rule for choosing a lamp shade is to keep its diameter smaller than the height of the base up to the bulb socket. This helps ensure that the light is directed properly. The top of the lamp shade should also hide the hardware, socket and part of the shaft of the harp or cluster body.
If a shade is too large, it can look bulky or overbearing. It may also cause the light to appear too bright or too dim. On the other hand, a shade that is too small can look unbalanced or awkward.
The shape of the lamp shade should match or complement the shape of the base. For example, a round base looks best with a matching circular shade. An angular or square lamp base, on the other hand, works best with a square shade.
Decorative details like embroidery, decoupage and paint can transform a bland or utilitarian lampshade into a show-stopping focal point. Other accessories, like finials and cord covers, can also make a big difference in the overall look of a lamp and its shade.
The material used to line a lamp shade has a huge impact on the brightness of the light it produces. Shades lined in cotton, silk or polyester let some light pass through the shade itself, increasing illumination. On the other hand, shades lined in a dark color, tight weave or opaque materials direct light in defined up-and-down beams, perfect for accent lighting in a specific spot.
The way the fabric on a lamp shade is woven or shaped creates the pattern and effect. Most fabrics are pleated in some fashion. This can be simple flat pleats, or more elaborate pleats that create a sawtooth edge design. Pleats can also be formed in straight lines or in fan designs.
The bottom of a lamp shade is secured to the top of the harp or cluster by a washer fitter, which resembles a little metal “washer” and has a hole in it about the size of the tip of a pencil. This washer fits over a threaded rod called a spigot, which is found at the top of the harp or cluster. Depending on the type of harp, this spigot can be either a screw or push-on spigot.