Pick a Shade, But Not Just Any Shade

If you've  never bought a lampshade before, welcome to illume.  So... let's begin. We hear so many decorators say "I'm not good at lampshades."  So we are here to guide you to select the perfect lampshade for your lamp and how you will use the lamp- will it be a decorative lamp for mood, ambiance, romance or will it be a task lamp and provide light to a work space, or is it just for general light?

The talent in selecting the correct size lampshade is to make sure it looks in proportion to your lamp base-and you see the lamp AND shade as one design element.  Round shades on round bases, rectangular and oval shades on rectangular and oblong bases, square and tapered square shades on square and architectural bases.  But rules are always made to be broken.  It's your eye that counts and again, how you're using the lamp.  Will it sit on a small narrow table, against a wall, on a nightstand with a clock, a book, a glass of wine and the remote controls?  These are all important factors and considerations... 

We like to start with the height of the lamp, from the bottom edge to the top of the harp saddle or fitter.  Whatever this measures is roughly the size of shade you will require. So for example if this measurement is 12 inch, you will need to purchase a shade between 10 and 14 inches.  Lampshade sizes are based on the diameter across the bottom, therefore when your read "we recommend a 14" lampshade, we are  referring to its bottom diameter (straight across the bottom) (around the shade is called the  circumference, remember Pi = 3.14??).  Lamps, just like people are so different, some are tall, some are short & squat, some are figural, some are good for tasks, some are romantic and purely decorative.  All are necessary.  The shape of your lamp base will determine the best shape for its lampshade.  

Now that you have a general size of the shade you need, we go one step further and look at the width of the base.  If you have a candlestick or tall base it is likely you'll want to choose a smaller size shade maybe a 10" to even 14" lampshade. 

Of course, there are always exceptions to any decorating rule.  Here are a few examples of well-paired lamps and shades... 

A base with a curved profile is complemented by a curved bell shade. The pattern of a curve ending in a platform is repeated from the base to the shade. Bell shades match well to a curved base.
A barrel, drum lamp shade or cone-style lamp base is reflected well by a rounded drum/cylinder shade. Rounded/cylindrical bases tend to work better with rounded shades than square shades.
Sometimes shapes are directly repeated in the base as in the shade. Here, trapezium shapes occur multiple times and the shade is an extension of the base's overall design theme.
Bases with a square or rectangular profile do well complemented with a rectangular shade. Since these angular shapes tend to be more modern, a square/rectangular shade is a good match.


Proportions of shade and base should be reasonably similar. Here a tall/thin lamp base is well complemented by a flat/thin drum lamp shade. Also, very narrow lamp bases look good with a drum or rectangle shade.


While both lamp base and shade are circular, since the base features a bold shape, the shade also features a boldly contrasting shape. Use a partly contradictory or balancing shape of shade for added drama.