Choosing a lamp shade

27 JAN 2022

At Casa Fina we have always prided ourselves in our selection of lamp bases and shades. In the 80s the bases were largely Italian and shades were tall drums. Now we have an array of bases from ceramic to wood and metal and we sell standard lamps in addition to table lamps. Our range of shades has grown from locally made cotton and linen ‘hard shades’ to beautiful silk pleats and traditional ‘soft shades’.

Changing your shades may be a necessity but it can also transform your home style. It is quite an easy way to update your look. Lots of customers find choosing the right shade a chore but with a bit of thought it’s pretty straightforward.

Shades come in several shapes – usually round in cross section but we can source square and oval shades too. Empire – a classic shape with tapered sides (not to be confused with a coolie which is much more sloped). Drum – a cylinder with perpendicular or slightly tapering sides, more of a contemporary look

What is the right size? The first thing I will say is that the proportion is a matter of personal choice. We can advise and explain some rules of thumb but if you, as the customer prefers a larger or smaller shade then after all, it is you who will be living with it. Shades usually go up in 2″ increments so we size them 10″, 12″ etc.

The first rule is that a table lamp will take a shade with a diameter approximately the same as the height of the lamp or twice the width. The shade height should be around 2/3 the height of the base.  There are of course exceptions – a column or candlestick lamp can take a variety of sizes and usually looks best with a smaller shade.

The second rule is that you want to cover up the fitting of the lamp but don’t want to hide the base. To achieve the optimum height we will advise you to look at the lamp and shade as if it were in your room i.e. if it’s going to be on a coffee table then try it at that height. If you will spend most of the time viewing it from a sitting position then look at that angle. That way you can get the height right to suit all views from wherever you are in the room.

The third rule is to match the shade not only to the lamp base but also to the room. This goes for colour but also size – if you are pushed for space you might need a more compact shade. You may also need to consider how much light will shine through the fabric and whether you need the light to be functional in order to read or just as ambient or mood lighting. An empire shade will cast more light downwards than up but a drum gives equal light top and bottom and of course a red shade may cast a warm red glow, a blue shade gives a cooler light. Your bulb choice makes a big difference too – a clear bulb will give a sharper light with sharp shadows whereas an opaque pearl bulb will give a softer light and shadows.

Sometimes shade are so eye catching that they can overwhelm a lamp. If you have a beautiful lamp base then it’s better to choose a plain shade. A simple base can carry something more dramatic.

Not every shade in the room has to match but if you have matching lamps then match the shades. In my sitting room I have a wall light with plain shades, a pair of brass candlestick lamps with balloon lined silk shades, two beautiful painted ceramic lamps, a turned wooden lamp and a down bridge standard lamp all with box pleated shades – a lot of lamps but all the shades are plain colours and tone so they all work together.

Fabrics – We stock cotton, silk and polysilk shades. The cotton or linen shades are usually laminated onto card (hard shades) and can look clean and modern. The silk and polysilk shades come in pleated designs (soft shades or balloon lined shades) which are more traditional and cosy. We also have wonderful pleated zig zag (Ikat style) patterned cotton shades and can order parchment shades as well as hard shades made up in your own fabric.

Are there trends in shades? Not really – I suppose Ikat shades are in fashion at the moment and natural textures go with neutral themes, plants and eco living but other than that the best shade is the one that looks right with your lamp and individual style.

Remember – at Casa Fina you can use our On Appro service where you can take lamps and shades home in order to try them out before you decide.


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