In Search of Perfect Lampshades

Nail-biting Decision

Just like trying to find the right look for your home, finding just the right lampshade for your favorite lamp can be a very difficult process. A shade must be in balance with the lamp base. Think of the base as the bones of your lamp and the shade as the complement.

Shades tend to take one of two forms: hard-backed or soft-sided. A hard-backed shade is one in which the fabric or paper covering has been fitted over a stiff base, often made of styrene. A soft-sided shade is made from fabric that has been stretched over a frame, most often made of metal.

Hard-backed or Soft-Sided

Each type of shade has its own advantages, with hardbacks offering a crisper outline and more light. No matter which type of shade you choose, it will look its best when a bit wider than the base and somewhere in the neighborhood of 2/3 as tall. The last thing to consider is the necessity to match the style of the shade to the base. A classic base requires a classic shade, and so forth.

On the other hand, every rule has its exceptions, so it's very important that you bring the lamp base with you when looking for shades in a lighting store. That way you can see the various effects that different shades can create using your lamp base as the starting point. If you're in funds, think about going to a custom-shade maker who can tailor make a shade just to fit your lamp. Before you begin to shop for a shade, whether custom or store bought, look at some interior decorating magazines to give you ideas of what you might like to see with your lamp base. You can also surf online for ideas.

Here are some of the more classic shapes for lampshades:

*Bell-Curvaceous bell shades can be round or oval and are soft-sided types made most often from silk, taffeta, or linen.

*Octagonal-These are sometimes called cut corner squares. They can be hardback or soft-sided.

*Drum-These may be shallow or deep. Shallow drum shades tend to be shorter than 10 inches and give a more modern feel to a room.

*Empire-This shape dates back to the early 1800's and gives the stylish feel of the French Empire movement. These are much like bell shades but with straight sides. The bottom of the shade is often double the diameter of the top.

*Barrel-These shades have a cylindrical shape but have a subtler slant than drum shades. Barrels are useful in that they can be used in both traditional and modern settings. 

*Square-More modern than the very contemporary drum, these come with either sharp corners in which the sides meet at a ninety-degree angle or with graduated corners that help soften the stark effect of its geometric lines.