You’re finalizing your decor, but as you look around the room you realize how BLAH your lampshades look on your lamps. Whether they’re new lamps you’ve just picked out, or vintage lamps that can be revived with a fresh look, you know that this decision is about to make-or-break how your room turns out. You’re in Lampshade Hell and not sure how to get out. Relax, I’m going to share 8 tips for picking the PERFECT lampshade.

8 Tips for Picking the Perfect Lampshade

#1 – How Tall Should my Lampshade Be?

The easiest rule of thumb for determining the height of your lampshade is to measure the base of the lamp, from where it sits on a tabletop to where the hardware begins. Your ideal lampshade will be 2/3 the height of the base. If your lamp base is 30″, then you’re looking for a shade that is about 20″ tall.

This is No Bueno. The lamp looks top-heavy. While the shape could work, the lampshade is way too tall for the base.
This is No Bueno. The lamp looks top-heavy. While the shape could work, the lampshade is way too tall for the base.

#2 – What Shape Should my Lampshade Be?

Usually the shape of the lamp will dictate the shape of your lampshade. If you have a round base, you’ll want a round shade. A square base may look best with a square shade. However, you can break this rule. If your round lamp is sitting on a square table, you may be able to pull off a square shade. A bell or empire shape is more traditional, as is a pleated. A drum or square is more contemporary. Think about the style of your room, and the style of your lamp, when making a final decision.

Spotted these lamps that include lampshades at Hobby Lobby. LOVE!
Spotted these lamps that include lampshades at Hobby Lobby. LOVE!

#3 – What Diameter Should my Lampshade Be?

This is one of those pesky math problems. But very easy to determine. Measure the HEIGHT of your lamp, from the base to the bottom of the socket. Your shade diameter should be no larger than this number. And you thought it would be harder, didn’t ya? Obviously this is for table lamps – for floor lamps, subtract about 24-30″ to account for “table height”.

#4 – How Much of the Hardware of my Lamp Should Be Exposed?

None. Your lampshade should be long enough to cover the hardware from a standard viewing angle. Sitting or standing for a lamp on a table. Sconces can be trickier, as they should be hung at 66″ from the floor and some folks, like myself, aren’t that tall. I will see your sconce hardware under your shade when standing close to it, but that’s because I’m shorter than average height. When standing back and viewing from a normal perspective, all should be hidden. Changing a harp or hardware so that your shade sits properly is a fairly simple task, and worth the under $5 price tag.

A candlestick lamp can carry almost any shape of lampshade. With the square base on this one, I would probably look for a square shade.
A candlestick lamp can carry almost any shape of lampshade. With the square base on this one, I would probably look for a square shade.

#5 – Can I use a Fancy Lampshade?

YES! Absolutely! But limit your fancier, more decorative lampshades to simpler lamp styles. The more basic your lamp base, the more options you will have for choosing a shade. You can also purchase special lampshade accessories – they’re like “jewelry” for your lampshades.

#6 – Should I Choose a Light or Dark Lampshade?

It depends on the task at hand. If you’re lighting up a task area, such as a reading nook, then you should choose a translucent white or cream shade to allow for more light. If you’re accenting a foyer table or highlighting an object, or even just setting a mood, then you can choose an opaque lampshade.

A white lampshade in this navy bedroom was the best choice for bedside reading.
A white lampshade in this navy bedroom was the best choice for bedside reading.

#7 – So What Color Lampshade will Look Best in my Room?

Take a look at the lamp itself and see if there is a color in it you’d like to pick up. Or choose a color you’ve used in the room. One of my top-secret tips is to see what color the TRIM WORK in the room is, and work to match it to that. It becomes an accent that fades away to highlight other things. Don’t be afraid of colors in the right setting, either – black can be stunning as a lamp shade. But keep #6 in mind.

#8 – How do I keep from Bumping my Lampshade every time I walk by?

Your lampshade should never extend beyond your tabletop. Period. If every time someone walks by your table and the shade is inadvertently bumped, you may need a smaller lampshade, or you may consider changing to a square shade, as shown below. This is one of those times that function overrides “the rules”.

A candlestick lamp with a squared lampshade keeps this light source tucked away in a high-traffic area.
A candlestick lamp with a squared lampshade keeps this light source tucked away in a high-traffic area.

Have Fun Shopping

If at all possible, take your lamp base out with you while you shop. You’ll be able to “try it on” before you buy, and you’ll know if you need to change the harp or finial on your lamp.

Yesterday, I was shopping with a client at Home Depot for a lampshade. As we didn’t have the lamps with us, I found one on display that was similar in size and shape, so we tried shades on that lamp. But here’s a trick too – HD has this handy-dandy system. If you choose a “B” size lamp, they’ve already coded which lampshades will fit all of their “B” size lamps. So it does take the guesswork out if you’re looking for basic lamps and shades.

If you’re ready to throw in the towel, a Consultation with me can help you answer all of your questions about choosing the perfect lampshade. Jot it down on the list of things you’re wanting to ask me when you schedule your Consultation. Or feel free to browse my affiliate* collection below, I’ve gathered up a few lamps that come with the perfect shade already included (well, two sets don’t, but the lamps were just too freaking cool to not include). Just scroll right, I couldn’t stop adding lamps I liked to the list. 🙂


*I may receive a small commission from the retailer for any purchases made.

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