How to Determine the Correct Lampshade Size

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Lampshade Selection Guidelines 

  1. The more basic the shape of the body of the lamp, the more varied styles of shades it can take.
  2. Repeat the shape(s) in the lamp body in the shade shape; i.e., a round lamp on a square base can take a shade with a rounded top and square bottom.
  3. The diameter of the bottom of the shade should not be greater than the height of the lamp body (to the bottom of the socket).
  4. Match lampshade colors to the trim color in your room and the tones in the lamp body. Don’t be afraid of black or color as an accent.
  5. Consider your wattage needs! The lampshade (not the lamp body) determines maximum wattage allowed.
  6. Consider the style of the lamp when selecting a shade. A busy lamp generally calls for a plainer shade.
  7. For DRAMA, try thinking outside the box! Put a deep cone shade on a short round ball base, a glossy white shade on a beige stone vase, a cube shade on a stacked ball lamp, a red or black shade on an Oriental base, etc.

How do you determine shade height?
The height of a table lamp shade should be approximately the height of the base (to bottom of socket) x 60% up to 70%. The height of a floor lamp shade should be approximately the height of the base x 30% to 40%. Measure shade height along the slant.

What about diameter?
The diameter (width) of a table shade should NEVER exceed the height of the base (to the bottom of the socket) and should be within 2″ of this dimension. Floor lamp shades should clear the widest part of the bulb by at least 3.5″ on each side of the bulb (unless using compact fluorescent bulb). Lampshade size is usually expressed in terms of its diameter (16″ shade has a diameter of 16″).

Are certain shade styles better for certain base styles? If so, do you have any pointers for matching the two?

  • The more basic the shape of the body of the lamp, the more varied styles of shades it can take.
  • Repeat the shape(s) in the lamp body in the shade shape; i.e., a round lamp on a square base can take a shade with a rounded top and square bottom.

Are there any “no-no’s” when it comes to choosing a shade?

  • For every “rule” (see rules), there is a talented designer who can successfully break it with success! Your eye is your best guide.
  • ALWAYS consider your lumens

If you’re debating between two similar shades, is it safe to go bigger or smaller?
Just like outdoor wall lights, it’s better to go larger to allow more wattage (click here for wattage and shade size guide).

Is there a shape of shade that flatters most bases?
Choose a shade with a shape that follows the general contours of the lamp. Square lamps look best with square shades and round lamps look best with round shades. A shapely lamp can take a shapely shade. An interesting alternative is to repeat the shape of the vase stand (as opposed to the vase shape) in the shade. For example, try a square shade on a round ginger jar with a square wood base.

Are there any shade shapes that are particularly hard to get right?
The more slender the body of the lamp, the shallower the shade can be. Extremely-flared shades are sometimes tricky to get right. Often you will need to change the size of the harp on your lamp when you change the lampshade. The more flared the shade, the shorter the harp you need. Lamps with more than one socket need to have wider and shorter shades and you may need a salesperson’s guidance.

Should the shade kiss the top of the lamp’s base? Should we see a little of the harp/hardware part of the lamp?
The bottom of the lampshade should come to the top of the body of the lamp so that no mechanical parts except 1/2 the neck show. The bottom of the shade should also fall at the eye level of the user. Most harps are interchangeable so you may need to purchase a new harp with your new shade. Harps come in regular and heavy (higher end lamps) and are usually imprinted in the top with their size in inches.

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63 Responses to “How to Determine the Correct Lampshade Size”

  1. Baszetta says:

    HELP! I have some old retro green glass table lamps that were popular in the 60’s-70’s. They stand about 25 inches tall (includes brass footings). They have a fat hour glass design. My son LOVES these lamps but the shades are shot. They came from his grandma and he doesn’t want to part with them. I can’t find anything suitable. What style of a shade would you suggest?

  2. Walter says:

    Hello Baszella, Normally I would say just call our customer service department and speak with on of our shade fitting experts @ 1(800) 262-6612 M-F 9 to 5 EST but if you have the capability of taking a picture and sending it as an attachment to this email address it might be easier: CustomerCare@Shadesoflight.com
    Our Shades fitting experts know how to treat treasured heirlooms!
    Thank you for reaching out. Let’s get these lamps updated so your son can appreciate them again!

  3. Marilyn Stirrett says:

    I have an antique wicker table lamp (22″tall) and an antique lampshade(8″ tall). I would like to use them together. The lamp can be cut down as much as 5″. Should some of the lamp be cut off to get the appropriate proportion?

  4. Susanne says:

    This is such an impressive site. So much valuable information. I have wondered about what size “harp” to buy, how wide the shade, how tall the shade, print, solid, etc. You have put it all right here. So, just wanted to say, “Thanks!”

  5. Walter says:

    Hello Marilyn, I would recommend that you call our customer service department and speak with on of our shade fitting experts @ 1(800) 262-6612 M-F 9 to 5 EST and if you have the capability of taking a picture and sending it as an attachment to this email address it might be easier for everyone to get on the same page: CustomerCare@Shadesoflight.com mailto:CustomerCare@Shadesoflight.com
    Our Shades fitting experts know how to treat treasured heirlooms!
    Thank you for reaching out. Let’s get this lamp updated so you can appreciate it again!

  6. Carol Carnes says:

    I have a brass lamp that the base in round and is 8″ across.
    18″ from the bottom up to the switch.
    13″ from the switch to the top.
    What size and shape shade should I buy?
    Thanks,
    Carol

  7. Walter says:

    Hello Carol, Thank you for reaching out to us. Based strictly on the dimensions you provided it sounds like you are looking for a very large shade. You would want something that covers the switch and that rests near the center of the neck. Here are some SKUs that we would recommend: LS12008, LS12005, and LS11044. If you have any other specific questions or if you would like some additional assistance it might be best for you to send us some pictures of your lamp. Send them to customercare@shadesoflight.com if you do so one of our shade fitting experts could get a better understanding of some of the details involved.
    Thank you again for your interest. I hope this helps.
    The Shades of Light Team

  8. maria says:

    I purchased my 3 table lamps at a furniture store in 1999 (1 living room and 2 identical for night stands in bedroom). I like these modern lamps but two of the shades have cracked and I have not been able to find the exact size.

    I did find one for the living room lamp but the bottom diameter is about an inch short. This lamp has two bulbs and each bulb faces sideways. I am afraid that the shade is going to catch on fire although the bulbs are not high wattage; I think that they are 40k each.

    I am going to see if I can find the lamp ID numbers on the base of the lamps to see if the furniture store can order new shades for me. If not available, will I be safe in keeping this one in the living room and not run the risk of a fire hazard?

    Thank you!

  9. Dusty Rhodes says:

    I’m glad to have found your site. I have a pair of vintage natural driftwood table lamps. They are 18″ tall to bottom of socket and from 13-18″ around because of the irregularity of the driftwood. The original shades which are long gone were textured drum shades. I would like to revive the lamps to use in my new coastal dĂ©cor. I would like to stay with a drum shade, but choosing the right size is overwhelming me. What would you recommend?

  10. Walter says:

    Hello Maria,
    There are a few different ways you can address this situation. If you contact one of our shade fitting experts at CustomerCare@shadesoflight.com they will be glad can assist you and come up with the solution that you prefer. BTW: If you were to attach a picture of your table lamps that frequently helps a lot.
    The Shades of Light Team

  11. Walter says:

    Hello Dusty,
    Thank you for reaching out to us. I’d like to suggest that you contact one of our shade fitting experts at CustomerCare@shadesoflight.com They would be glad to help you get just the right shade to fit your table lamp so that you can use this table lamp again in your new nautical dĂ©cor. If you can, attach a photo of the lamp. It will make this go a lot easier if they can actually see what you are referencing.
    Thanks for the opportunity to assist you
    The Shades of Light Team

  12. Nancy Byers says:

    Need a decisive shade 11x16x 8 1/2 or 9

  13. Walter says:

    Hello Nancy,
    If you contact one of our shade fitting experts either by email @ CustomerCare@Shadesoflight.com or by phone 1-800 262-6612 (M-F 9am to 5pm eastern.) They will be glad to try and help you find the perfect lamp shade. I think they prefer to get a photo of your lamp since it seems to help with the fittings.
    Thank you for your interest.
    I hope we get the chance to help you fit this lamp shortly.
    The Shades of Light Team

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