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How to Determine the Correct Lampshade Size

Are there any good rules of thumb for choosing the right size shade?

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, break the rules! Try “extreme” shades! 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) x65% up to 80%.. The height of a floor lamp shade should be approximately the height of the base x47%. 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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25 Responses to “How to Determine the Correct Lampshade Size”

  1. Norine says:

    Good suggestions. The manufacturer usually furnishes a lamp with the perfect shade. I’m finding it difficult to replace an old damaged shade that actually is not well made and may not be repairable. I think shades are very important, so this is a really frustrating exercise.

    A grammar police comment: The diameter of the bottom of the shade should not be greater then the height of the lamp body (to the bottom of the socket). should be: greater than :-) .

    Regards,

    Norine

  2. Danielle says:

    Thanks for keeping us on our toes, Norine! The grammar mistake has been fixed :) . We too believe shades are very important. While the majority of lamps come already equipped with a shade, when the time comes to replace or update your shade there is a seemingly endless slew of shapes, colors, and sizes to choose from. We can think of no easier way to enhance a lamp’s style presence!

  3. Barbara says:

    I am trying to make a floor lamp out reclaimed wood. It is 9″ square and 41/2′ high. I would like to use a burlap shade. I was thinking of using a rectangular shade. Is that the wrong direction?

    Thanks,

    Barb

  4. Danielle says:

    Hi Barb,
    We have choices in beige linen square shades: LS10075, LS08010B, LS12136 and round burlap shades: LS12130 and LS12131. Rectangular burlap sounds like a fine choice as well. Good luck on your search!

  5. Terry Locke says:

    Hi

    I have a 29″ narrow table lamp with a shade that is 12″ tall with 5″ top opening and 10″ bottom opening. It is made of a lovely reddish-brown silk but the inside lining has deteriorated.

    Can you help me find a replacement?

  6. Bobba says:

    I have an antique birdcage lamp that had a rectangular shade…which got lost in a move. I’m now trying to get the right size…. The cage sits on a tray 17″ X 12″. I think I have the height where I like it but am not sure if the width/length should be smaller than the base/tray or a little larger???? Any help would be appreciated.
    Thanks, Bobba

  7. Danielle says:

    Hi Terry,
    We have the following shade in brick red: http://www.shadesoflight.com/15-34-silk-new-drum-shade-numerous-fashion-colors.html
    We can custom order your size! Does it attach to the lamp with a harp or clip on the bulb?

  8. Danielle says:

    Hi Bobba,

    The shade should be larger than the tray so a 19″x 14″ Rectangular bottom lampshade should work.
    You might try a shade like this: http://www.shadesoflight.com/product.php?productid=426851&cat=0&page=1

  9. Beth Conkin says:

    I’m changing the shade on a floor lamp. The existing shade is rectangle 9″ x (can’t recall width) x 12″, with a slight flare. I would like to replace it with a cylinder shade (9″ x 12″) or rectangle shade (9″ x 12″). Your thoughts?

  10. Charlene Randolph says:

    I just purchased two lamps for my nightstands and need lampshades for them. They are 21″ tall to the top of the socket, 28″ to the top of the harp. They are aged brass with amber glass globes (7 1/2″ diameter) that have night lights inside the globes. They are mid-century modern style, and I wanted to update them a little with a more modern look. I was thinking black lampshades in a cylinder or drum shape, but I am just not sure. Can you please give me some suggestions?

  11. Walter says:

    Charlene,
    We would definitely suggest cylinder shades for these lamps. Black would look rich but really cut down on the light beside your bed. So maybe a white or natural linen? One size would be 8″ top, 8″ bottom, 12″ side. We will add this to our website and let you know. You will need a 2″ riser (just make a note on your order to include this).
    Other options to try immediately:
    LS10097WH http://www.shadesoflight.com/8-34-black-retro-drum-shade-with-color-lining.html
    LS12056 WH http://www.shadesoflight.com/8-inch_paper-cone-shade.html

  12. Kris says:

    It appears that my current lampshade is a reflector bowl. However, it issimilar to a euro fitter in that the wires descend downward three inches from the top, outer edge of the shade to the center screw. Do they descend to better hide the fitting?

    Your pictures do not show the inside of the shade. How do I know what fitting is on your shades? Do I get to order it with any style of fitting? It seems I cannot know the exact height I need until I better understand.

    Thank you.

  13. Walter says:

    Kris, I think you need to contact one of our customer service reps. Call (877) 288-5029 M-F 9am to 5PM Eastern time. They are equipped to help you with these details.
    Thank you for your interest and I hope we get the opportunity to help you with this project.

  14. judy stewart says:

    We have a satsuma lamp that is @30″ tall to the bottom of the socket and 25″ wide (that includes the foo dogs that are on either side of what is a basic 15″ w ginger jar shape. What would you recommend is an appropriate shape and size for this lamp. It is sitting on a 19″ high cocktail table that is being used for an end table between 2 large sofas at right angles to each other. Appreciate your feedback.

    Thank you,

    Judy

  15. Danielle says:

    Hi Judy,

    The height of a table lamp shade should be approximately the height of the base (to bottom of socket) multiplied by 65% to 80%. The diameter (width) of a table shade should NEVER exceed the height of the base and should be within 2″ of this dimension. Keep in mind that lamps shade size is usually expressed in terms of its diameter (16″ shade has a diameter of 16″).

    A general rule of thumb when choosing the shape of the shade is to choose a shade with a shape that follows the general contours of the lamp. Hope this helps!

    Based on the measurements you provided, you would likely need at least a 20″ oval, rectangular, or round shade. An interesting one to try might be our 24″ Quatrefoil Shade.

  16. patty says:

    I have a pale blue stone floor lamp and the shade measurements are 6 1/2 top wide, 20 Bottom width and 12 1/2 long. It’s square right now and the bottom of the shade it a bit short for the lamp, I think. I think the fitter is washer and spider. It has a little ball to screw in to fit the shade. I can’t seem to find a shade to fit it.

  17. Walter says:

    Hello Patty, I have three suggestions that you may like: http://www.shadesoflight.com/20-34-empire-linen-lampshade.html
    http://www.shadesoflight.com/20-34_paper-empire-coolie-lamp-shade-black-or-white.html
    http://www.shadesoflight.com/20-inch-white-burlap-shade.html
    See if you like any of these if not our customer service department may have other ideas: (877) 288-5029 Mon- Fri 9am-5pm EST.

    I hope this helps you and thank you for the opportunity to serve.

  18. Wendy says:

    I have white marble lamp, square base, round columnar post….sort of Greek looking. what’s the best shade for something like it? It is in my living room.

  19. Walter says:

    Hello Wendy, Sounds like you have a very interesting lamp there. One of our sales associates will be contacting you via email to get some more details to try and help you get the right fit for you lamp. I’m sure she can help you, she is great at this. I’m sure you can’t wait to get your lamp back to being the show piece it used to be.

  20. krista says:

    As a potter who made several lamp bases, i was frustrated trying to figure out the proper harp & shade size. Thank you for your clear and concise description and formulas.

  21. terry says:

    I have a floor lamp, 49 inches from floor to bottom of light fixture (two bulbs going out to either side). You say that the lamp shade height should be 47% of this 49 inches, correct? That would be close to a 2 foot high shade. That would look silly.
    1.What am I understanding wrong?
    BTW, I switched another shade to it, 12 inches along the slope, with a 3 1/2″ fringe, and it looks perfect.
    2. If I can’t find fringed shade to replace, should I increase the height by 3 1/2″? I welcome your opinion.

  22. Walter says:

    Hello Terry, I see the source of your confusion! Our shade height formula applies to table lamps. Floor lamps are based on too many factors for a formula. Yes, increase the shade height 3 1/2″ and make sure the width of your shade clears bulbs on all sides by 3.5″ to use 100 watt bulbs. If you need help, our customer service department: 800 262-6612 M-F 9am-5pm (EST) is ready, willing and able.
    Thanks for your question

  23. Katinka van Straaten says:

    Good day,
    I hope you can assist me in the following. I have a standing lamp with a lamp height of 147 cm (57,874 inches). What should the lamp shade height be?
    Thank you very much.
    Katinka.

  24. Walter says:

    Hello Katinka, Our customer service department would like to ask you a few more questions before making a suggestion. Please call, our customer service department: 800 262-6612 M-F 9am-5pm (EST) they are ready, willing and able to help you get the right shade for your floor lamp.

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