How to Determine the Correct Lampshade Size
Looking for some help selecting a new lamp shade? We have pulled together a few guides to help answer your questions, including one we hear a lot. “How do you measure a lamp shade?”
- Measure across the TOP of the lamp shade
- Measure across the BOTTOM of the lamp shade
- Measure along the SLANT (side) of the lamp shade
These are the 3 dimensions you will see listed with most lamp shades (Top x Bottom x Slant). A fourth dimension that can also be helpful is measuring the height straight from top to bottom. This can will be helpful with some of the “rules of thumb” below.
Lampshade Selection Guidelines
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- Consider your wattage needs! The lampshade (not the lamp body) determines maximum wattage allowed.
- Consider the style of the lamp when selecting a shade. A busy lamp generally calls for a plainer shade.
- 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.
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.