How to Buy Lamp Shades

How to Buy Lamp Shades

Lamp shades help control the amount of light emitted into a room and add to the overall look and feel of your decor. When you're choosing a new lamp shade, you need to know what size to get, how it attaches to your lamp, and which style and material will look best. This guide will help you pick the perfect lamp shade for every lamp in your home.

Style of Lamp Shades

The style of your lamp shade should complement the body of the lamp. Lamp shades should generally match the shape of the lamp: Round lamp shades work best with a round base while square lamp shades look most stylish with square bases. Choose one of the popular lamp shade styles from this list to match the style of your lamp.


Grey fabic empire lamp shade

Empire Lamp Shades

Empire lamp shades are the classic cone-shaped shades that feature a small diameter at the top and a larger diameter at the bottom. These versatile lamp shades work well with most shapes and styles of lamp bodies. Whatever style decor you have, an empire lamp shade is usually a safe choice.


Tan bell shaped lamp shade

Bell Lamp Shades

Bell lamp shades have a cone-like shape but with curved, sloping sides made from several separate panels. These panels come together at seams that run up and down the lamp shade. Bell lamp shades are often used to complement traditional decor with their antique look.


Grey and white geometric print drum lamp shade

Drum Lamp Shades

Drum lamp shades are shaped like a cylinder with matching top and bottom diameters. These shades give the lamp a contemporary flair that works well with rounded vase-like lamps as well as thin candlestick-shaped bodies.


Black rectangle lamp shade

Square and Rectangle Lamp Shades

Square and rectangle lamp shades can have a pyramid or cube shape. These lamp shades are great for side or console tables with little room because the shade can sit flush with the wall. Pair these shades with lamps designed with strong lines and angles.


Lamp Shade Sizes and Fitters

Choosing the right size of lamp shade for your lamp is important for creating a balanced, proportional look. A good rule of thumb is to find a lamp shade at least an inch or two wider than the lamp's base and tall enough to cover the light socket and other hardware above the base.

You'll also need to find a lamp shade with the correct fitter to attach to the lamp. These wire fitters are found inside the lamp shade and will usually attach by screwing onto the lamp, slipping over the bulb's socket, or attaching right to the bulb. Read our How to Measure Lamp Shades guide for all the information you need to find the right dimensions for your new lamp shade and pick the right fitter.


Lamp Shade Materials

The material of your lamp shade lends style to your lamp and creates a specific lighting effect. Your lamp shade can provide soft mood lighting or allow enough light to fill the whole room. Different materials also offer unique varieties of colors and patterns, from vibrant fabric lamp shades to neutral metallic shades. Here is a list of lamp shade materials that are sure to bring the perfect look to your space.


Off-white linen lamp shade

Fabric Lamp Shades

Linen, cotton, and silk lamp shades are some of the most popular options. Fabric lamp shades are available in a spectrum of colors and patterns, which makes it easy to find a shade to match the style of your home. Incorporate white, pleated lamp shades into your decor for a classic look, or choose fabric with a lively pattern for something more contemporary. Black lamp shades make a sophisticated accent to any lamp and color scheme.


Tiffany style glass lamp shade

Glass Lamp Shades

Lamp shades made from glass are popular for antique-style lighting. The colored glass of Tiffany-style lamps creates a unique ambiance unlike any other lamp shades. Different colors and styles of glass can fill a room with a bright array of colors that will dazzle the eyes. Glass lamp shades work well with traditional-style rooms and contribute to a vintage feel.


White paper lamp shade

Paper Lamp Shades

Paper lamp shades are thin and lightweight. They are available in a variety of colors, but natural parchment lamp shades are a popular choice. Paper can be printed or painted with designs to give the lamp shade a unique look and change how light is diffused into the room. Some paper lamps bring an Asian-inspired feel to a room while others are perfect for rustic settings.


Metallic bronze lamp shade

Metal Lamp Shades

Metal lamp shades are a perfect complement to your industrial decor. Choose from metallic finishes like gold, copper, and chrome to coordinate the look you want. Metal lamp shades don't release as much light into the room, so they are great to use on a bedside table or as subdued accent lighting in a living room.



by Nick Anderson Home Specialist
JANUARY 4, 2017

Nick likes crisp, white light in his home, so his lamps all have bright LED bulbs and white shades. He tries to keep his lamps from distracting from his other decor by using neutral, subtle lamp shades. Nick decorates his home with a minimalist style and incorporates eclectic accent pieces.