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Design

A Case For Mixing and Matching Lamp Shades (Plus The Rules You Should Know)

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You’re online shopping. You come across the perfect lamp base. You can’t imagine life without it so you add to cart and immediately impulse buy. It was a good decision –– one you don’t regret, but soon after that confirmation email comes through you realize something, something big…it comes without a shade. There’s terror in your eyes and a pit in your stomach. What kind of shade do you even put on a lamp??? What are the types of shades –– WHAT ARE THE RULES?

Don’t cry, this post is here to help you out. And it’s not just for those of you who are in this very specific picture I painted above (you should know by now I like to be dramatic), it’s for those of you sitting at home right now (*cough*everyone*cough*), looking around at your house wondering how to add a lil more spunk and personality. I have an idea: let’s start with that “less exciting” eggshell-colored lamp shade in the corner.

The sky is the limit when it comes to lamp bases and their shades. They can add so much to a room when done right (as demonstrated 1 million times by the pleated lampshades that have been flooding your Instagram feeds for the last year, and yes, pleated shades will be involved in this post). We love a lamp, and we love it even more when it has a cool shade, so let’s chat about what you need to know:

THE RULES

So I poked around the internet to do a bit of research on what size your lamp shade should ACTUALLY be, and here’s the general consensus:

Your lamp shade should be about double the base of the lamp and around one third the total height of the lamp. Need a visual? Me too.

Hopefully that makes some sense to ya…now that we’ve grasped the rule, let’s talk about how to break it. Cause rules are meant to be broken, after all:

OVERSIZED LAMPSHADES

design by athena calderone | photo by nicole franzen | via architectural digest

Who doesn’t love Athena Calderone aka EyeSwoon??? In my eyes, she can do zero wrong, so if she’s using an oversized lamp shade (woah) and putting it in her KITCHEN (double woah and one of our 2020 kitchen trend predictions) then you probably should too.

This example of an oversized lamp shade is so good that I think I should just stop here while we’re on top…so let’s just move into the next section and I’d bet you’d never guess where we’re goin next:

TINY LAMPSHADES

Now THIS is a tricky one to pull off, but it can be done and it can be done well. Let’s start with this example:

design by amy shirlaw interiors | photo by alix mcintosh

Chunky base, tiny lil lampshade. It’s cool, it’s vibey and honestly, it’s all-around perfect. Emily’s also been pulling off the too-small lamp shade thing and I have to say, I think I really really like it:

Speaking of Emily’s latest living room reveal (photo above on the left), please note there is not ONE lamp with a white lamp shade (and no I’m not including sconces because that’s a whole different post) Basically the woman loves a colorful shade:

COLORFUL LAMPSHADES

So the point I’m trying to make is: vary your lamp shade color and size, you won’t regret it. HECK why not even throw a pattern for a real pop??

Now we encourage you to play around and break your own rules, but if you need a starting place we (of course) have 36 of our favorite lamp and shade pairs that will hopefully make your heart happy…

1. Moroccan Cross Lamp Shade & Tripod Floor Lamp | 2. Black and White Stripe Lamp Shade & Tray Table Floor Lamp | 3. Burnt Orange Zig Lampshade & Window Pane Floor Lamp | 4. Cream Linen Knife Pleated Lampshade & Arched Floor Lamp Set | 5. Modern Half-Dome Metal Lamp Shade & Mix and Match White Floor Lamp Base | 6. Butter Creme Hardback Empire Lamp Shade & Minimalist Tripod Floor Lamp | 7. Linen Navy Blue Lampshade & Faux Wood Floor Lamp | 8. Mustard Linen Lamp Shade & Isobel Floor Lamp | 9. Cream Linen Knife Pleated Lampshade & Pamela Floor Lamp | 10. Red Dome Fabric Lampshade & Madrot Glass Globe Floor Lamp | 11. Textured Gallery Straight Sided Shade & Stand Floor Lamp | 12. Maratodd Fabric Drum & Rustic Black Metal Manvi Floor Lamp

1. Black Linen Drum Table Lamp Shade & Stacked Marble Table Lamp | 2. Navy Velvet Drum Lampshade & Mini Stick Table Lamp | 3. Anais Pleated Lamp Shade & Gesso Ring Table Lamp | 4. Black White Kente Lampshade & Kendall Matte Gray Ceramic Table Lamp | 5. Tufted Bungalow Lamp Shade & Angelo Rattan Table Lamp | 6. Dusky Pink Ivory Stripe Lampshade & Natural Wood Sierra Table Lamp Base | 7. Black and White Stripe Lamp Shade & Small Lamp Base | 8. Gallery Straight-Sided Linen Drum Lamp Shade & Teal Table Lamp | 9. Linen Trim Drum Chandelier Shade & Delavan Tripod Table Lamp | 10. Metallic Lamp Shade & Capone Lamp | 11. Rust Velvet Drum Lampshade & Terra Table Lamp | 12. Riverbed Drum Lamp Shade & Large Ribbed Glass LED Table Lamp

1. Nordic Grey linen Knife Pleated Lampshade & Electa Table Lamp | 2. Butter Creme Hardback Empire Lamp Shade & Rattan Table Lamp | 3. Navy Blue Mushroom Pleat Lamp Shade & Small Lamp Base | 4. Black Chimney Empire Lamp Shade & Bennett Table Lamp | 5. Modern Half-Dome Metal Lamp Shade & Ingrid Table Lamp | 6. Cream Linen Knife Pleated Lampshade & Capone Lamp | 7. Gingham Buffalo Check Lamp Shade & Louis Ceramic Globe Mini Table Lamp | 8. Raffia Scalloped Lamp Shade & Glisan Table Lamp | 9. Linen Empire Lamp Shade & Asymmetry Mini Table Lamp | 10. Matilda Goad Signature Scallop Lampshade & Natural Acacia Wood Table Lamp Base | 11. Pink Knife Pleat Lamp Shade & Pink Terrazzo Table Lamp | 12. Dark Blue Cone Shade & Margie Table Lamp

So did I make my case? What do you think about the mixing and the matchings? Would you try this at home?? Comment your thoughts and I’ll meet ya down there 🙂

Opening Image Credit: “How To Design A Pass Through Room” | Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp

Fin Mark

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I think you have properly explained each and everything in detailed , This article will surely help me in selecting the best lamp for my house with perfect color and size.
You have make the article so easy to read and it’s easy to understand. Keep sharing good work.

Mary Catherine

I am on the market for lighting for my home, so this is timely; thank you! I think, if most of your walls are white, that may be the reason a dark or colored shade is more appealing—you need the contrast. That’s my case, at least! Also, I can’t get over the pleated shades—so great.

Kelly

I don’t understand why the blog is sent to me by email – yet email is not one of my choices for sharing it??? So illogical. I do not want my entire social media community seeing it – only a select few. So rather than emailing it to the select few – I will send it to no one. Please add an ’email share’ option.

Aminah

If you look at the blog post on your phone you could use your browser’s share option to email it or send it via text message or really any app that lets you share links. 🙂

Patricia

I’ve always changed the lampshade when I’ve bought lamps at antique malls. I’ve also made several lamps in our condo. I lean towards cone shapes in black but I’ve also had pleated shades custom made. If I’m shade shopping, I bring the lamp with me and try it with a number of shapes until one just sings to me.

Kelly

For Fleabag fans, there is a scene in her parents house that features so many different styles of lamps and shades in one room. I’m always distracted by the lamps in that great scene.

Rusty

I bought a lampshade for $3 once. It was woven, beautiful and a crazy price and it was new in a discontinued bunch of stuff.
I thought it was the right size. Yes. It was.
I thought it went so well with the thrown ceramic base I had. Yes it did.
But would the flippin’ thing connect to the lamp base??? Nooooooo! 🙄
That thing took a very-handy-male-super-fixer-person an aeon, okay about 3 hours flat out, to file the metal gizmo fitting to be big enough to connect the two buts together!
Aaaahhhh, now if I had to pay for that? Big bucks.
The completed lamp with shade? Gorgeous!
Lesson learned? Make sure your connector bits fit together before you buy!

Was just sitting here shopping for a lampshade for a chinoiserie lamp I thrifted when I saw this post. I was going to get white but now I’m thinking something like black would break it up, modernize it, and be a bit of a bold accent in might airy living room.

Jessica

It kills me when y’all post great accessory articles like this and I’m still stuck in the “can’t buy major furniture pieces because pandemic” phase 🙁 Someday!

Wondering whether the blog has abandoned its commitment to linking at least 15% of recommended items to black-owned retailers? Not seeing any in this post.

Jenny

I would LOVE a post on how to make (or alter) your own lampshades. Because I really want to get in on the “pleated patterned lampshade” trend, but it’s very expensive!

Mary

I like a lamp in the kitchen. Athena’s lamp is beautiful, but I imagine it was just styled there for that shot since it’s the star of the show. Curious if it lives somewhere else full time… definitely can’t see how it’s plugged in on the island.

Ano

Thank you! Beautiful pic, but seems so impractical for every day life… The cord, which in the pic doesn’t seem to exist = potential accident waiting to happen, and it’s in what would seem to be central prep space. I get pretty pictures are…well pretty and alluring…But such impractically is frustrating. Much prefer designs for real people and real life.

Jenn

FYI those Etsy pleated shades are small in real life. I have one in pink, it’s cute but I had to put on smallest lamp in my house, and that was their large one! I have been switching out the shades in my house and agree it makes a huge difference! I have been living the Ballard design ones, not sure why I haven’t bought yet!

Lissa

Can I just say how nice it is that you guys respond to the comments now? Back in the day I don’t think you had time to… it’s great and it really adds to the feeling of community here:)

kim

How about some guidance about the right shape for your lamp? Is a cone shaped lampshade outdated? What shape shade is best for a vintage spherical pottery lamp? What about a more traditional blue and white chinoiserie lamp — shape and color?

Sheila

Yes, please, to this request. I find lamp bases readily easy to find at garage sales and thrifts but finding the right shade is often a challenge. I’d love a list of go-to resources for shades. Would especially love to see the step by step process of choosing a shade to best suit a particular lamp – what works, what doesn’t.
I have 2 brass ginger jar lamps, relatively cylindrical rather than bulbous. 25″ tall overall and ~ 7.5 inches wide at the base. I purchased nice red cone-shaped shades that are ~ 11″ high and 16″ wide at their widest point. This would seem to meet the criteria spelled out above but they look comically undersized and skimpy. I purchased another larger pair on sale from Restoration Hardware in a pretty pale green and they look outlandishly enormous. I’m seeking my Goldilocks, “just right” lamp shades. I’d be happy to bring my lamps shopping with me but have never found anyplace with a wide assortment to “try on.” Please show me the way!

elizabeth

Hi. I love the look of a dark shade but unfortunately I need my lamps to provide as much light as possible due to the lack of light in my space. And dark shades don’t cut it. Bummer. Thanks for post though…very helpful.

Debbie

This is where I stand on the issue as well. The colored shades throw really creepy light, LOL, and it’s too bad b/c they look stunning when off.

Darcy

In my previous house I had lots of overhead lighting and did not need many lamps.
Then I moved to an older house that had very little overhead lighting and I needed lamps. When I saw the prices of just a regular lamp I was a little shocked.
So I went thrifting. I found so many lamps that I now have extras. What most people don’t think about is that you can paint a lamp any color you wish and it takes hardly anytime.
Some came with almost new shades others no shades but I found most of my shades at
Home Goods. You might have to go three of four times but they have great prices on very decent shades. Yard sales and Facebook Market place are other good places to find lamps. Now shall we talk about adding a timer to your lamp? Another game changer
if you work a job where you arrive home after dark.

Rachel

IDK how you managed to read my mind exactly with this post? I actually still have a tab open from yesterday with a google search for “emily henderson mix and match lighting” right beside another tab for that lekrazyhorse etsy shop (again found yesterday). Now, to be fair, I currently have enough tabs open right now for lighting that you can barely see the little symbols that designate where the tab is from and my boyfriend is weeping for the state of my computer. But still, it’s almost creepy how well you read my mind here and oh so very, very much appreciated. But, one quick thing I’d love to see added to this, and I know you’ve sorta done this before but it’d be great to see how to pair lighting styles together and some of the rules. Because I cannot for the life of me figure out if I can pair a Noguchi Akari pendant and a Le Klint floor lamp in the same room. Seriously, can I do that? Because that would be a massive investment to screw up! LOL. Will the knife pleats and industrial metal work with the round paper lantern or just completely clash.… Read more »

Erin

I always find that my issue, after finding both a lamp base and shade that I love, is how much of the harp should be/shouldn’t be visible. Do you have any pointers on what’s okay and what’s a big fat no-no?

Renee

Thank you for this post! I would also love a post on before and afters of lamps. How would you update a lamp by either painting it, or just buying a new lampshade?

Beth

I’ve bought several colored, patterned and even rattan shades over the years but always go back to white because I don’t have very many sources of light and I need the light from my lamps to be functional. I can still play with scale for variation, though!

elle

When at a lampshade shop (no longer in business, sadly!), they displayed a sign (paraphrasing), “Shopping for a lampshade without your lamp is like shopping for a hat without your head.” So true! I like being able to try different sizes, colors, and shapes on my base.

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