Lamp shades are a great way to add texture, colour and style to your interior design scheme. But with so many shapes, sizes and materials to choose from, it can be overwhelming to decide which lampshade is right for your space.
“When designing an interior scheme, lampshades are usually one of the final elements I think about – alongside cushions – once the paint colours, wallpaper and fabric are all settled on,” explains NiX founder and interior designer Nicola Harding. “They help to add whatever colour or feeling is missing; perhaps a punch of something bold or a gentle filler that quietly balances out the other pieces in the room.”
“If the scheme feels a bit flat I might add a bold shade with a strongly coloured lamp base. If the room is already quite busy, or if the objective is to create a soft mood, then I would choose a simply coloured base and shade,” she continues. “This could be a metal lamp base and a plain shade with some subtle detailing to elevate it, such as a stitched edge or silk trim.”
Lighting can instantly transform a space and lampshades are one of the best ways to bring personality to any interior. Keep reading for Nicola Harding & Co’s top five tips to help you choose the right lampshade for your design scheme.
1. Consider the purpose of the lamp
The first thing to consider when choosing a lampshade is the purpose of the lamp. Is it for task lighting, such as reading or working, or is it for ambient lighting, such as creating a cosy atmosphere in the room? The purpose of the lamp will determine the type of shade you need. A task lamp, for example, will require a shade that directs the light downward, while an ambient lamp will require a shade that diffuses the light.
With any type of lamp, certain materials will be better suited than others for different purposes. Task lamps will typically use metal shades that direct light onto a surface, while wall, floor and table lamps used for ambient lighting often feature shades made from fabric or paper that produce a diffused glow. Of course, you can have the best of both worlds by fitting a fabric or paper shade to a task lamp so most of the light is emitted from the opening but the shade itself also glows.
2. Determine the size of the lamp base
The size of the table lamp base will determine the size of the lampshade. A lampshade that is too small or too large for the base will look out of proportion and awkward. As a general rule, the lampshade should be at least two-thirds the height of the lamp base, but no wider than the widest part of the base.
The NiX collection includes several lampshades in the classic empire style, which is one of the most traditional and popular shapes. This style typically features a top diameter that is approximately half that of the bottom diameter, creating a gentle taper over the shade’s height. It is a versatile shape that works well with most styles of lamp bases and all decor schemes. Choose a size with a bottom diameter that is within two inches of the lamp’s height to keep everything in proportion.
3. Consider the shape of the lamp base
The shape of the lamp base should also be considered when choosing a lampshade. A round base works well with a round or drum-shaped shade, while a square or angular base works well with a square or tapered shade. The shape of the shade should complement the shape of the base, creating a cohesive and balanced look.
For a clean-lined, modern style, a drum shade is a great option. These simple, cylindrical shades create even light distribution so they are great for illuminating large areas. Compact spaces such as a bedside table or hallway console might require a narrower shade, such as one with an elongated taper. You can also opt for a square shade with straight edges that will stand parallel to the wall and take up less space.
4. Match the lampshade to your interior scheme
Lampshades should complement the overall design style and colour scheme of your room. A classic style like the empire shade is great for more traditional spaces, while clean-lined drum shades or more unusual styles such as our hexagonal Townhouse shade are good options for contemporary interiors.
Simple shades can be elevated by incorporating decorative details such as contrasting fabric trim or coloured stitching. Fluted shade shapes or designs with embellishments such as scalloped edges and pleated silhouettes can be useful when you’re looking to add character and visual interest.
Lamp bases and lampshades are a brilliant way of building the colour scheme within a room. They enable you to add and balance colour, bold or otherwise. You can choose a shade that matches the room’s colour scheme or opt for something that stands out if the space needs more contrast. When the light is turned on, coloured shades really catch the eye and provide a focal point.
5. Experiment with different materials and textures
Finally, don't be afraid to experiment with different materials and textures when choosing a lampshade. A shade made from a textured fabric, such as burlap or linen, can add depth and interest to a room. Alternatively, a shade made from a glossy material, such as ceramic or glass, can create a luxurious and sophisticated look.
We use a variety of materials to give our shades different characters. Our plain shades are made from high-quality parchment card in various colours that emit a really attractive glow. Fabric shades bring warmth and tactility to the interior and may be printed with patterns that can enliven a space. One of Nicola’s favourite styles is our playful ‘dotty batik’ design, which is traditionally hand printed and brings a crafted detail to the room. We also offer shades made from brass with a timeless waxed finish that reflects the warm glow of the light.
A final word on picking the perfect lampshade
Whatever your interior style, it’s important to recognise the effect lighting can have in a room. Consider how much light you need in different areas and choose lampshades that will provide ambient or direct illumination while enhancing the overall aesthetic concept. Have fun choosing colours and patterns that will bring personality to the space, and remember that swapping out lampshades is an easy and cost-effective way to refresh a room whenever you want.