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Nicola Harding's guide to lamp shades: how to choose the right shape and style for your space

Nicola Harding's guide to lamp shades: how to choose the right shape and style for your space

With so many different shapes and styles to choose from, selecting the right lamp shade for your space can be tricky. A lamp base can look completely different depending on the shape and material of the shade you pair it with. Parchment or card? Empire or tapered? To give you a helping hand, we've put together a short guide to help you navigate our lamp shade options and find one that best suits your space and needs.


Narrow at the top and wider at the bottom, the Empire is the archetypal lamp shade shape. This timeless silhouette was reportedly introduced in France during the early 19th century when there was a preference for classical motifs, clean lines and symmetry – a design aesthetic referred to as "Empire style".

In general, the top diameter of an Empire lamp shade is about half of the diameter of the bottom of the lamp shade to create a pleasing, gently tapered shape.  "It works just about everywhere and anywhere," says our founder, Nix. "You could match this shape with any of our lamp bases such as the Humbug, Hourglass or Comet as well as any existing base you have in your home."

Straight Empire

A variation on the classic Empire shape, the Straight Empire has a wider top and much steeper sides that lend it a slightly more modern appearance. Our Straight Empire shades include the Humbug and the Whimsical shades, which provide short and tall options. "I love the exaggerated form of the Whimsical shade," says Nix. "On top of a piece of furniture such as a side table or a sideboard, its generous scale can provide balance in a room and create a lovely glowing presence."



Slightly more informal than the Empire shape, tapered shades have varying angles and slopes; some may have a gradual taper, while others may have a more steeply angled slope. Our tall tapered shades, Bright Spark and Ditsy, are much smaller than our Empire styles and have a slightly more elongated shape. "Bright Spark is a simple, dinky size that works perfectly on our Double Trouble wall lights and the Ditsy table lamp base," explains Nix.


A Concertina lamp shade, sometimes also referred to as an accordion lamp shade, is a type of lamp shade that features a collapsible or expandable design resembling the bellows of a concertina musical instrument. Our simple Sunburst design, made from card-backed white linen fabric tied around the top with a recycled cotton braid, allows you to adjust the amount of light emitted and the overall appearance of the lamp.

"A concertina or pleated shade is a great way of introducing a different type of texture into a room," says Nix. "I would compare it to creating an oil painting, where you layer up different textures and effects to create depth and richness. I like to combine solid plain paper shades with pleated fabrics and patterned papers to achieve this." 



This geometric, six-sided shape brings a more formal appearance to a space. Informed by antique lighting, our hexagonal Townhouse shade is available in both Batik paper and three colours of artisan paper with various trim and stitch details. "It creates a really smart, chic and tailored look," says Nix of the Hexagonal design. "I particularly like the simplicity of the Batik paper, it brings softness, warmth and a magical glow. I find the amber tone to be really romantic."

Silk trims, stitching and lining

At NiX, we believe the details make the design and so many of our lamp shades are hand-finished with beautifully intricate silk trims and stitched edges. These subtle accents and handcrafted details provide the perfect finishing touches, bringing warmth and soul to each piece. You may also notice that some of our soft white paper lamp shades, such as Bright Spark and To the Point, feature a pink lining that produces a warm glow when the light is switched on. "It goes from being a simple white parchment to a lamp with an incredibly subtle rose glow," says Nix. "We spent a long time sourcing the contrasting lining material. It adds a wonderful layer of interest and a wonderful quality of light."



Our Rise and Bright Spark shades are made from a durable, high-quality parchment card that’s smooth to the touch and produces a gentle, romantic glow reminiscent of candlelight. Made from very thin tissue paper that is then laminated, the parchment card is similar to standard paper, but it undergoes special treatment to achieve a subtle sheen and slightly translucent quality.


Similar to parchment, paper shades have a wonderful warm glow and subtle texture that brings depth to an interior. Our artisan paper is individually handcrafted and hand-finished in China, Japan and the Philippines in soft white, mustard or burgundy colourways. Due to the shades’ handcrafted nature, each one has subtle variations in its surface making it beautifully unique.



Each of our Spotty Dotty batik paper lampshades is made in Nepal from handmade Lokta paper and printed using a traditional batik technique that lends each one a wonderfully crafted feel. Batik is an ancient wax-resist dyeing technique that originated from the island of Java, Indonesia and involves applying wax to the paper surface to mask areas so that when the piece is immersed or painted with dye, only the unwaxed areas absorb the colour. The wax is removed by boiling or scraping the surface, leaving the original colour behind on the areas treated with the resist. Our Dotty pattern features rows of spots in different sizes.

“I included the Spotty Dotty batik lamp shade in our collection because it has a subtle texture and playfulness that adds depth and interest to any interior scheme,” informs Nix. “The handmade nature of the batik has a beautiful irregularity to it which lends it a particular softness, while the Lokta paper emits a lovely warm glow when the light is turned on.”

About Nicola Harding & Co.

About Nicola Harding & Co.

Nicola Harding & Co is a London-based interior design studio that creates places, not spaces. Rich in atmosphere, our interiors are refined and reassuringly familiar, reflecting and serving the people that use them.

About Nicola Harding & Co