Sorry about that title, but there is a part of me that should be writing copy for Highlights. There's also that part that should be updating his blog but it's summer and I'm volunteering countless [happy] hours to my favorite cause, Operation Margarita Smile. Oh and of course my dream house, both the online version and this little opium den I'm crafting downtown. All the while with Sweet Eliza's request ringing in my ears:
I was wondering, could you do a post in which you expound upon general lamp shade preferences and rules?
But of course! Truth is, there are a lot of fugly lamp shades in The Market which is why I'm sort of a traditionalist here ... the "creative" or "contemporary" categories always fail, and fail HARD. I'm all about narrowing the field, so let's begin with the most versatile and reliably chic, the paper Empire shade:
Whether pure white, ivory, black, or craft paper, this is the basic shape and material that all the GOOD stores use on their lamp inventory (whether or not they'll sell it along with said lamp is another story). I love them atop Chinese (or any) porcelain, Robert Kime-y columns, modern prisms and everything in between. Just maybe not on spindly candlestick lamps, too bulky and wide. You can paint them to look like lacquer with oil-based paint or just trim the top and bottom edges with a contrast color like Mrs. B did to her lovely parchment rectangles, love that shape too. Gracious Home stores carry a great selection of side-pleated silk empire shades -- more delicate than a box pleat -- in a bunch of pretty colors for more $$ than paper but much less than what the custom stores charge. Of course you can trick these out with ribbon or fringe, too. Moving on!
The Coolie. Yes, like the hat. To me this shape looks best paired with something tall and skinny-ish, lamps that don't need the extra height of an Empire. Reminds me, there was this chrome-and-wood Deco candlestick lamp at the Hinson lighting sale with the tiniest little black lacquered coolie shade I wanted SO BADLY ... isn't it sad when 70% off still doesn't seal the deal? The shape kinda gives off a relaxed Michael Taylor/California/beach condo vibe so you don't often see them in fancy pleated fabrics or bedecked in trims and tassels ... that would look fug. Speaking of fabric-covered paper shades, a solid linen or silk or a subtle plaid or stripe can be pretty but I'm personally against loud patterned fabric ones or anything textured. Faux leather or suede? Shudder. All too decorator-y (It's a self-hating profession. I'm working through it.) It's also important to avoid heavy finishing on the edges, that bulbous mass of fabric you see on every shade at Crate & Barrel. Keep it clean.
Lastly, I'm not sure what to call this one:
Square Empire? So crisp and architectural, especially atop urn lamps or anything more curvy/baroque. I'm not a fan of the blocky lamp + blocky shade combo, again too postmodern. Check these out in Gil Schafer's old bedroom, oiled craft paper with a brown paper tape at the edge. Love!
That's it? What about drums, ovals, bells, and bouillottes ... all the other shades under the sun? In short: they're fugly! Harsh, but I dare say true. They're all too old lady or Victorian or cutesy or Sopranos-y or po-mo. Okay I can think of about two exceptions but stick with the above and you'll stay in chic territory.
Other rules of thumb:
1. Always use shades on chandelier bulbs (that is if you absolutely have to have a chandelier!!)
2. Always wise to bring the lamp with you to the shade store. If you're shopping online to replace an existing one, measure the top and bottom diameters, overall height and slant (if there is one). But trust me, getting the proper scale is so much easier in person!
3. Finials: again, keep it simple. Ball, urn or whatever matches the finish and won't distract from the lamp. Fleur de lis and Chinese characters are fussy and fugulous!
4. Harps and hardware: No one likes to see the socket or that metal pipe underneath on most lamps -- Mugatu has drilled this into me. Buy a lower harp so at eye level the shade begins at the tippy top of the lamp or just below. If there's no harp holder thingee (someone help me with the term!), try a shade clip and a small utility bulb, the kind you use in your fridge.
Whew. Operation Shade Verbosity complete.