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Shedding light on shades

A lampshade can make or break the look of your lamp. Even if the lamp is right, without the right shade, the look is wrong. The line between sophisticated and silly is a fine one. Shape, style, and proportion can make the difference between a lamp with elegance and flair and one that is overly ostentatious and lacking in balance. Choosing a lampshade is as personal as choosing the right hat- what looks good on you may not look good on me- and it certainly won’t fit! But no matter what your style, it helps to outline the basic guidelines.

The general rule of thumb when choosing a shade is the one-third rule. The shade should be no larger than one-third the total height of the lamp. If it is too large or too small, the lamp will look disproportionate. You should also make certain the base will take the size of shade without tipping otherwise not only will your style be compromised but possibly your safety too.

To ensure lamp and shade match, use your lamp as inspiration when shade shopping. Pick out a defining feature on the lamp, perhaps its shape, colour or a pattern on its body and find a shade with similar features. If possible, bring your lamp to the store.

Depending on the function of your lamp, the shade will need to cope with various demands and have certain qualities. There are basically only three different types of lighting that requires a shade- decorative, ambient and task. Decorative lighting demands only that the shade be beautiful and work well with the theme of the room so really look around the space you will be placing your lamp for inspiration in terms of colours to look for or patterns to continue. A decorative lamp and lampshade should be noticed, so choose the largest that the space will allow. Ambient light should be gentle and indirect. They are generally wall mounted up lighters; shades can be bought specially for such lights. They are semi circular in shape and appear to be upside down to a normal shade. They help to reduce glare and direct light towards the ceiling.

Much of the hard work is done for you as only this shape fits, all you will need to decide on is the colour and pattern- do take into account that because of the high position of the lamp, whatever colour shade you choose will tend to cast an ambient light of the same colour over the surrounding area. Task lighting such as reading lamp requires a little more thought. Reading lamps demand large shades as you will probably want a lot of directed light to come from the lamp and will also want a brighter light. The higher the wattage, the bigger the shade needs to be to avoid burning the fabric. Take into account how many people will be reading by the lamp’s light. Two people require a larger pool of light than one person. The broader the shade, the larger the light pool it creates. For detailed jobs, the spread should encompass the whole work area.

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