Lamp Shades: A lesson in proportion

Lamp shades have always perplexed me and seldom do I get it right. Enter Toby Worthington, everybody's favorite blogosphere commentator, who kindly shared some rules of thumb.

Years ago while visiting Colefax & Fowler at 39 Brook Street, Mr. Worthington was granted permission to take measurements of their lamps and shades, which always struck him as perfectly proportioned.

Two things were apparent: the shape was always a gentle slope (not overly slanted or coolie tapered) and, even on the most refined porcelains, the material of the shade was plain off-white parchment.

You can find examples of this in Roger Banks-Pye's sublime Interior Inspirations as seen in the top photo.


Above, a reasonably priced, silk-lined shade from Restoration Hardware in the English Barrel shape used on two different lamps, in Mr. Worthington's own living room, below. Cost: 60 dollars! However, he just alerted me that they are currently on sale. Click here to stock up...


Scale depends, as a rule, on the distance between bottom of lamp and the point where it meets the socket~a good proportion is to have the shade's base diameter equivalent to the distance between the lower part of the socket and the base of the lamp itself. Note that the Colefax shades tend to be less tall than their American counterparts.

Another Roger Banks-Pye room with a shade very similar to Restoration Hardware's, although you can rest assured their client paid a lot more than 60 bucks.

Example: Shade with base diameter of 18 inches would have a sloped height of around 11 or 12 inches.

Mr. Worthington sagely reminds us that the formula changes a bit when fitting shades on to candlestick or columnar lamps - obviously a tall slender lamp would be overwhelmed by anything too large...
I have a pair of these adjustable candlestick floor lamps by Bill Blass for Visual Comfort flanking my sofa. Luckily they came with these parchment shades, or else they'd probably still be naked. Click here to see the entire Bill Blass Visual Comfort line which is quite handsome.

And finally Mr. Worthington shares this illustration of how to proportion the shade on a columnar lamp: Vaughan, Pembroke shape, cream card. It replaced an "old lady" shade of bell-shaped silk. Much smarter now.