First off, lets talk about the difference between hardback and softback shades. If you have a dressier lamp, or are placing your lamps in a more formal setting, opt for softback shades, meaning the shades will be silk or fabric lined. They are almost always more expensive, but the look is more luxurious. On the flip side, softback shades are more prone to dry rot, which occurs when the heat of the bulb dries out the lining and causes it to shred. This is almost impossible to repair, because once dry rot starts, shades begin to deteriorate and there is nothing to patch onto. If you decide to choose a softback shade, make sure you either use a low-watt bulb, or at least a smaller bulb, such as a torpedo bulb, which puts off the same amount of wattage but less heat because it sits further away from the shade. In my experience, it is nearly three times more expensive to have the original shade repaired than to buy new shades, so keep this in mind when searching for shades.
Hardback shades are the second option. A more casual, relaxed option that is perfect for a more casual space, hardbacks last longer and are more affordable. Hardback shades are great for basic lamps, and also work well for retro lamps. Pottery lamps that are more rustic look fabulous with burlap, textured shades, and brass lamps are especially sharp looking with a black paper shade with a gold or tortoise-shell lining. Anything clear, such as popular glass or acrylic lamps, though usually more formal, can take a hardback shade if in a more casual or modern setting. It really depends on the look you are trying to achieve in the room- as a basic rule of thumb, hardback= casual, softback= formal.
Well, you have your basic knowledge of shades, now back to the important task of fitting them properly! Remember this: half of the neck needs to show. What is a neck?
A neck is the part of the lamp between the actual piece that is made into a lamp and the socket. You never want the socket to show, and you never want to cover the top of your lamp. See some examples below.
Now the good examples, where the shade sits at the proper height, allowing half the neck to show.
How can you achieve this? With the correct harp! The harp is the u-shaped piece that fits into the saddle located at the base of your lamp's socket, which your lamp shade sits on. There are several sizes- from 5" to 14". There are also low-weight and heavy-weight harps, which really cannot be determined unless you bring your lamp to the store and fit it yourself.
When searching for lampshades, it is very important to bring the lamp with you if possible. This will save you several trips back and forth from shops, and a lot of headache. With the experience I have, I still wouldn't be able to eyeball what shade I need for a lamp, and more importantly, the correct harp size. Also be sure to tell the consultant if you need a pairof shades as early as possible- trust me, nothing is more heartbreaking than finding what we would refer to as a "onesie" that we fell in love with, only to discover that the client needed a pair!
New shades can make a tired lamp look brand new. With proper care, shades can last up to 30 years, it all depends on the wattage of the bulb, the size and fabric the shade is made of, and of course a proper fit. Taking your lamps to a specialty shop might cost more initially, but like everything in life, you get what you pay for- quality!
Moonshine Shades for funky fiberglass reproduction shades.
Alluminaire for contemporary drum and square lamp shades.
Pottery Barn has excellent basic hardback shades, including black and textured options.
- Genevieve at Swank