There are so many different types of lamp shades that you may feel overwhelmed by the prospect of choosing a shade for a table, floor, or ceiling light. You can create lamp shades out of practically any material, including nut shells, handmade paper, stained glass, or metal ribbon, and form it into practically any shape, such as a bell, curl, cube, or drum. By examining some of the basic types of lamp shades, you will learn about their construction and get ideas for embellishing a custom designed shade.
Everyone is familiar with the basic type of lamp shade that stretches material between top and bottom wire circles of differing diameters. Depending on the size ratio and length of these elements, this shape may be called a drum, coolie, or empire. Hardback shades have an exterior layer of folded fabric but an interior base of plastic that allows light to filter through. Silk lamp shades, however, are entirely fabric and much more expensive.
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Separating different types of lamp shades by shape is easy enough just by looking at them. But we can also differentiate between them by how they light a room. For instance, task lighting can be accomplished by a clear glass globe that lets through almost all of the light. On the other hand, ambient lighting adds more mood than brightness. Appropriate lamp shades to create peaceful surroundings would be accordion lanterns made of colored mulberry paper that casts a pinkish glow.
Of course, unusual materials construct different types of lamp shades, especially for unique lamps. For example, wall-mounted sconces may be shaded with a punched tin rectangle that creates dazzling shapes of light on the opposite wall. Library table lamps could use classical green glass lamp shades. Delicate, beaded lamp shades may cover small, metal lamps.
Besides defining different types of lamp shades by their shape, material, or degree of filtering light, we can look at how they attach to the base. Most standard conical shades sit atop a vertical stand and attach with a wing nut or screw. Some shades are permanently attached, such as the dishes on halogen torchieres. These reflective dishes bounce light off of a ceiling to brighten an entire room.
Sometimes lamp shades can eclipse the entire lamp base. For example, shoji lamps incorporate the paper shade into the structure of the stand. Some hanging lamps connect to the ceiling through a cord, so the entire lamp is a circular Chinese-styled shade surrounding a bulb.