What are the Different Types of Lamp Shades?

S. Mithra

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.

Lamp shades can be constructed from a number of different materials, such as fabric, shells, stained glass and paper.
Lamp shades can be constructed from a number of different materials, such as fabric, shells, stained glass and paper.

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.

Lamp shades can be chosen based on how they illuminate a room.
Lamp shades can be chosen based on how they illuminate a room.

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.

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Discussion Comments


When I was pregnant with my first child, I was looking for Winnie the Pooh accessories for the nursery. I wanted a table next to the rocking chair with a small light on it.

I found the cutest pleated lamp shade with several Winnie the Pooh characters on it that I couldn't pass up.

That lamp shade was used for many years with all three of my kids. Such an inexpensive item brought many years of memories for myself and my kids.


You can quickly change the look of a room just by changing the table lamp shades. This is an inexpensive way to go with new decor without purchasing completely new lighting.

When me moved to a different house I had a floor lamp and a table lamp that were still in good shape, but I had a completely different color scheme and look. All I had to do was find two new lamp shades instead of brand new lighting.


I'm looking for something to go around our speakers sitting on our entertainment center? Like a fake lamp shade, candle cover, or something that looks nice?

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