The Illuminating History of Lampshades and Guide

Written by Natalie Aldridge.

Lampshades, those magical companions of lamps, have been brightening our lives for centuries. These captivating coverings have witnessed the transformation of light from a mere necessity to a symbol of style and ambiance. From their humble beginnings as functional devices to their current status as artistic focal points, lampshades have undergone an illuminating journey through time. So, let’s embark on a whimsical adventure through the captivating history and dazzling trends of lampshades!

The Shade Shop

Tracing its modern roots to the 17th Century, lampshades began as pragmatic coverings often made simple materials such as parchment, glass, or metal, used for the diffusion of flickering candle or oil lamp light. In Paris, the first public lanterns adorned the city streets, illuminating pathways during the night. Oil lamps with reflectors suspended above the thoroughfares giving way for the first public example of “lampshades”.

V&A Museum, Oil Lamp, Circa 18th Century

Over the centuries, craftsmanship evolved, and artisans began to slowly adorn lampshades with intricate decorative elements. As artistic movements such a Rococo and Neoclassical took center stage and lampshades reflected the prevailing aesthetics, with each era leaving its indelible mark on their design.

V&A Museum, Oil Lamp, Circa 19th Century

The era of Queen Victoria (1837-1901) witnessed a profound shift in the concept of lampshades as we know it. They transcended their utilitarian origins to embrace a newfound aesthetic dimension and use with the advent of the first incandescent light bulb. Lampshades were now needed to conceal the intensity of the electric light and the otherwise visible bulb. They emerged adorned with intricate designs, beguiling combinations of luxurious materials, beads, delicate lace, and graceful fringe, offering the opportunity adorn homes with a tasteful and refined adornments with a distinct purpose.

Pair of Victorian lamps

Choosing Your Shade

As lampshade design progressed, distinct styles developed leading to the cornucopia of shapes, fabrics, and other beautiful trimmings we see today. The options are endless and nothing is off the table. In terms of aesthetics, the general rule for harmonizing lamps and shades is to consider the shape of the lamp base and then finding a shade with a similar contour. For instance, if you have a bottle or urn-shaped lamp, tapered shades work well, while square lamps pair nicely with straight-sided shades. Column lamps, on the other hand, can go with either type of shade.

See below for the definitive guide on lampshade styles!

When selecting a lampshade for table lamps, keep these three essential guidelines in mind:

  1. The width of the lampshade should match the height of the lamp base.
  2. The height of the lampshade should be two-thirds of the height of the lamp base.
  3. The lampshade’s width should exceed the widest part of the lamp base.
  4. Balance, balance, balance!

For floor lamps, measure the height of the lamp base from the bottom to the top of the bulb rod. Next, divide this measurement by four, and you’ll get the ideal approximate height for the lampshade.

Dorothy Draper, Decorating is Fun, 1939


For all your custom or ready-made lampshade needs, take a look The Glam Pad approved resource list!

Strassels Lampshades, etc. on Etsy is our favorite resource for exquisite custom lamshades at a reasonable price. John can create anything your heart desires!
Strassels Lampshades, etc. designed these sconce shades for Andrea’s dining room using remnant silk from her curtains. Wallpaper by Gracie.
Ballard Designs
Blanche Field
Blanche Field created this beautiful lampshade for Holly Holden, as featured in The Pretty and Proper Living Room.
Svenskt Tenn 
Alice Palmer & Co.
Beauvamp Studio
Beauvamp Studio
Whether it is simple linen, pleated chintz, adorned and lacy, or anything in between, The Glam Pad, loves the art of the lampshade and the countless possibilities that come with illuminating a room.
x Natalie
Follow TGP on Instagram: @theglampad

Follow Natalie on Instagram: @natalieealdridge



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