A Simple Guide to Lamp Shade Styles

Aqua Streaks Lampshade

And how to choose the right one for you room.

Lamp shades come in a variety of sizes, shapes and styles. With so many options to choose from, picking the right one for your space can be a daunting task.

Correctly sizing your lamp is more important than its style. After all, if the proportions are not right, it can make a stunning lamp look all wrong.

As far as lamp shade styles and shapes go, the key is knowing how best to pair them. That’s s exactly what I’ll explain below. So next time you go shopping for lamp shades it’ll be an easy and enjoyable experience.

Bell Lamp Shades

What characterizes bell lamp shades is their curved structure. They are narrower at the top and often have vertical piping to conceal the ribs on the metal frame. They come in many shapes but the most common are round, square and hexagonal. Bell lamp shades were popular in Victorian homes and work best in classic interiors. They generally pair well with ornate and oriental bases.

Bowl and Dome Lamp Shades

As the names imply, these shades have an upside down bowl or dome shape. They have a retro/vintage feel and are often used as pendant lamps. Because of their wide opening at the bottom they work well as reading lamps.  When used as table lamps they look best paired with a simple linear base.

Coolie Lamp Shades

The word “coolie” comes from the British term for a conical shaped hat originating in Asia. Coolie hats are also know as rice hats and are used as protection from the sun and rain. Their wide open conical shape is what inspired the coolie lamp shade. These shades usually feature a bottom width 3 to 4 times wider than the top. They can even come to a point at the top for a more dramatic effect. Coolies work best in contemporary environments. Pair them with simple, slender bases or large spherical ones.

Drum Lamp Shades

Drum lamp shades are cylindrical with an equal circumference all the way down. Although some can have a slight taper at the top. Drum lamp shades were very popular in mid-century homes. Because of their clean lines they tend to feel more modern than conical shades. As their proportions are voluminous, they pair well with bases that “fill” the space below. Examples of these are gourd shaped, sculptural and columnar bases.

Empire Lamp Shades

Empire lamp shades are the most versatile of them all. They have a tapered shape with the top diameter about half the size of the bottom, even though this can vary. For a more traditional look, you can add pleats, tassels or fringe. But if your home is transitional or eclectic in style, opt for clean, straight lines. Because of their versatility you can pair them with nearly any base.

Rectangle and Square Lamp Shades

These shades have four 90 degree angles top and bottom and come in many sizes. They can be equal on all sides, as with the square shade, or have a longer one making it rectangular. Rectangle and square shades are more suited for modern and contemporary interiors. They work best when paired with a similar base that mimics the shape of the shade.

The above guidelines are not set in stone. They’re meant to present what’s been tried and tested over the years. Feel free to experiment with lamp shade styles and shapes – don’t be afraid to mix and match – but more importantly, have fun!

As with any other home decor decision, no matter what lamp shade you choose, you can’t go wrong as long as it reflects your own style.

Did you find this helpful?  Do you have any questions or need any other decorating tips?

Just ask in the comments below – I’m all ears! 


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