disclosure: this post is sponsored by Lamps Plus.

When deciding on a lamp do you ever have challenges with what shade works for you? Here’s a simple guide to how to choose a lamp shade for your lamp.

how to choose a lamp shade

I love it when you ask me questions.


Did you know that there’s an unlimited question policy here at Thistlewood?

You can ask me questions in the comments or e-mail me or message me or send over a carrier pigeon with all the question marks. I even wrote an entire book filled with questions about decorating and paint colors and couches and chairs and pictures and wall treatments.

We are all in this together.


And one of the questions I get asked about is how to choose a lamp shade for a lamp.

So today?

We are talking lighting and lamp shades and lamps that we love and how to decide what works best in our spaces.

If you have a question—be sure and drop it in the comments.

I just might have an answer. 🙂

how to choose a lamp shade family room

How to Choose a Lamp Shade

Q: What color should lamp shades be?

I generally like three types of lamp shades (and for totally different reasons).

  1. I like white shades to bring airiness and light to a space.
  2. I like oatmeal or bisque colored shades to provide a hint of contrast to the lamp if I need some texture in the room.
  3. I like dark shades in black (especially if they have a gold inside the shade to truly reflect light).

The color of the shade that you choose will determine how much light you let into the space from the lamp. For example, in this family room, I like bright and airy lamp shades because the room doesn’t get a lot of natural light. In a study or media room or a room where I’m trying to create ambiance with minimum light, a black shade lined with gold is the perfect choice.

how to choose a lamp shade office

Q: what about patterned shades?

When deciding how to choose a lamp shade, I am TOTALLY on the design fence about this question.

There have been times in my life when I’m working on a room where a patterned shade makes a room pop—especially if I’m creating a modern space with a modern aesthetic. For example, when I was working on this office, the blue patterned lamp shades add the perfect accent against the coral walls.

My best advice?

Sometimes patterned lamp shades are the perfect accent for your room and pull everything together. Sometimes? The patterned lamp shade can be a distraction and appear to be too “matchy matchy.” Tip: if you decide on a patterned lamp shade, I would make it one of your first design decisions in a space, rather than adding it at the last minute.

how to choose a lamp shade living room

Q: What are the different types of lamp shade fittings?

Did you know that not all lamp shades are created equal?

There are three main types of fittings:

  1. Clip-on fitting:  This type of shade clips directly onto the lightbulb and are generally used with smaller lamps and chandeliers.
  2. Uno fitting: This type of shade is built directly into the lamp and typically screws in underneath the light bulb. This type of shade typically comes with the lamp and these shades are hard to replace.
  3. Spider fitting:  This is the standard shade that most of us are familiar with. The lamp comes with a harp that attaches to the base of the lamp. At the top of the harp, there’s a place to attach the shade by removing a finial and then using the finial to screw the lamp into place.

The reason why I mention fittings? Do as I say, not as I have done a ZILLION times. PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR LAMP. It determines the type of shade and if it’s easily replaceable or not.  I cannot tell you all the times I’ve bought a lamp and a shade only to get them home and figure out that they are NOT compatible. When determining how to choose a lamp shade, remember to consider how it will fit.

how to choose a lamp shade bedroom

Q: What are some of the biggest mistakes you can make when you choose a lamp shade?

It’s so easy to choose the wrong size shade for your lamp. Here are some mistakes to avoid when deciding how to choose a lamp shade:

  1. Make sure your lamp shade covers the light switch. If you have too much light switch showing, this means your lamp shade is sitting too high on the lamp. Many times you can fix this when you adust the shade.
  2. Make sure your lamp shade is the right size. Generally you want your lamp shade to be about 3/4 of the height of your lamp.
  3. Don’t choose a shade that’s too small. Your lamp shade should be WIDER than your lamp.
  4. Make sure you match your shade to your style of lamp. Traditional lamp? Traditional shade. Contemporary lamp? Contemporary shade. Mermaid lamp? You are on your own on this one.

how to choose a lamp shade sofa table

Q: Do all the lamp shades in your room have to match?

The short answer?


If you have two matching lamps on either side of a couch or bed like these lamps? Yes. They typically should match for symmetry—especially if they are the same lamp. But does every single lamp in your room have to have matching shades?


In fact, it’s actually better if the lamp shades are slightly different to give each lamp it’s own personality. In addition, many times the lamps are used for different purposes, so you the shades might be different for different lighting needs.

Q: how can you tell how many lamps to use in a space?

I added this question in here even though it’s not specifically about how to choose a lamp shade—mostly because it’s one that I get asked all the time.

It’s important to light up all the areas of a space and for this reason, I really like to have at least three points of light in every space.

For example, in the family room, we have two lamps on one side of the room, smaller lights on the bookcases and overhead lighting. I also ordered a chandelier for the table on the other side of the room. This gives me actually four points of light for different reasons.

  1. The table lamps are great for reading and task lighting.
  2. The overhead lighting is great for when you need a lot of light in the space.
  3. The bookcase lighting provides accent and helps illuminate a dark corner of the room.
  4. The chandelier will be perfect to light that area of the room when we play games or have dinner.

Q: what are some great basic lamps for any space?

This pair of white gourd lamps are MY FAVORITE.


Don’t tell the other lamps, but I have FOUR pairs of these.

I seriously cannot get enough of them. They come with their own shade (which makes choosing the lamp shade even easier) and they are sold as a pair from Lamps Plus.

They are sale right now and you can see them here.

This gourd lamp is a grown-up version of the smaller lamps I just mentioned.

These are the lamps I have behind the couch in the family room.

You can see them here.

It’s on sale right now, too, and you can see it here.

I just got two of these lamps for the upstairs and they don’t disappoint.

They have a slightly more modern aesthetic that blends perfectly with my traditional decor.

You can see them here.

I just got this pharmacy floor lamp for the front room.

My husband requested more light for reading and this lamp is seriously SO PRETTY.

It adjusts up and down and you can twist the shade to where you need the light most.

You can see it here.

I hope this answered your lamp shade questions and helps you determine how to choose a lamp shade the next time you are standing in the lamp aisle.

If you have any more questions about lamps or shades, just leave them in the comments or e-mail or message me.

I might be able to shine a little light on the problem. 🙂

disclosure: this post is sponsored by Lamps Plus.

I am proud to be one of their ambassadors. All opinions are my own.

Please see my disclosure page for more information.

Want to know how to decorate your home for free?
Click here to get my FIVE BEST secrets.


  1. Image for Kathy Menold Kathy Menold

    Karianne, Such a clear and concise explanation of how to choose a lampshade. I volunteer at a thrift store at my church and it always amazes me how many lamps we get donated which have the wrong sized shade. I have been known to switch them around to find the right match. Thanks for making this decor dilemma easily understood. Lamps can make or break a room. Love your gourd shape ones.

  2. Image for jean miller jean miller

    This question may be a little off topic, but I've wondered about the many clear glass shades I've seen on hanging lamps, usually above kitchen islands.. Do you think the clear shade is as effective as an opaque shade? Seems the light would not shine down but be deflected in all directions.

    1. Image for KariAnne Wood KariAnne Wood

      Jean, This is a brilliant question!  That type of light is super trendy right now! I personally like an opaque shade better--just because it directs light and you can't see the light bulb. Happy day!karianne

  3. Image for Debora Ann Rowe Debora Ann Rowe

    I am disappointed that I didn't get to see the black shades with gold inside. (Did I miss them?) It sounded like a nice idea. I will have to go on-line and look for them.

    1. Image for KariAnne Wood KariAnne Wood

      Debora, Sorry about that!  Here's the link to an example of a shade that I was talking about: https://www.lampsplus.com/products/black-shade-with-black-and-gold-trim-14x16x11-spider__36x50.html  Happy day! karianne 

  4. Image for Cheryl Gates Cheryl Gates

    Good morning KariAnne. Thank you for the good information on the lampshades. I was one who asked for a tutorial. In the past I have resorted to trotting my lamps around the stores, Home Goods, Lamps Plus, JCPenney's to name just few. The stores do not care for that so much. Now I have the help I needed.


    Love the info on lampshades. I switch some of mine out for the seasons. I like the warmer tones in the fall and winter and switch them out for the cooler tones in the spring and summer in Massachusetts . At our home in California I keep them cooler. For me it is the quality and color of the light.

  6. Image for Sharon Taylor Sharon Taylor

    Karianne, I have needed to get lamps for my living area and have put it off and put it off because I am so bad at choosing accessories. This was the nudge I needed and ordered your lamps. I cannot wait until they come in and finally complete my living room. Thank you so much!

  7. Image for Sharon Sharon

    In my 78 years, I cannot tell you how many lamps I have purchased (at thrift stores) for the shade and then painted the base. I have many lovely lights and most were ugly lamps but painted they are so pretty. Just a thought for those of you on a tight budget.

  8. Image for PJ PJ

    KariAnne, I have a lamp with an uno fitting and cannot find a replacement shade. Is it possible to add a harp to this style of lamp? Thank you for all the helpful information.

  9. Image for Sonya Sonya

    I just bought a vintage concrete lamp and was trying to figure out the lamp shade I need. Perfect timing for me to read your post. Thanks for the great information KariAnne.

  10. Image for Leslie W Leslie W

    Great helpful tips KariAnne! (-: I was wondering if you had any ideas on what might work well to add height to a very small accent lamp on a table? My problem is the glare. The table and lamp are in the hallway right at the bottom of the stairs so when we walk downstairs it’s rather blinding. Would books under the lamp base help? I just don’t want it too busy or cluttered looking if you know what I mean. (-:

  11. Image for Sue Sue

    Just the info I needed, this is going into my decorating file! But, that rug in the bedroom photo? What is it, where did you get it? I think I might need one, and I promise to match my lamps to it.

  12. Image for Kim Kim

    Great article! Wanted to add that I find perfectly good lamp shades at thrift stores. If I don't like the shade color, I just paint it. If you're handy, you can also make a new cover for the shade. At Home stores have a ginormous selection of lamp shades in all shapes and colors, plus associated hardware, i.e. harps, etc. Some of the larger Hobby Lobby stores have a good selection plus the 40% coupon makes it more affordable to customize your lamp.

  13. Image for Kelly Kelly

    One of the best places I have found for replacement shades is At Home. They had all types and sizes of lamp shades and replacement harps if they don't fit your lamp exactly right. I have some lamps in my living room that I actually change the shades with the season. I also updated some 1980's crystal and brass lamps with new shades. I still have one of the first lamps I bought when I moved into an apartment on my own almost 30 years ago. Paint and a new shade can really update a lamp!

  14. Image for Penny Penny

    Karianne - out of curiosity, have you ever spray painted a shade? I have the perfect lamps with the almost perfect shades except for they need to be black and of course they are chocolate (on a brass pineapple base - looks sick). So, if you have any tips, tricks and hacks I would love to hear/see. Thanks!!

  15. Image for Liz Liz

    I was wondering if anyone else has encountered problems with white lampshades turning yellow. How can this be prevented/avoided? It happens all the time, even though the shade is large enough for the bulb. Then the light in the room is all yellowed.

Comments are closed.