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In a recent column you said that you can have shades for lamps “made up”. Are you able to tell us where you do that? I’ve got a lampshade that either needs repairing or replacing. I’ve looked at doing it myself, but fear I’d make a mess of it. Can you suggest someone?
In rooms that we spend lots of time in — drawing rooms, libraries and studies — I like a lot of table lamps. I like these mixed with floor lamps placed close to particularly comfortable armchairs, and the odd set of electrified or candle wall sconces. I’m not keen on overhead lighting, because things and people do not look good lit from above.
(I do sometimes like a ceiling light in a sitting room, if it is a particularly fabulous one featuring lots of little lampshades, and the room is big enough to take it, but the light has to be dim — a background note, only.)
The warm, soft light cast by a lamp, because it passes through a shade, is much friendlier and more inviting than anything one might get from a lantern or spot lights. To create a cosy glow, lampshades have to be chosen wisely.
As usual, it’s about balance. In a room with several lamps, I aim to have different stories going on that sing together in a harmonious fashion: a couple of fabric lampshades and a couple of card lampshades in a variety of colours and patterns.
In our sitting room in the Cotswolds, we have a card lampshade in a seaweed pattern from Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler, another card one painted to look like faux tortoise-shell, a gathered shade made from vintage silk ikat fabric (I sourced this from the brilliant Nushka), and one made from paper printed to look like pine, made by the artist and designer Bridie Hall.
It can also be interesting to vary shape and style. See Martin Brudnizki Design Studio’s Academicians’ Room at the Royal Academy in London. Though all of the lampshades in this room are neutral, the shapes vary from contemporary cones to frillier, fringed Victorian. This range gives the room a wonderfully bohemian, lived-in look.
Talking of interesting shapes, recently I’ve been eyeing up Robert Kime’s incredibly elegant hexagonal shades made from papyrus.
Of course, lampshades need not be bought off the peg. I have to admit that I haven’t experimented with actually making my own, as fun as this might be. I’ve filed it away with countless other things best left to professionals. However, I very much enjoy the beginning process of considering shapes and choosing papers, fabrics and trims.
The job then is to find someone to help with the technical bit. I’ve worked with A Shade Above — this Brighton-based company creates completely bespoke, handmade lampshades, but it should be possible to find a company local to you.
But, if you do fancy having a go yourself, there are plenty of guides to be found online. The (now defunct but still accessible) American website Design*Sponge, for example, has featured a guide to making drum-shaped lampshades in the past.
Light passes through fabric in a more illuminating way than through card or paper, if it manages to pass through at all. But creating or embellishing card lampshades is easier than working with fabric.
Plain cream card shades are hard to beat, as they go with everything and the light they create is always pleasing, but I often take a paintbrush to them to liven them up.
I particularly love lampshades made from gathered plain silk. I buy inexpensive silk from James Hare, Britain’s specialist. Its Regal silk range features many brilliant colours, from dusty pink to zesty lime. This type of shade, like the ones I have in my bedroom, I have lined with plain cream cotton. The light they cast is always perfect, bright but not dazzlingly so, ideal for when one really needs light — to read by, say.
Lining is key. A neutral fabric lining I find works well with fabric shades, but gold paper or acetate is a better choice for dark card shades. Light cannot escape through the faux tortoise-shell shade I mentioned earlier, for example. Not a single glint: it’s like a black hole in the corner of our sitting room.
In fact, it looks much better in the daytime when the lamp is switched off and sunlight is shining across it. The hand-painted pattern is so sublime, however, it really is worth it. To help what little light isn’t sucked away to escape, the shade was made with a gold lining. In the evening, the faint, soft glow is wonderfully amber hued, and the effect is really rather entrancing.
My last word of advice? Don’t worry if it takes a little while to find the perfect lampshade. I buy shades and send them back all the time. It’s a curse, but it’s the only way — you really do have to play around with sizes and styles until the right fit is found.
There are other mind-boggling, frustrating and banal things to consider, such as shade carriers and various strange fittings — but we’ll leave these for a column in 2027, I think.
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