Lampshades, like hats, go out of fashion

DESIGN LINE

June 14, 1992|By Rita St. Clair

A lampshade, you may think, is too small a detail to make a big difference in the design of a room. Surprisingly, perhaps, a great many people do not share that opinion. Choosing an

appropriate lampshade, I've noticed, is one of the topics most intensively discussed by clients involved in a major make-over.

Lampshades are a lot like hats. There's a good chance that older ones, besides showing their age, will no longer work with what's currently in fashion.

Maybe it sounds strange to speak of lampshade "fashions," but their shape, silhouette and even their material change in accordance with design trends. That's true even for classically based settings, which are supposed to have a timeless quality.

If you don't believe it, just take a look at those lampshades in your home that are more than 10 years old. Now compare them with the types found in magazine photos of contemporary interiors. See the difference?

Right now, lamps appear to be shrinking rather dramatically. Actually, in most cases, it's the shade -- not the lamp itself -- that's become much smaller than was typically the case just a few years ago.

How, then, does one go about selecting the proper shade for a particular lamp? Try the easiest way first. Take the lamp to a shade shop and have it try on a few hats.

Perhaps a lamp base is too heavy to be carried to a shop. If so, make a simple sketch of it, and then do another with the kind of shade you'd like to find. Even a very rough drawing will help in choosing the style and size of shade that's right for a particular lamp.

The sketched outlines shown here represent some standard matches between lamp bases and shades. A drum shade, for instance, is usually a safe bet for a taller and larger base. Shorter and tapered shades, such as mandarin or boulliotte, go well with smaller lamps and with unusual shapes like figurines or highly styled candlestick lamps.

Color and material are also important considerations in deciding upon a shade. The choice should be consistent with the overall styling of a room as well as with the look of the lamp that's being covered.

A slight rose cast can produce a lovely glow in a room. And please note that this effect can be easily and inexpensively achieved by lining a white shade with a rose-colored fabric.

All the shades in a room do not have to be of the same material.Parchment, linen and silk can be safely -- and beautifully -- mixed in a single setting. In addition, an opaque paper shade that allows light to fall only on the ceiling and table top can add interest to a room containing several translucent shades.

Keep in mind that some combinations just don't make it. A ceramic or heavily textured lamp base, for example, will not take kindly to an elegantly pleated silk shade.

But I don't want to discourage anyone from trying something adventurous. There's no rule that says lampshades have got to be plain. They can be made from all sorts of fabrics, and be trimmed or braided on top and bottom. In English country interiors, I've even seen decorative shades that pick up a print design used on a chair or sofa.

The lesson here is to think of lampshades as something more than a covering for a light bulb. They're important details that can ruin an otherwise well-planned space or help add sparkle to a tired room.

Los Angeles Times Syndicate

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