Finishing Touch

New York City Lampshades 101

It’s hard to imagine a successful interior that doesn’t include a great table lamp, but then again who could have foreseen the end of the incandescent light bulb?  But as the winds of change blow through lighting design, one thing remains constant… if you want to get the right lampshade you need to take the base to your shade vendor.  I’ve tried many times to “eye-ball” my way though it, with consistently poor results.

The shape of the shade (coolie, drum, square, empire etc), the material it is made from (paper, velum, fabric), and the color need to be chosen.  I like to choose shades that both compliment and contrast with the base.  Incandescent lightbulbs (no longer being manufactured) generated heat, so with many shades 100 watts was the maximum recommended.  Compact fluorescent bulbs do not emit heat, so wattage is no longer a safety consideration.  While most CF manufacturers consider their product “full spectrum”, I find that even the best cast a slight bluish tint. To compensate and neutralize the blue, I have been favoring shades that are slightly creamier colors when ordering custom shades (a little yellow to balance the blue).  I have one last rule, get a diffuser manufactured into a custom shade whenever possible., as I find hard-edged circular shapes cast onto the ceiling ugly.

As I live in NYC, anything is possible, so I favor a 3 tiered / 3 vendor approach to lampshade shopping.  For good quality ready-made shades, I always turn to Gracious Homes.  They have a great selection in many materials and 99% of the time have the basics in stock.  For a custom shade when I don’t want to break the bank (say for a lamp in a secondary room), I like “Just Shades” on Spring Street in Soho.  And finally, when only the best will do, I custom order at Oriental Lamp Shade, with locations on both the UES and UWS.