top of page

How to Choose the Perfect Sized Lampshade

Updated: Dec 13, 2023

If you’ve discovered our Lampshade Making Kits but are struggling to work out what size of lampshade you need, this post has ALL the answers! Our guides will help you choose the most suitable diameter, height and shape of lampshade, allowing you to focus on the exciting part – choosing your fabric!

Choosing the width or diameter of shade (height of base)

Firstly let’s start by explaining the diameter of a lampshade, which is the width across a lampshade, from one side of the ring to the other.

Lampshades are labelled using the diameter, for example, a 30cm Lampshade is a popular choice for both table lamps and pendant lights (a lampshade that hangs from the ceiling). It’s also the way we size our range of DIY Lampshade Making Kits.

To make a lampshade that is balanced with your lamp base the rule of thumb for a thin or narrow lamp base is:

The width or diameter of the lampshade should be equal to the height of the lamp base, for a slim or narrow lamp base.

So for example a lamp base that is 35cm in height, ideally needs a shade 35cm in diameter, give or take 2-5cm on either side of the lamp base. So a 30cm, 35cm or 40 cm diameter shade will work for a 35cm high lamp base. If you’re unsure of the diameter of the shade to make, opt for the biggest size. An exception to this rule is a candlestick lamp, which looks good with just about any shape of lampshade including small and narrow-diameter shades.

When measuring the lamp base, use the distance from the bottom of the lamp base to just below the lamp holder (the electrical fitting that the bulb sits in) or the rod that this sits in, as the height. Ideally, the lampshade will cover the fitting so it’s not visible.

Other considerations when picking a lampshade are what other furniture is in the room? How wide is the surface that the lamp base will stand on? What is the function of the space, i.e. will the lamp base jut out on a main thoroughfare? These practical factors will also help you decide the best size shade. Our Oval Lampshade Making Kit is perfect for use in a narrow space, giving the illusion of a circular lampshade, but flat enough to sit against a wall.

Choosing the height of a lampshade

The height-to-diameter ratio in our Lampshade Making Kits is already predetermined as the Stick It Lampshade PVC Panel is pre-cut to the correct height ratio for the diameter.

If however you graduate to cutting your own lampshade PVC panels or use our Lampshade Designer Service the following rule applies

The height of the lampshade from top to bottom, should be one-third of the height of the lamp base

Choosing the width or diameter of shade (width of lamp base)

For lamp bases that vary in width, there is a slight variation to the rule above. To help balance the visual mass of a wider base, whether this is a spherical base or a traditional pedestal-style base, the following rule can be applied:

The width of the lampshade should be twice the width rule for wider lamp bases

It’s worth calculating the 'height of lamp base’ rule and the ‘width of lamp base’ and seeing what the difference is between the two.

Choosing a shade to suit the style of base

The general rule of thumb when choosing a lampshade shape is to mirror the style of the lamp base with the shade, so for example, a square base can be echoed with a square shade and a round base can be echoed with a circular drum shade. This said a circular lampshade will suit most shapes and styles of base.

Visually, the lampshade works best when it reflects the shape of the lamp base so use this advice to guide you:

For a base with defined straight lines, opt for a geometric-shaped shade.
For lamp bases with softer lines, for example, round globe or tapered urn bases, opt for a circular shade, such as drum, empire or conical lampshades.

When choosing a geometric-shaped shade to make, consider our Rounded Rectangle and Rounded Square Lampshade Making Kits. These offer a geometric shape, yet with softer edges.

Understanding Light Distribution

The shape of your chosen lampshade will determine how much light the shade will give out. A lampshade with straight sides, such as a drum shade or empire shade, will direct light through the rings at the top and bottom of the shade. A conical shade will distribute light outwards through the larger ring at its base. The smaller the rings of the shade the less light will be emitted.

Your chosen covering will also contribute to light emission, so the darker the fabric the less light will be emitted from the shade. If you choose to make a double side lampshade using a fabric or wallpaper inner lining, the light will be restricted from shining through the shade. However, if you choose a metallic laminate for your inner lampshade, this will emit a subtle soft glow around the area under the shade.

Choosing a lampshade for a floor lamp

Floor lamps, due to their height can withstand a much larger diameter shade therefore any size between 40 and 60 cm will work. In terms of determining the right height for a floor lamps shade use the following guide:

Measure the floor lamp from base to electrical fitting and divide by four, to calculate the height of the shade.

Throw away the rules

The joy of making your own lampshade is that anything goes! To add a sense of drama to your lamp base look for inspiration on our Instagram #memadeshade hashtag, which has over 7,000 posts of creative lampshades made from our kits.

Why not try a tall narrow shade to a small round base, for a 70s vibe? Or a large empire shade on a candlestick lamp base to recreate Georgian period lighting? Our Lampshade Design Service can help you design any size or shape of lampshade you dream up.

Read our Blog post ‘Creating the perfect bespoke sized shade’ or hop straight over to the service itself to get started straight away!


bottom of page