Lamp Shades And Light Distribution

lamp shades

A lamp shade plays the crucial role in controlling light. It diffuses and directs. It’s easy to choose a light fitting based purely on looks and style, but if you study the shade and envisage the effect it will have, you’ll be able to plan your lighting scheme more effectively. This article explores some of the possibilities.

A Few Things To Consider

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Colour And Form

The colour of a shade and its interior lining (if any) directly affects the hue and strength of light. For instance, the black drum shade of the Zaragoza 3 Light Table Lamp allows a glow of warm outward light while emitting stronger up-and-down light through its glass diffusers. This is a good choice of mood lighting. Paler and thinner materials (e.g. paper) naturally allow more light to pass.

We can conveniently see the effect of darker versus lighter shades in the attractive Soprana Cone Cluster Pendant. Note the extra warm hue of the black shade once the light is switched on.

A sloping ‘coolie’ shade is common in table and floor lamps and forces much of its light downwards. The Tyso Floor Lamp is an example. This shape is useful for lighting tasks such as reading or writing, while also contributing ambient light to the room.

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Dome-shaped solid fittings such as the Cone Pendant act like reflector bulbs. The  metallic interior of the shade gathers up light and projects it downwards. Sometimes a golden interior is used, which warms the colour of the light before propelling it out. This style of shade is often used in multiples and suspended low over a table or desk (more about that in a while).

An uplighter like the beautiful Art Nouveau Tiffany Style Dragonfly Floor Lamp usually has a bowl or saucer-shaped shade and allows a limited downward flow of light. It bounces most of its light directly off upper walls and ceilings, dispersing it over a wider area.

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Lighting Patterns

Some lamp shades filter an enchanting pattern of light onto nearby surfaces. Graypants’ series of cardboard Scraplights, for instance, cast lighting patterns onto walls through the corrugated surface of their shades.

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Suspension Height

Most ceiling lights are height-adjustable at the point of installation. This is useful for taller people, as it avoids them constantly clunking their head on the shade. If the shade is hung over a table, adjustable height offers further possibilities. As the shade is moved closer to a surface, it creates a more intense pool of light in an ever-narrower beam. The benefit of this is great in a dining room or restaurant, where the focused light creates a feeling of personal space and intimacy. A fitting that is perfect for low suspension is the stunning Edit Globe Glass Pendant, which looks amazing as a single luminaire or in multiples over an elongated table.

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Rise And Fall Pendants

As mentioned, most ceiling lights require you to decide their suspension height at the time of installation. This is not the case with a ‘rise and fall’ pendant, which uses an early 20th century French design. The Rise-and-Fall Pendant, allows you to adjust its shade height after installation using a pulley. You can set it high up for general illumination or lower for more defined light and extra mood. These fittings are a superb choice for dining tables or kitchen islands.

Matching Shades With Bulbs

Some shades work well with specific types of bulb. The smoked glass Task Shade is complemented by the attractive form of a LED Decorative Filament Bulb, which can be seen easily through the shade.

Choosing Shades

To summarise, remember to consider the colour, material, and shape of a shade when shopping, and then enjoy the benefits of good lighting.

For more useful information see our Lighting Advice section.


Andrew Evangelidis Head of Buying

Andrew is an experienced buying professional who takes an entrepreneurial approach to identify new lighting solutions and ensure Lyco have first-to-market ranges for our customers. Having previously worked for well known brands such as Wickes, Carphone Warehouse and Toys R Us, Andrew has now turned his hand to sourcing commercial lighting and ensure our customers receive top brand quality products at marketing leading prices. He manages a team of commercial and decorative buyers who travel the world finding new products that our customers don’t even know they need yet.