The production of the first incandescent light bulb in 1879 revolutionized interior lighting and led the way to the use of lampshades. Made of paper, the primary function of the shade was to disperse the light equally throughout a room and protect the eyes from its glare.
Lampshades took on a new aspect under the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901). During this time they went from simple and utilitarian to ornate and decorative. Victorian shades were made of combinations of material, beads, fringe and lace and offered families ways to create a tasteful and refined atmosphere in their homes.
At the close of the 19th century, American artist and designer Louis Comfort Tiffany began producing lampshades made of stained glass in elaborate patterns. The highly distinctive style is recognized and admired throughout the world. The most ever paid for an original Tiffany lamp was $2.8 million at an auction in 1997.
When choosing the perfect lampshade for your home, you must keep in mind place and proportion. The shade needs to complement without being overwhelming, and it needs to draw just enough attention to be noticed.
The first thing you do when trying to pick the perfect shade is to look at your lamp. What is its general shape? If your base is round, then a round shade usually works best. A square or angular lamp base tends to look better with a square shade.
Here are a few tips when lampshade shopping:
- Shade height: Your shade should be 2/3 the height of your base
- Shade width: Your shade should be twice the width of the base
- Your lamp neck, harp, and all hardware should remain hidden underneath the shade
- Pleats say traditional; Smooth suggest contemporary
- If possible, take your lamp along when you go shopping.
Brilliant: The Evolution of Artificial Light, by Jane Brox
History of Light and Lighting, by David L. Dilaura
Miniature Victorian Lamps, by Marjorie Hulsebus
Masterworks of Louis Comfort Tiffany, by Alastair Duncan, Martin Eidelberg and Neil Harris