Fun new shades for your tired old lamps

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

The pattern is called Carnival Wonderland, but the handpainted drum shade has the vibe of a pastel ethnic Suzani. It's 16 inches and $125 at Shades of Light,

If you find yourself wishing your tired lamps and chandeliers could stay a bit more in the shadows, perhaps it’s time to replace them. The shades, that is. Lamps are often described as the jewelry of the room — the accessory that sets your style statement. Modern lamps can put an instant, contemporary spin on more traditional furniture, glamorous lamps add a dressed-up element to casual rooms, and vintage pieces can contribute everything from industrial edge to sweet ’70s style.

But the shade is the detail that lets your lamp find its voice: It determines whether the lamp fits the space, the purpose, and the style you have in mind. Thus, a quick (and usually inexpensive) change of shade can completely transform the same old lamps into fresh style for your same old room. A few things to consider when switching shades:

— Get the proportions right. Pairing the right size and shape shade with a lamp is key, and there are a few rules that help you get it right. Most importantly, hardware should be covered by the shade, which means you may need to replace the harp that the shade stands on as well, to lower the new shade over the switch and socket. Measuring your lamp ahead of time can help you choose the size you need, ( has a good online guide to lampshade size and measurements), but your best bet is to bring your lamp to a store and try on shades. A lighting store that sells shades can offer expertise and more options, but bringing your lamp along to a big box store isn’t out of the question, either. In the end, when you see the right look, you’ll know.

— Consider size carefully. Know the space you want the lamp to go into and how much room there is for a shade. If you’re bumping the lampshade every time you put your keys down on the hall table, the shade will end up bent, and you’ll end up annoyed. Will a larger shade fit underneath those shelves above? Will it obstruct a view? Will the shape complement the table it sits on? All questions to consider, and worth time spent with your tape measure to be sure. Check websites for exact dimensions of the shade you’re considering buying.

— Allow for light. Color and opaqueness vary greatly from shade to shade, so remember to choose yours not only for the color you’d like to see in your room but also for the amount of light you’ll need the lamp to produce. Tole shades and some dark, lined shades allow light to be cast only vertically, while lighter shades allow for more ambient light in a room.

— Try on everything. Once you’ve got your lamp in the store, be open to different shade shapes, sizes and colors. Like trying on clothes, sometimes the unexpected choice is actually the one that makes the look come together. And a perfect shade can elevate any lamp, from that splurge-worthy favorite to a garage sale find.