The Little Things: Lampshades

By Sarah Van Arsdale on July 23rd, 2008
Designer Monthly's Little Things column places a spotlight on those home accessories that are often overlooked, and we'll show how they can be improved to make a world of a difference. Our pursuit is to enhance the decor through economical yet aesthetically superior measures.
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Sometimes, you walk into a home and think, "wow," but you're not really sure why. You examine it piece by piece: terrific wall color, check. Great furniture, check. Good lighting, check. And yet, there is something that pulls the whole look together, something you can't quite place...

Take a closer look. It may be the lampshades.

Lampshades are one of those "little things" that can cause a big change in the look of a room. The wrong one, no matter how lovely in the store, will stick out like a Queen Anne chair in a mid-century modern design.

NYIAD Top Tip: Just as it's easy to find lampshades that will clash with your look, it's just as easy to find lampshades that will blend in, drawing no attention to themselves, but also adding nothing to the room except their own lack of enthusiasm.

And yet, when you hit the right one, it can pull the whole room together.

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Often, when thinking lampshades people think of Victorian lampshades, perhaps because there was such a boom in creative design when they were originally being produced. You can find many interesting updates of the Victorian shade.

We particularly like those we found at Eagle Emporium, an antiques and collectibles shop which started in Pennsylvania and now runs exclusively on the Web. They specialize in wrought iron and — you guessed it — vintage lighting.

ome of the shades are hand made, with hand-sewn rosettes, lattice smocking, and layered fabric.

But what if the room you're designing doesn't have a Victorian style? For a unique take on lamps and lampshades that would go well with an Asian, modern, or Arts and Crafts look, check out Zen Stone Lighting.

These shades are made of acid-free glue and imported colorfast paper. Each shade is made of many layers of fibrous fabric, creating a multi-hued look when against the light.

Finally, lampshades are limited to materials of fabric or paper. Gerald Tobola, an artisan based in Texas, forms interesting and shades from copper, some with images of animals, others with traditional images of flowers or patterns.

Tobola also has a line of "contemporary" shades, one of which is inspired by the work of Frank Lloyd Wright.

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This summer, if you're visiting Washington, D.C., you can see Tobola's work at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. Visit the Center's website, or Tobola's, for details.

With a little searching, you can find lampshades in any style to suit any room's look — and you'll find some interesting surprises as well.

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