Lamps Can Make Or Break A Room: How To Find The Right Shade

Lamps Can Make Or Break A Room: How To Find The Right Shade

Don’t underestimate the impact of a good old table lamp to bring a room together. But finding the right shade/base combination is not as simple as you might think. Following their collaboration with The Lacquer Company to create stunning bamboo lamps, who better to ask for their advice on shades than leading interior designers Salvesen Graham? Here’s what they said…

The first thing to ask yourself is will this combination suit the space and the room? When choosing a lamp, it’s not only important to think about the room and the space it’s going in, you have to think about the sort of lighting you’re trying to provide. Ask yourself: is the lighting necessary for a specific task or just to add a glow to the area? Think about your space, the height of the ceiling, the height of the furniture and make sure the lamp you choose has good proportions in relation to all these elements.

There aren’t any rules when it comes to buying the shade and base together or separately. More than anything, you should buy the lamp and the shade, safe in the knowledge that they go together. In fact, there’s only one rule we tend to stick to, which is never use a square shade with a round base.

Another good rule is to use a shade carrier when you have a duplex shade. It will give you flexibility for a different fitting in the future. The shades we now sell are all duplex for this exact reason. A smaller shade might need a smaller/shorter shade carrier and vice versa – but don’t worry, they’re relatively easy to find on sites like Amazon


A final rule of thumb when buying shades is that the shade should be a third of the overall height of the lamp. It’s possible for certain lamps to take on different sized shades, but this tends to depend on where the lamp is going – such as a bedside or corner table.

When you’re looking at bulbs, if the lamp isn’t needed to light a specific area for a specific task, there’s no reason not to go for a softer bulb. It will give off a more ambient light. If you don’t have a 5amp circuit – which gives the ability to dim your lighting – this would always be our preference.

If you’re confused about all the different shade shapes, stick to the classics – like an Empire or Pembroke. From there, you can update it with different fabrics and colours to give it a more contemporary feel. 

Buying a classic shade allows more freedom with the base. Don’t be afraid to use multiple styles of bases in one room – it can work. For example, traditional thinking tells us that if the lamp is supposed to sit on a large table, it would need to be a large base. However, a taller slim lamp with a larger shade would still work. It’s why we developed our Bamboo lamps with The Lacquer Company: they’re a bit taller but can hold their own. It’s the colour which adds the impact.


Adding lacquer into a scheme can provide an extra layer. It also works just as well in formal and informal settings. Our second collection with The Lacquer Company was derived from wanting to reinvent the traditional style of lamp with bold colours – which is why we introduced the vibrant Mustard Column and Raspberry Pink Bamboo lamps this time around. 

If you’re feeling confident, play around with size and shape. In a corner of a drawing room it might be better to use a larger shade, while a gathered shade with a scallop shape could be better by your bed. We recently did a fabulous shade for a client that was pleated with a gathered frill edge for a floor lamp. It felt perfectly old fashioned and of the moment all at the same time. 

Where you can, use the fabric on the shade to tie things together. We tend to create bespoke shades and love to tie in the fabric we’re using with the rest of the room. A good way to bring all the colours together is with a multi-coloured shade. If you’re using lots of different lamps in the same room, try adding variations of materials: think pleated, card and laminated fabrics.

Sometimes, taking a risk pays off. It can be fun to go for a really bold pop of colour with a vibrant lamp base, while a matching card shade will look really impactful. If you’re attempting to use the shades to tie multiple colours together, consider a really fabulous multi-coloured fabric shade.

To see Salvesen Graham’s lamps for yourself, visit

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