Summerhill has been selling lampshades for antique lamps for more than 15 years. Choosing a lampshade has some complexity. The current fashion in lampshades leans toward a smaller shade, more in balance to the size of the lamp base. Shape is also an important consideration and should follow the relative shape of the base as well. Mid-century modern lamp bases are now very much the rage, and for these lamps the traditional shape is conical and quite tall in the typical 1960’s fashion. These are the exception to the current style. Matching the current fashions to an antique lamp correctly is something of an art.
Types of fabrication
Understanding lampshade fabrication is primary to making a correct choice. Hardback shades are constructed simply. They are made of laminated paper and /or fabric. The hardback frame usually has no spines, a top and bottom ring defines the shape and size. A “spider” forms the top crossbar from which the lampshade is suspended over the lamp. If the lamp requires a harp to secure the shade, the spider will have a washer in the middle. If the shade is attached to the lightbulb, a clip or a flameclip is molded onto the spider. An “uno” fitter sits on the socket and has a deep recess. We avoid using this type of fitter as it seldom sits at the correct height and can be quite loose.
Soft lampshades are constructed with a variety of fabrics. Their frames always have spines which define the shape. Fabric is stretched around the frame and many require the fabric to be cut on the bias to accommodate a curved bell shape. They should all be lined with a fabric that can withstand heat from the lightbulb. They are finished with piping on the top and bottom of the shade. The vertical spines can also be covered with a piping for added architectural interest. Soft lampshades are typically more expensive than hardback lampshades. Soft lampshades are more labor intensive and require more raw materials. Are they worth the added expense? We believe they are worth the price. Simply put, soft lampshades have a richer appearance and a longer life.
Caring for lampshades
Caring for lampshades is really quite simple. Use a very soft paintbrush that is dedicated to dusting lampshades only. Consistently keep the lampshades as free from accumulated dust as possible. The acid in dust will eat through any fabric or paper over time. Make sure the lightbulb is not too close to the lampshade as heat will diminish the life of any shade. Protecting lampshades from direct sunlight will also lengthen both the life and appearance of shades. Ask us if you have any questions about finding the right lampshades for antique lamps in your home or at Summerhill.