Pairing lampshades with lamp bases and wall lights is really about getting the proportions right: top-heavy or too small is never a good look, and, fortunately, fairly easy to avoid.

If you are simply replacing a lampshade, the old is obviously a very good reference point, as something very similar is likely available.

If you don’t have a shade, but the lamp does have a harp that is properly sized for the base, pairing a lampshade is easy and straightforward.  Measure the harp, and find a lampshade with height to match.

If, however, you’ve found a fabulous pair of antique vases, or a vintage fixture that lost its shades a long time ago, there are some good rules of thumb to help put it all together.

Table Lamps

Standard Bases

For converted urns, vases, and bottles, hefty cylinders, shapely gourds, and all sorts of vintage lamps, you may find yourself without a harp, or if you have one, you may want to change it.

First measure the base, from the tabletop to where the neck meets the base of the socket. Your harp should be somewhere between 3/4 and 4/5 the height of the lamp; it should rarely be the same, and certainly never larger.

You might also measure from tabletop to the base of the socket, and multiply by 1.25 to confirm that the diameter will result in a pleasing proportion.

Stick Bases

Stick bases are exactly what you imagine they are: a very slender column with a small base. They are exceptionally versatile and allow a bit more wiggle room when shopping for shades.

Assuming that they are not meant to have very small shades perched on top (like some buffet lamps), just about anything smaller in diameter than the height of the base will work, and look best when the stick is about twice the height of the shade. It is unlikely that you would ever find yourself needing a lampshade larger than 16″ in diameter for a tabletop stick lamp, unless you’re going for a flamingo effect. Empire shapes seem to work best, as the taper at the top balances the bottom.

If all of that makes sense and you’re still stuck, driving yourself crazy with a measuring stick, please send an email with a photo of your lamp, at eye level and straight on, make a note of the height to the socket and the diameter of the base, and I will do my very best to help.

Chandeliers & Wall Lights

Chandelier lampshades are all more or less similarly sized: they have a torpedo clip fitting, and are typically about 4″ high, and under 5″ in diameter, too. And because they are often more diminutive in scale, or at least in wall projection, vintage wall lights are often better paired with chandelier shades.

Larger sconces or wall lights are a bit trickier as the key measurement is the projection from the wall, and if they are double or triple light sconces you must also take into account the distance between the lights. Remember to use half the diameter measurement when determining whether a shade will fit: a sconce with a 6″ wall projection to the light will easily take a 7″ diameter lampshade, as the shade will extend only 3.5″ towards the wall, leaving a good bit of space.

Finally, swing arm lamps of the sort you’d find above a sofa or reading chair often take a 12″ diameter small empire lampshade with washer fitting at top.