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Lamp Shades

Martha Stewart Living Television

Q: How do you measure a lamp shade to fit a lamp properly?
 -- Marcia Joseph,
Davison, Michigan

The right lamp shade will enhance your lamp and the home it illuminates. But choosing a shade is a little like shopping for new clothes: Just as it's not a good idea to buy a pair of pants without trying them on, the best way to fit your lamp for a shade is to take it to the store and try on various shades.

Choose a lamp shade that allows for a small amount of empty space between the shade's base and the contour of the base's shoulder. The lamp's shade and its base should complement each other.

If you just can't get your lamp to the store, buy an inexpensive paper shade that's similar in size to the one you want to replace or purchase, then take that to the lamp-shade store as a model.

Bulbs
When buying bulbs for your lamp, first decide where your lamp will sit. If the lamp is to go on a bedside or coffee table, the light it casts will most likely be coming from below; in this case, it's best to use a frosted bulb to avoid glare.

Gauge the strength of your bulb by the size of the shade. Buy lower-wattage bulbs for smaller, narrower shades to help diffuse the heat and prolong the life of the shade's fabric.

Finials
The finial is the knob that fastens the shade to the lamp harp, which is the supporting wire that extends vertically from the base tracing the shape of the bulb. Finials come in all shapes and sizes and are usually made of wood, glass, or brass. A finial's shape may be simple and round, sculptural, or geometrically complex. Take the lamp with you when buying a finial, just as you would when buying a shade. If you're still unsure about which finial is best for your lamp, or if you don't have your lamp with you, it's usually a good idea to stick to a round, solid-color one.

Q: Can I wash a parchment shade with mild soap and water?
 -- Mrs. Frank Pallari,
San Francisco

You should not use soap and water on your parchment lamp shade. Parchment shades are made of cardboard and are very sensitive. Water and even a mild soap will stain the shade. In fact, even fingerprints can leave permanent stains on a parchment shade.

Instead, clean your shades frequently so the dirt and dust doesn't settle and stick. One of the best tools you can use to dust off your shades is a blow dryer. Make sure it's on a cool setting, and never touch the shade directly. You can also try dusting your shades with a feather duster, a soft-bristle brush such as a paintbrush, or a cheesecloth. Use a gum eraser to get rid of any small marks. Whatever you use, make sure it's soft and exceptionally clean -- free of dust, oil, or sediment.

Since we're on the subject of cleaning, you can also dust off your lamp base using a damp cloth. Never submerge your lamp base in water, as it will damage the wiring. Wipe off the light bulbs occasionally, to obtain maximum light from the bulb, but make sure the bulb is cool and that the lamp is disconnected before you do this.

Comments (4)

  • 6 Jun, 2012

    I have a gorgeous lamp and it seems to have a one of a kind shade, because I cannot find another like it to fit. The one I have started cracking on the inside, I don't know why? What can I do myself to repair it or create another, please and thanks?

  • 6 Jul, 2008

    I have a white, stretchy material shade. Somehow, after moving, I found fairly large, but faint, stains on both of them. I DID try just a damp cloth--but only smeared whatever it was. Although I can turn the shade so that it less visible--I'd MUCH rather try and get it out. They are beautiful lamps--and also VERY expensive. Any ideas?

  • 4 Jan, 2008

    I also use a lint roller to clean my lamp shades. Since pet hair is in abudance in our house, the lint roller gets the fur and dust off without damaging the shade.

  • 4 Jan, 2008

    I also use a lint roller to clean my lamp shades. Since pet hair is in abudance in our house, the lint roller gets the fur and dust off without damaging the shade.