Shades of light – an insight into lampshade design

At the recent London Design Week at the Design Centre Chelsea Harbour, one of the simplest displays was one of the most interesting.  Lighting company, Porta Romana had set up a series of identical lamp bases with identical light bulbs in them.  All the lampshades were the same size and shape.  So the only thing that varied between the lamps were the fabrics used to make the shades, and in some cases, the lining fabric.  With all the lamps turned off, they looked pretty much the same, but when they were switched on, suddenly they looked dramatically different from one another.

Shades made of unlined lightweight fabrics allow the light to pass through them, so they give off a soft, all round diffuse light and the shade itself glows.  This would be a good light to read by.

But when a lampshade is lined with a dim-out fabric, the light only emerges from the top and bottom of the shade, and no light passes through the sides of the lampshade itself – this would give a nice atmosphere, but wouldn’t be a good reading light.

The colour of the lining fabric then affects the colour of the light given off.  The centre lampshade in the picture above has a  gold coloured lining, and you can clearly see how yellow this light looks, compared with shades lined with white or oyster linings.

So when it comes to choosing a lampshade, not only do you need to consider the width, height and shape of the shade, but also the fabric its made of and how this will affect the amount of light given off and the colour of that light.

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