How to Size a Lampshade & Other Tips for Table Lamps

Lamps are more than just functional. Besides lighting up a room; they also add style and ambiance. In the July/August issue of HGTV magazine, popular interior designer and HGTV Star judge Vern Yip gave us “his brightest tips for lighting up a room”.  And I just had to share them with you. I also understand how shopping for the right shade can be frustrating when you’re not sure how to size a lampshade. So, I’ve included some tips to help you choose the proper size shade.

Tips for Table Lamps

Here are 7 tips for table lamps from Vern Yip and HGTV magazine….

How to Size a Lampshade & Other Tips for Table Lamps | Decorating Files |

Better Homes and Gardens

1 “Table lamps commonly range from 24 to 34 inches tall, including the shade. A good trick for choosing the right height: The bottom of the shade should be eye level when you’re seated.”

2 “A drum shade is pretty no-fail. It complements almost any base, from a sleek cylinder to a curvy urn. I’m a fan of white linen, but you can’t go wrong with any neutral, like a cream-color paper shade or a pale gray cotton one.”

How to Size a Lampshade & Other Tips for Table Lamps | Decorating Files |

Better Homes and Gardens

3 “If you choose a lamp with a vibrant shade or base, add accents in the same color – like pillows or a throw – to tie the room together.”

4 “Lighting a really dark room? Pick a translucent paper or fabric shade – it’ll let lots of light through.”

5 “Different lamp bases in the same room can look great. To unify them, top them all with shades that have the same shape.”

How to Size a Lampshade & Other Tips for Table Lamps | Decorating Files |

Better Homes and Gardens

6 “When I’m putting two lamps on one table, I like to leave at least two to three feet between them so they don’t look clumped together. I t also helps distribute the light evenly throughout the room.”

7 “Shades attach to bases in different ways. Some require a harp (a spider fitting), some sit on the hardware attached to the bulb’s base (an uno fitting), others clip right on the the bulb (a clip-on fitting). If you buy a base and a shade separately, make sure they both have the same fitting.”

How to Size a Lampshade

I shared these basic tips on how to size a lampshade when I first started the blog. However, I thought it would be good to go over them again for this post. They’ll help you to choose the proper size lampshade. When selecting a shade, it’s important to know the three measurements to consider.

1) Diameter – This is the width across the bottom of the shade. To determine what size diameter your lamp needs, measure the lamp from the bottom of the base to just under the socket cap; this will give you the lamp height. Once you have that, choose a lamp shade with a diameter that is within 2″ of this measurement – plus or minus. For example, if the height of your lamp is 16″, then select a shade with a diameter that is between 14″ and 18″.

How to Size a Lampshade & Other Tips for Table Lamps | Decorating Files |

2) Height – (Also referred to as slope.) The actual shade height is approximately 1″ less than the measurement of the slope. Fringe, tassels and other hanging ornamentation isn’t included in this measurement. Shade height should be about 3/4 the height of the lamp. Example – a 12″ lamp height would need a lampshade that is about 9″ in height. The shade should cover the bulb and socket. The bottom of the shade should reach just above the top of the base allowing only the neck of the lamp to show at eye level.

How to Size a Lampshade & Other Tips for Table Lamps | Decorating Files |

3) Width – This is the measurement across the top of the shade. The top opening of the shade should be large enough to allow heat to escape.

About harps. When choosing a harp, your shade shouldn’t be more than 1/2″ taller or shorter than the harp. For example, a 10″ shade would use a harp that is between 9 1/2″ – 10 1/2″.

Table lamps are a wonderful way to accessorize a room and provide functional lighting. Use them as an opportunity to bring in color, style and personality.

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  1. 1


    Great tips Peggy! Lampshades can be a beast to shop for. The worst is when you find the perfect design, but it’s not compatible with your base…

    • 2

      Peggy Pardo says

      I hate it when that happens. I have a set of shades I adore(a bargain I couldn’t pass up!) and one day I’ll find the perfect set of bases to go with them. Glad you like the tips! 🙂

    • 4

      Peggy Pardo says

      A lamp that is 18 inches tall would need a shade that is about 16 to 20 inches in diameter and has a height of about 13.5 to 14 inches. 🙂

  2. 5

    katinka van straaten says

    Hi Peggy,

    I have a standing lamp with a lamp height of 147 cm (57,874 inches). What should the lamp shade height be?

    Thank you very much.


    • 6


      That’s a good question, Katinka. I’m happy to answer it for you. When it comes to fitting shades to floor lamps, unlike table lamps there’s really not one formula used by all. The most common way to determine proper size is by diameter; use a shade that is 7 to 8 inches wider than the width of the lamp base. (Example: For a 10 inch wide base would need a shade with an 18 inch diameter.)

      As for height, it’s usually suggested that a shade should be about 30% the height of the base of the lamp (measured base to bottom of socket as shown in #1). If your lamp measures 57-7/8 inches, it should have a shade about 17 inches in height.

      I prefer to use the formula for diameter as my basis for shade selection. Once I have that number, I select a shade with a height that I feel looks best on the lamp. Sometimes 30% may be a bit to tall; it really depends on the lamp. 🙂

  3. 9

    Sue Ellen Travers says


    Looking to purchase a pendant light with a drum shade to hang over dining table. Table is 36″ wide by 48″ long. Would a 22″ diameter shade be too big? If so, what would you suggest?

    Sue Ellen

    • 10


      Happy to help, Sue Ellen. As a general rule when sizing a chandelier to a dining table, the diameter should be about 1/2 to 1/3 the width of the table and no wider than the width of the table minus 12″. (Calculations for your table: 36″ – 12″ = 24″) Which means you don’t want a chandelier wider than 24″. The 22″ drum shade would be fine. 🙂

  4. 11

    Sarah Mangone says

    I have a 24″ table lamp. By your recommendations, I should get a lampshade 18″ in height. However, I cannot find anything bigger than 10″ in height. Do you know where I can find larger lampshades? I’ve tried all the “box stores” like Home Depot and Lowe’s…would I need to go to a specialty lighting store?

    • 12


      For a 24″ lamp Sarah, you could use a shade around 15-18 inches. You could try Pottery Barn, Wayfair, Ballard Design, or a specialty lighting store. Here are a few online stores that specialize in lamps and shades: Lamps Plus, Shades of Light, Lamps USA. 🙂

  5. 13


    I have a lamp that is 23 inches tall. The heart is 11 3/4 inches. I have deducted that I need a shade height of 17 to 18 inches. This lamp is so large and I would like it to look smaller, do you have any suggestions ?
    Thanks so much

    • 14


      Without seeing the shape of the lamp, it’s difficult to give you options, Cindy. If a lamp is really large, there’s not much you can do to make it look smaller. Using a shade that is too small will only make the lamp look bigger. What shape is the base?

    • 16


      Hi Pinky. The size of the lamp depends on what it is used for. If it’s for a bedside table or end table next to a chair/sofa, you want to make sure the lamp is sitting at eye level from the table surface. Sit down in the chair and measure the distance from the table surface to eye level. You’ll want a lamp with a measurement from the base to bottom of the shade that doesn’t exceed the table-to-eye level measurement. 🙂

  6. 17

    Jan says

    Thanks for your tips about matching a lampshade to its base but how can you assess what size lamp to put on a cabinet. I have a lamp on a half height cupboard but I think the lamp is too big for the cupboard. Do you have any guidelines for that scenario?

    • 18


      Hi Jan. Another reader posted a question similar to this regarding reading lamps for end tables. When it comes to sizing lamps for dressers, consoles, etc., you need to consider the height and scale of the piece of furniture, and ceiling height of the room. The lamp should also be in balance with any artwork or mirrors with which you’ll be accessorizing. 🙂