We’ve all done it-lived too long with a lampshade that’s not quite right for its base. To learn how to choose a shade that looks great instead of merely tolerable, we turned to the experts at A Lamp & Fixture Shoppe (3181 N. Elston Ave., 773-866-0220). Owner Paul Simmon has been repairing and selling vintage lamps since 1973 and stocks hundreds of shades. His associate Sandy Kosnik helps customers choose shades that fit aesthetically as well as physically, taking shape, proportion, color, fabric, and much more into consideration. Handmade custom shades are also available; Nate Berkus is just one of many savvy decorators who come to Simmon’s shop for couture-quality work.

Photography: Tyllie Barbosa
Lamps, shades, hardware: A Lamp & Fixture Shoppe
A deep-hued fabric does wonders for a shade, softening the glow of a bright-enough-for-reading bulb and adding a hip splash of color.
The straight-sided drum is the most popular shape right now, Simmon says, having bumped sharply angled shades out of the top spot. With its clean lines and faintly retro air, this unembellished fabric drum suits the straight-edged modernist base.
Always bring the lamp base with you when shopping for a shade. This shade covers the switch but exposes the full length of the decorative part of the base. Height and width are pleasingly balanced.

The Little Things
There’s more to lamps than meets the eye.

With many lamps, the shade sits on a harp, which fits around the bulb. Harps come in a wide range of shapes and heights. Harps are topped with finials, which either slide or screw on. They can be simple or elaborate, subtly affecting the look of the lamp.

Eyeball It
Selecting the perfect shade is a matter of really seeing what you’re looking at:

PROBLEM: The traditional lines of this curvy shade contradict the graphic modernism of the base.

FIX: Try the shade, with its flared ribs and acorn-shaped finial, on a base that has some soft curves of its own.

PROBLEM: The switch is visible below the shade when viewed straight on.

FIX: Find a similar shade that hangs lower, or replace the harp with a shorter one.

PROBLEM: The boxy, oversize shade overwhelms the narrow base.

FIX: Try the shade on a base withmore volume to it-perhaps one with squared corners.