A guide to styles and shapes of lamp shade

Don't know your straight empires from your elbows? Here's an expert guide to all the different styles and shapes of lamp shade, and how to choose the right one for your space…

When choosing a style and shape of lamp shade there are a number of things to take into account, including the type of lamp base, your existing decor and your overall design theme. Here’s Pooky’s expert guide to the lamp shade essentials…

What are the main styles and shapes of lamp shade?

There are many different styles and shapes of lamp shade – from classic empire and contemporary drum shades, to striking squares, cool cones, and gathered or rolled shades. Here’s the lowdown on the most popular options…

Empire lamp shades - classic and timeless


Straight Empire shade in St Clements Egg and Spoon Ikat

Empire Shade in cream card with bronze tape

An empire lamp shade has the kind of shape you might picture when you think of a lamp shade: a classic ‘frustum’ shape, which resembles a cone with the topmost section removed.

Empire lamp shades have a broad opening at the base, which then tapers to around half the diameter at the top, resulting in a larger spread of light from the bottom of the lamp shade.

Meanwhile, the straight empire lamp shade is a variation on the empire, having a wider top and steeper sides, which gives the straight empire a slightly more modern edge.

Empire lamp shades are one of the more versatile and timeless shapes of lamp shade, which can look the part in both traditional and modern settings. They’re a particularly popular choice for table lamps and reading lamps, generating a lovely soft diffused light, and they can be paired with a wide range of different lamp bases.

View Pooky’s range of empire lamp shades.

Drum lamp shades - clean and contemporary

Drum lamp shade in Peacock dupion silk

Drum lamp shades are cylindrical in shape, typically with a wide rim and straight sides. Their symmetrical design allows for a more even spread of light from both the top and bottom of the shade.

With their clean geometric form, drum lamp shades fit beautifully in a modern space. They work particularly well when paired with a geometric or retro style lamp base, adding a striking contemporary note. Drum shades are also great for bringing an older style of lamp ‘bang’ up-to-date.

Drum lamp shades are available in a variety of other styles, including tapered drum and short drum lamp shades – whose shorter sides really serve to emphasise that distinctive drum shape.

View our range of designer drum lamp shades.

Square and rectangular lamp shades - a striking statement

Pooky's 25cm 'Fluted Fancy' shade in cobalt and cream silk with velvet tape 

Square lamp shades are broadly similar to empire lamp shades, but they have a square base with flat sides and corners, and can be either straight or slightly tapered. Square shades have four equally sized sides, while rectangular lamp shades have extended sides.

Their strong, structural design means that both square and rectangular lamp shades are great for making a statement, and they’re a popular choice for more modern spaces and can also offer a formal element.

Square lamp shades are also a good option where space is limited, such as against a wall or on a mantelpiece.


Cone lamp shades - cool and distinctive

Pooky's 35cm cone shade in Forest Green velvet


Cone lamp shades feature a wide, open base which tapers sharply towards the top, giving them an uber cool, contemporary profile.

Their distinctive conical shape – reminiscent of a traditional Oriental rice hat – means that they cast a lovely circle of diffused light, creating a sense of warmth and atmosphere. Our cone shades work best with a slimmer style of lamp base.

Check out our stylish cone lamp shades.


Gathered and rolled lamp shades

14cm Wizard Hat pendant shade in emerald silk with velvet tape


Gathered or pleated styles of lamp shade have until more recent years tended to be associated with more traditional settings – and our gathered fabric lamp shades certainly look the part when combined with a classic empire shape.

However, these days gathered lamp shades are also available in a range of fun and interesting shapes and styles – such as our distinctive wizard hats in gathered silk with matching tapes, which add texture and character and a striking contemporary vibe.

Not to mention our fluted fancy lamp shades, which are made from soft silk and taped with velvet, with flutes running up each corner, making them both elegant and eye-catching.

Meanwhile, rolled lamp shades offer a smooth, modern look, making them perfect for contemporary or minimalist interiors. They're available in a huge range of different materials, from beautiful dupion silk shades to bold marbled paper designs. (Find out more about lamp shade fabrics in our guide.)


Choosing the right style and shape of lamp shade for your space

When choosing a style and shape of lamp shade, it’s important to consider the type of lamp base you’re pairing it with, as well as its place within your wider design scheme.

As a general rule of thumb, it's often advised that you match like with like for a balanced and cohesive look. For example, strong geometric shapes such as square or rectangular lamp shades often work best with a square or rectangular lamp base, while a curved lamp shade will pair well with a contoured base.

Meanwhile, in terms of the wider setting a classic style and shape of lamp shade, such as an empire or oval shade, will work well in a traditional setting, while a more modern shape such as a square or drum shade will suit a more contemporary space. If the furniture in the room is sculpted you can choose to match this with a rounded style of lamp shade, while minimalist furniture with straight modern lines will suit a more geometric style of shade.

Of course, that's the general rule.... but rules are there to be broken! It all depends on the effect you're looking to achieve. If you want your lamp to make a statement, why not try mixing things up – pair a square or rectangular lamp shade with a curved base for an added twist, or place a striking contemporary lamp shade on a traditional style lamp base to create a dramatic focal point.


At Pooky, we have a huge and ever-expanding range of lamp shades to choose from, so there really are no limits…. View our complete collection of lamp shades here.


Looking for more lamp shade advice and inspiration? See our complete guide on How to choose a lamp shade.