Every great outfit needs fabulous accessories to make it really feel finished. Consider gorgeous custom lamp shades to be the “jewelry” of a room then — with great shades, a room can go from “good” to runway-worthy. I have 2 wonderful Etsy sources for beautiful bespoke shades and a discount code at the end, so stick around for the whole post!
(I tossed and turned about whether to divulge to you these fabulous sources. I want to keep them all to myself! I don’t want them to get too busy to make my lamp shades or see their prices to go up! But, sadly for me, I am a very magnanimous individual and generous indeed. 🙂 Also, I may be giving you tools to create a gorgeous lamp shade, but will it coordinate with your room? Some of you may still need a decorator like me to help you with that, I hope!)
Couture Lamp Shades
It seems that every magazine I look at these days has at least one project with either playfully patterned (it’s the global kick we’ve been on for the last 8 years) or chicly sculpted (go go Granny!) custom lamp shades.
The above entry is so well “collected” it hurts a little bit — in a very good way.
A riot of blue and white pattern from Mark Sikes. Even if this is more pattern than with which most people are comfortable, imagine just the shades in a room with more solids. Pretty cool, huh?
I’ve known about Susan Deliss for a few years now. (In fact, it was through images of shades she was selling on her own website, that I figured out how to get this look here at home. But more on that later.) She is a textiles dealer in the U.K. and makes beautiful custom lampshades from global fabrics like those pictured above. Big problem — she doesn’t export to the U.S.
Katie Ridder LOVES lampshades — every lamp/shade combo is different. She also doesn’t shy away from more sweet and sculptural forms, like those shades flanking the fuchsia sofa.
I love this room soooooooo much. The Brits have that aristocratic, devil-may-care, aged-country house vibe down to perfection — for obvious dynastic reasons.
Leta Austin Foster is the queen of Granny-chic-cum-Palm-Beach-royalty decor. Notice the shape and pleating on the lamp shade on the left.
And here are a few examples from my own portfolio — done with far more limited means than the above designers, so don’t judge too harshly!
The above was from my One Room Challenge. Thanks to all who checked out and commented on the final results! In fact, the lamp/shade was one thing about which the most people seemed fascinated.
For those who are curious, I’ll tell you a little story.
Custom Lamp Shades: A British Tradition
When I first began to notice this custom look — particularly gathered shades using ikat, sweet small prints, or Indian block-print fabrics — I scoured in internet to see how I could find them for myself. EVERY SINGLE SOURCE was in the U.K.
Irving & Morrison and Robert Kime now sell in the U.S.A. through dealers, but their prices are in the multi-hundreds of dollars, far beyond the even a justifiable “splurge” for most people just for an accessory. Some of the more reasonable U.K. vendors, charging £70-150, don’t export. Bunny Williams has jumped on the bandwagon with a few options for $275. Still, while I can understand that price for silk (the fabric costs more and is harder to work with), that seems like big bucks for a cotton voile shade IMO.
(Side note: I know that £70-150 (approx. $88-$190) may still sound like a fortune to a lot of people — and it is — but remember this is for handmade work by a Westerner, not some poor starving little Vietnamese kids making a fraction of a cent on the dollar. Mass production and cheap labor is how you get nice shades for under $60. How much do you pay your American plumber per hour?)
Anywho, I’m not here to make socio-economic commentary. Moving on. Then I found Susan Deliss and saw this lamp shade on her website:
It isn’t for sale anymore. But my point is this — in my countless wasted hours trolling eBay, I had found that exact fabric (a simple, hand-block print cotton voile) for $5/yd!!!!! Go ahead, I dare you. Go to eBay and type in “Indian block print fabric cotton voile.” Thin cottons and silks are perfect for shades. Some pretty cool options, yes?
So, the fabric look I wanted was no longer a difficulty, but I still needed someone who could make the pleated/gathered shade I wanted. I know there are some beautiful lamp shade craftspeople in Massachusetts, but that 1.5 hours from me, and there is no one that I know of in my area who is capable of this look.
My Amazing Etsy Lamp Shade Sources
In a brief spasm of mania I thought, “I should learn how to make lampshades like the Brits, and fill the USA void!” I even looked for courses. Know what? They are ALL in the U.K. Too much trouble. The Brits just have a thing for lamp shades. Oh well.
I turned to Etsy.
Now, there are tons of lamp shade purveyors on Etsy, but almost none with the real “craft” I needed. Then I found Lamp Shades, Etc. and, a more recent discovery on my part, Cruel Mountain Designs. With the aforementioned lack of instruction here in the USA, owners John Shimp and Lisa Carpenter are both self taught from many years of experimentation. Both enjoy imagining up their own creations and take commissions from designers and consumers as well.
John Shimp of Lamp Shades, Etc., began taking apart old lamp shades to see how they were made more than 30 years ago. In 1987, he created Strassels Lampshades, Etc. (now Lamp Shades, Etc.), a small retail company. Over the years, he began to re-structure his shop to include his own designs, eventually eliminating all other makers as he became frustrated with the lack of quality even among the top shade lines. Bad seams, glued on trims and poor quality materials (especially the linings) all contributed to this decision. A quality shade should last 30 years or more, be fully washable, and even repairable. John’s shades are all of the above and more.
John has made 5 shades for me so far, and they are GORGEOUS. The particular ones he made for me are pleated in silk or cotton, but his specialty is those crazy difficult shade frames — he even re-makes shades using customers vintage frames. If you like Blanche Field, you’re gonna love him.
Lisa Carpenter of Cruel Mountain Designs moved from the city to rural North Carolina in 2003 and found herself in need of decorating a new house and something to keep her occupied in her new, far emptier surroundings. She’d always loved fabrics and started experimenting with lamp shades. Growing more and more interested in her new endeavor, she looked all over for instruction (finding none outside the U.K., as we discussed). She taught herself the gathered pleat style that is becoming so popular, and, in an ironic twist, has lately been contacted by a number of U.K. shade makers asking her to divulge her methods! Go, Lisa!
Lisa gets many of her fabrics from India (via Etsy and eBay — told you so!). The gathered look is more relaxed and casual than a flatter pleat. All images below are via Cruel Mountain Designs’ Instagram account (@cruelmountaindesigns); some creations are the brainchildren of various designers.
Aren’t they delightful?
All the shades shown from both John and Lisa are under $150 for a 16″ lampshade — a little less if you supply the fabric, of course. For that special touch to a room, I think that they are an excellent value.
What do you think? Are you tempted? Do you think a custom lampshade adds to a room?
Next week I’ll be back with … frankly, I’m not sure yet. I have a bunch of topics in the works, but I got so slammed with the ORC and still keeping up with Saturdays, that I have to catch up. I promise to have something interesting for you, though, and it won’t be about Thanksgiving “tablescapes,” because — let’s be honest — everybody else is doing that already and I only have one set of dishes.