Ceiling Light Shades Buying Guide

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Ceiling Light Shades Buying Guide

Being the most common form of lighting in the domestic household, ceiling lights can be found in most rooms of the modern house. Their function of illuminating their surroundings after the sun has set was an achievement in itself, but the need to suit the style of decor produced a market for ceiling light shades.

About Ceiling Light Shades

Ceiling lights were first seen in the 1300s in the form of numerous candles suspended in a frame from the ceiling. Whilst these paved the way for the early variety of chandelier, which is still used today with electric bulbs, it also provided the ground work for every light shade we know today. Originally invented to seat the candles safely and conveniently, as the 19th century rolled around and electricity began to overtake candles, gas and oil lamps; light shades started to become a decorative piece of furniture rather than functional. Function is still a very important part of ceiling light shades, though design houses around the world have tried their hand at making an aesthetic ceiling light shade. The possible combinations of styles, material ,and fixtures offer a wide array of choices for a ceiling light shade. In the modern household, every room can find the perfect ceiling light shade to complement the existing decor.

Choosing A Ceiling Light Shade

Choosing a ceiling light shade will largely depend upon both the decor and the room it is going to be fitted in. The type of ceiling light shade to go above the kitchen counter will be wildly different to that of a grand entrance hall.

Type of Ceiling Light Shade

There are a great many types of ceiling light shades, all providing a different ambience of light and decorative effect. Uplights are shades which are closed at the bottom and direct their light upwards to the ceiling. Uplights provide a wider splash of light, illuminating the room from the reflection on the ceiling. Downlight shades are open at the base and the light is more focused, great for task lighting or when a brighter effect is needed.


Drum shades are styled in a cylindrical shape, normally with both top and bottom open. They provide protection to the bulb and offer a simple, minimal design. By throwing light both upward and downward, they offer one of the brightest solutions of ceiling light shades.


Conical shaped ceiling light shades are one of the most common and cheapest varieties. Inverted cones operate mainly by pointing their light toward the ceiling whilst regular cones point downward. Normally made from stiffened fabric, cone shades are very easy to personalise and apply custom designs.


Pendant ceiling light shades are one of the most decorative designs, utilising suspended pendants and shapes instead of a solid shade. The pendants, normally made from glass, plastic, or crystal, serve to refract the light rather than direct it. Providing a strong illumination, the reflection of light through the pendants can provide interesting light and shadow movements around the room.


Multiple ceiling light shades mounted upon a single frame are used when ceiling lights have more than one bulb. Chandeliers can be classed as multi-shade fixtures, with each individual bulb being protected by, normally, a glass shade. The shades in these type of fixtures are almost universally made from the same material.

Material of Ceiling Light Shade

The material of the light shade is normally chosen for its expensive or decorative function. Opaque materials serve to protect the light better and direct it in a chosen path, whilst transparent materials offer a bright dispersal throughout the whole room.


Fabric is one of the most popular materials for ceiling light shades, offering a diverse range of decoration at considerably less cost than competing materials. The ability to accept dye, prints and designs whilst being treated for heat resistance make a wide variety of fabric great choices for ceiling light shades.


Plastic light shades are sometimes used as a lighter and inexpensive alternative to glass. Opaque plastic can also be used because of its high gloss finish and vibrant colour.


Metallic ceiling light shades are normally cast from lightweight aluminium or chrome, providing a great modern approach to a room. The heat conductivity of the material means they can stay warm for longer after use, making them a little more difficult to change.


Glass ceiling light shades were one of the earliest incarnations, present on chandeliers when candles were still being used. Modern glass shades can be printed and coloured to provide a great range of decorative options. Glass also accepts the transference of light through it, meaning that it offers almost as much illumination as having a simple bare light bulb.


Paper light shades are the cheapest option, but are the most fragile. Being paper they can be printed and customised to no end and their shape is defined only by the frame, allowing for a wide degree of ways to complement existing decor. Whilst some people may be worried about the flammability of paper ceiling light shades, they are always designed to dispel this risk.


Wood is rarely used in ceiling light shades, but features in the form of wicker or rattan cane. The weave of thin strips of grass and wood gives great patterns of shadow and light, whilst also offering a more traditional decorative approach.

Fixture of Ceiling Light Shade

The fixture of a ceiling light shade can define how difficult it is to fit and change. Technologies have become far more advanced allowing for simpler and more innovative fixtures in the modern age.


Easy-fit is a term applied to fixtures which offer a fast and simple approach toward removing or fitting a ceiling light shade. Any one of the below can be easy-fit, and the particular technique can vary between them. Look out for products with the easy-fit labelling.


Screw thread ceiling light shades are one of the most common fixtures and normally feature on conical or drum shades. Removing the bulb and unscrewing the casing of the light fixture, screw thread shades simply slot into the thread of this fixture and the casing can then be replaced with the shade now attached. This is a very simple approach but can be tricky if the fixture becomes cross-threaded or a different thread is used.


Ceiling light shades with a clip fixture are very easy to fit and replace, attaching via a clip to the light fixture itself. It doesn't require unscrewing, but the clip can be unsuitable for fixtures not of a standard size.

Metal Wire

Metal wire ceiling light shades are very common in paper shades, operating both to give shape to the shade itself and attach it to the fixture. The metal wire extends outwards to push the shade into the desired shape but also provides tension on the fixture, keeping the fixture pressed against the fixture. Be aware that knocking these fixtures can remove the required tension keeping them intact.

Cable Hook

Cable hooks often feature on cheaper light shades, keeping them attached to the fixture by simply hooking onto the electrical cable.

Style of Ceiling Light Shade

Whether matching the style of the shade or providing the bones to build on, choosing the right style of ceiling light shade is paramount to achieving the perfect effect.


Contemporary ceiling light shades favour metal and glass above other materials, opting for a cleaner and simpler construction than classic shades. Modern shades often exist in their own designs, outside the normal cone, drum and pendant styles.


The most classic light shades are chandeliers and their forms, whilst conical shades have been popular for decades. The fixtures on classic shades are normally screw threads and can be worn if bought used.


Minimalist ceiling light shades are normally very small and cast from brushed aluminium, high gloss plastic or clear glass. Minimalist light shades usually offer a fantastic dispersal of light through their simple frames.


Popular in retail, novelty light shades are often chosen to reflect a theme. Popular novelty shades include those of nautical, sports and animal themes.


Ceiling light shades for children normally offer a softer light, with frosted glass being a popular choice. Printed patterns and cartoon designs are popular on fabric shades.


Ceiling light shades can change the feel of any room, whether it’s through the ambience of the light or the style of the shade. The right ceiling light shade can revitalise a space with clever refraction of light, or provide some great shadows and warm glow. Choosing the right ceiling light shade is as important as choosing the right carpet.

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