Lampshades are such fun. They can send a bold message or sit quietly and elegantly on their lampstands oozing style. When creating a new or refurbishing an old one, the fabric choice can be tricky as, let’s face it, there are thousands of gorgeous fabrics out there, especially if you are passionate aesthetes like us. 

Here are some helpful tips on how to filter through the infinite choices:


This is more decorative than a functional choice. This choice is possibly the easiest. Do you want a statement: go bold. Do you want elegant: go monochromatic. Do you want funky: go for acid hues. We suggest choosing your room’s highlight colour or for a big statement, choose a clashing colour.

Obviously, if you have an Edwardian Lamp in an Edwardian interior, then go elegant and monochromatic. Or if that same lamp is in a super-contemporary home, you are eclectic, so go for bold or funky. 

If your base is brass – try a white shade, worn brass – cream or duck egg blue, art deco – try black or jade, a busy, colourful base – try white or warm grey, crystal base – any colour. 


The type of fabric also influences the interpretation of the style and the presentation of the colour. 

Silk can be opulent and mysterious, and it plays with light reflections.  

  • Shantung — Thin and delicate with few slubs. Light and flowing.
  • Dupioni — more textured, textured with prominent slubs. Rustic and transforms when the light is on.
  • Pongee — Crisp, almost papery, no slubs. The thin, tight fabric is used to line kimonos.
  • Taffeta — Fine with a smooth touch. It looks like pongee silk but is thicker and gorgeously ‘polished.’ The queen of silks.
  • Habutai — No slubs and very thin but with a lustrous feeling. Excellent for pleating in shades.

Synthetic silks have a decisive role to play in the lampshade industry.

  • Synthetic Pongee - Not as refined and lustrous as real pongee. Tight and thin weave but far more durable. A great option for shades.
  • Supreme Satin - Synthetic shantung silk. This brings a luxurious sophistication to any room and, again, more durable.

When to use silks: For romantic, opulent interiors or very high-end, high-design contemporary interiors (real silk only).

Linen is a fabulous choice for a lampshade. It is up to 300% stronger than cotton. Linens say, “comfort, cozy, welcome.” 

Derivatives of linen include fine, flax and handkerchief linen.

  • Linen — light, consistent weave, visible natural, subtly relaxed look.
  • Fine linen — a very consistent weave, a tighter warp and weft. This makes it almost shine. It is a super subtle light reflection.
  • Flax linen — textured with plenty of slubs. Relaxed, informal and lots of interest.
  • Handkerchief linen — 100% pure linen fibres and not easy to acquire. Not much visual interest but can have a very subtle, understated satin look about it.

When to use linens: For charming, minimalist interiors and rooms of comfort such as living rooms, dens or bedrooms.

Cotton is a good option. Depending on the weave, it can drape, gather and pleat well. There are infinite varieties available. 

  • Soft-touch cotton has a much more uniform appearance than linen and fine linen due to its far tighter weave. It is lightweight and durable and makes a cost-effective alternative to linen for lampshades. 

When to use cottons: For a lightly rustic interior or guest rooms. If dust accumulates, it is easy to clean cotton. 

Synthetics of all of the above options are available. With today’s technology, it can be difficult to tell the difference between synthetic and original. Synthetics are hypo-allergenic, fire retardant, and super easy to clean, do not stain and are not broken down by heat (which is a problem with silk).  You will be pleasantly surprised by the range available. Take note: they are not always cheaper than the original option as the technology used is expensive, but they can be cheaper. Definitely have them in your arsenal.  

Non-Standard Materials

Burlap – trends over the past five years have made this very popular. It will do well in a classic or contemporary farmhouse look, cottage or a café. 

String or ribbon – you can wrap/weave string, coloured cord or ribbon across a frame and make a fascinating shade. These can change seasonally as they are cost-effective to make. It is something the whole family can be involved in. 

Always consider the maintenance levels of different options before being wooed into a purchase by a gorgeous fabric. Delicate fabrics, silk and satin, need specialist cleaning and need to be away from sticky little hands. Consider using LED bulbs for the environment and to extend the life of your fabric as heat and fabric are not friends.

At Victoria Lampshade Shop Toronto, we can create one of a kind custom shades with a short turnaround time and minimal extra cost. Whether you’re in the market for task lighting or ambiance, we’re here to answer your questions and guide you in the right direction.

November 29, 2020 — Allison Spiro