Art Deco Lamp Shades
One reason for the enduring popularity of the Art Deco movement is the sheer diversity and eclecticism of the era. It was such a mishmash of styles, elements, and new materials that there’s something for just about everyone. Art Deco lamp shades are no exception. They come in such a dizzying array of shapes, colors, and styles that it’s channeling to summarize them. This article will lay out some of the basic broad categories and hopefully help you narrow your search.
As always, I recommend you write down what you’re trying to accomplish in lighting specific spaces before you buy. My previous article on Art Deco Table lamps spells out some of the basics to consider before you buy. Most of these basics are applicable to shades as well.
The range of glass shades from the deco period is staggering. They come in all hues, shapes and sizes. From large Frankart geometric shades to swirling crackle art glass shades it’s very hard to pin then down. Most of them are well suited for general (ambient) lighting purposes as they diffuse the light and cast it equally in all directions.
A great many of these shades were built into specific lamps and are not easily transferable to others. Take the classic 1939 Saturn Lamp for example. The shade is the most important part! It wouldn’t be much of a saturn lamp with out the dramatic planet-shaped shade. Obviously you’re not likely to be looking for this type of shade as much as looking for this type of lamp with the shade.
However, there were a great many of these shades that are transferable to other lights. Some are salvaged from damages lamps and many others were designed as stand alone shades. You seem them most commonly on ceiling lights and they often come in standard sizes that will fit modern fixtures. It’s always a good idea, however, to measure any new shade to make sure it will fit your fixture before you buy.
Nothing screams 1920s more loudly than fringe lamp shades. These shades were usually constructed of paper or silk and were lined with fringe around the edges. Fringe shades from the deco period tended to be cleaner in design and eschewed the inset images and more vintage look of Victorian fringe shades.
True vintage shades are hard to find as they were not the most durable of objects. Fortunately there are numerous modern reproductions that look exactly like the originals. A fringe lamp shade is one of these deco elements that can be easily blended with other styles. Just place it on a non-Art Deco lamp.
Paper shades from the period ranged from plain shades to highly decorative ones that were sometimes silkscreened or lithographed. My general advice is if you have already have an Art Deco lamp with a very strong look then you can probably go out and get a plain modern shade for it. If your lamp itself is blander you might want to find something with a more signature deco look that incorporates some of the era’s stylistic conventions:
- Modernist design
- Bold contrasting colors (chrome and black were particularly popular)
- Ethnic elements (especially egyptian and native american)
- Use of new (for the era) materials like aluminum and plastics.
Machine Age Shades
Shades with the machine age look (also called streamline moderne,art moderne, or even raygun gothic) are highly prized and often difficult to locate. Even more than glass shades, these were usually built into specific lamps and do not transfer well to other lights. Those that were made for more general use were less common in homes and more often used in places of business. In fact, the demolition of a diner or other vintage building is a prime time to salvage such shades!
A great lamp shade can serve as the focus of a space in your home so it’s worth giving a bit of consideration to one before you buy. Take some time to think about the lighting you need for the space and direct your search accordingly. Good luck!