Before I introduce you to Lois the Lampshade, I would like to introduce you to Eunice Taylor who was actually a real person! Quite ahead of her time – she started her career in 1925 making lampshades in her living room and she then set up a Lampshade Shop across the road from Elam School of Fine Arts. She supported herself through her Degree and eventually sold her business in 1960. Sadly she passed away 15 years ago but you’d be surprised how many people think Eunice is still alive and I often think I should change my name!

Lois the Lampshade began her life in the 1800’s as a glass shade covering a kerosene lamp. Her role was not particularly glamourous and her job to cover the light bulb and diffuse the harsh light it emitted. By 1879 the first commercial incandescent light bulb was created. Electricity moved into homes and Lois the Lampshade became increasingly more popular. Glass shades gave way to paper shades and in the reign of Queen Victoria lampshades were transformed into elaborate creations made of fabric and embellished with beads, trim and fringe. If we liken lamp shades to beautiful gowns, Lois had quite a wardrobe and certainly a fabulous figure! Lampshades like ball gowns had tiny waists and were in fact called Waisted Shades.

Quite the belle of the ball Lois would squeeze herself into the Victoriana. When she wanted to feel a little more relaxed she would chose the Panel Rimini. The Tulip was understated elegance and Lois would wear this when she was feeling demure . Her favourite gown of all was the Crown Tiffany. Created by Louis Tiffany himself in New York at the end of the century, the Crown Tiffany was an exquisite example of styling with the decorative scalloped bottom and delicate scalloped crown top. This era was romantic and elegant and our homes became a greater expression of ourselves filled with favourite pieces of furniture, wall hangings, decorative objects and the perfect lamp to see it all by!

Following the flamboyancy of her youth, Lois had her wings clipped a little with the advent of two World Wars and a Great Depression. By the mid 1900s a style now known as Mid Century appeared. Decor was more playful and geometric and Lois our lampshade lost her waist like Twiggy’s tunic dress. Lampshades became less fussy and simple shapes were chosen to complement lamp bases. The waisted shades gave way to straight sided shades – cylinders, drums, tapered drums (or Empire), coolies, squares, rectangles, ovals, hexagonals and so on.

With the turn of the Century, lighting became very much more an expression of personal style and there were countless designs of lamps and lampshades for every home, every room and every mood. Decor progressively became more accessible, more affordable and perhaps more disposable. People were travelled and this reflected in the materials chosen. Lois our lampshade was no longer silk stretched across a frame – she became rattan, raffia, parchment, wallpaper, wood, metal, fabric, tapa cloth, feathers – you name it and she probably wore it. Key to this style was a material we call styrene which we use to glue the material on to in order to keep its shape. Without it, dear Lois would collapse in a heap.

So just how do you choose a lampshade? – well it really does come down to personal taste but there are some guidelines. Actually I watch in fascination when clients come out to Eunice Taylor to choose the perfect lampshade – they pick one off the shelf, hold it, turn it around, place on different bases, turn the lamp on an off, stand or sit close to it and then far away and check it with their cushions and throws. Rule of thumb, anything goes but be careful of proportion – the diameter of the bottom of the shade should not be greater than the height of the lamp base.

Think about the style of the lamp when selecting a shade. If you have a busy lamp base the generally you would choose a plainer shade and vice versa.

Try and repeat the shape or shapes in the lamp base in the lamp shape eg if your base sits on a rectangle plinth, try following that shape through with a rectangle shade.

Unless you want a statement piece, match the lampshade colours to the trim colours in your room or tones in the lamp base.

Most importantly, consider how you want to feel when you’re in the room. Do you want to feel relaxed, refreshed, stimulated or focused? Colour psychology is important and Lois was only too aware of this.

Reds for example are energetic, warm and adventurous, while Dark greys and blacks are associated with drama and eccentricity Blues of all hues are believed to enhance intellectual thought and provide a calming ambience When relaxing or meditating, purple or lilac can promote peace and spirituality. Pewter and metallic tones cast a silvery, restful glow For those seeking a bit of romance, red and pink lampshades can certainly help set the mood Green represents balance and harmony Yellow is believed to be the strongest colour psychologically and the best colour to lift self esteem Orange is a stimulant – Brown serious and warm White stands for clarity, hygiene, and purity while Black is thought to absorb all the surrounding energy suggesting sophistication, excellence and glamour.

In her twilight years, Lois tired of standing and decided that hanging upside down was a much better option. Gently suspended from the ceiling Lois our lampshade was able to throw a greater ambient light and show off meters of her favourite fabrics wrapped around her generous girth.

Lois now spends alot of her time in here at the JAMES DUNLOP Showroom – and here is a description of the magnificent Shades on view:

In front we see an oversized Oval Pendant manufactured for Urbis Design Day. Measuring 2.5 meters long by 900cm high we have used fabrics from Mokum – Edo Linen on the outside and Nomad from Timbuktu for the lining. Timbuktu throws a lovely warm glow – it is fabric that has movement and colours reminiscent of spice.

MOKUM Moire colours Midnight and Chartreuse have been partnered in the meeting room pendants. This Moiré is a beautiful cotton silk example with a gentle but convincing water mark pattern running through.

The Drum pendants around the corner use a lovely combination of fabrics from Zinc – Century and Launter from the Penthouse collection and Weston from the Lens Collection. Embassy from Zinc’s Nightclubbing Collection features an Ikat pattern which has been made into lamp shades for the Bali Table Lamps.

Embassy was named after a famous nightclub in London although the pattern would suggest something more tribal?

Silk Rock from Shadow Mountain, has been made into the large drum shades on our oversized Frankie Floor Lamps which look like a giant chess pieces. This Collection inspired by rocks, snow and mountains was photographed in Queenstown.

In the Kovacs furniture area there is another Oval pendant – not so large, Versailles from the Zinc Moonbeam Collection has been used. This fabric is a foiled jacquard – a combination that fuses the splendour of Versailles with hip young American designers.

On nearly all the pendant fittings diffusers have been installed – these are acrylic dishes that sit at the base of the shade hiding the light source and diffusing the light. All in all stunning examples of how lighting function, design and beauty can come together to create perhaps a frivolous necessity? It’s time for Lois’s bedtime – so our beautiful lampshade would like to say good night, thank you and God Bless Vanuatu!