Shady Business
 

“Buying a shade without a lamp is like buying a hat without your head.”

That’s the industry adage lighting veteran Ashton Harrison laughingly quotes when asked how she handles lamp shade displays in her Richmond, VA-based Shades of Light showroom.



    Harrison encourages customers to roll up their sleeves at three large “shade try-on tables,” where they can spread out the wares from Shades of Light’s dedicated shade department. If they forget to bring with them the lamp base they’re trying to match, Harrison insists they tour the rest of her showroom to find something similar.



    “Just like people like to see clothes on a model [before they buy them], it’s easier to buy a shade if it’s on something,” Harrison says. “It gives a frame of reference for the lamp and shade’s proportions.”
Dolan Designs made sure the replacement shade display in its new Dallas Market Center showroom helped buyers visualize the possibilities, both for their own market purchases and for their showrooms at home.

    Manufacturer Dolan Designs’ Patrick Dolan followed the same thinking when putting together the replacement shade display in his brand new Dallas showroom this past January. Dolan saved valuable floor space with an angled table lamp display spanning one wall a good 7 feet above the ground. Three rows of basic lamp bases in varying sizes and shapes helped customers see how different shades—round, drum, bell, square or empire—complemented a range of bases.



    A series of shelves below the display housed at least one of each modeled shade and base, offering a hands-on chance to mix-and-match.

And that, after all, is what customers appreciate most. Vignettes that feature creatively stacked or hanging lamp shades are a good way to draw roving eyes toward a display, but at the end of the day, lamp base and shade must come together.



    For her part, Harrison tries to ease clients’ matchmaking woes as much as she can with a set of lamp shade guidelines she has compiled during her 21 years of lighting expertise. Still, rules are made to be broken.



    “It’s a visual thing—what [the customer] likes,” she says. “There’s

no right and wrong answer.”



    And she’s more than willing to “throw the rules out the window” herself. Shades of Light has custom shade-making facilities on-site, so a customer can commission a shade that uses his or her own fabric. The showroom also has agreements with many of its vendors; manufacturers will produce a variety of proprietary shade designs in 10 signature Shades of Light fabrics, and they also allow Harrison to adapt their fabric patterns into exclusive Shades of Light shades.



    Harrison looks at it as just another way to inspire. “People really like this [customization] concept,” she says. “They see how we put unique shades on our lamps and they get an idea [of their own].”


 

Hints for helping customers select the right shade

  • The more basic the shape of the lamp’s body, the more varied style of shade it can support. A busy lamp generally calls for a plainer shade.
  • Repeat the shape(s) of the lamp body in the shade shape (i.e., a round lamp on a square base can take a shade with a rounded top and square bottom).
  • Consider the customer’s wattage needs. The shade (not the lamp body) determines the maximum wattage allowed.
  • Want drama? Get creative: Put a deep cone shade on a short round base, a white shade on a beige base or a cube shade on a stacked ball lamp.

Source: Ashton Harrison, President, Shades of Light



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