Interior designer Philip Hooper on the art of choosing lampshades

Lampshades are the perfect way to inject personality – and an element of surprise – into a room

I love using antique silk saris. They are the ideal weight for making romantic pleated shades, diffusing light in a way no other fabric can. They also solve the problem of what to do with textiles collected on foreign trips. I wish I had bought more in India now that I know what can be done with them. Similarly, my sheets of hand-printed marbleised paper (bought on impulse in Florence) have been made into shades – they look amazing in a library where the patterns echo the endpapers of antique leatherbound books. Rosi de Ruig ( hand-makes shades from similar marbled papers. Cheaper options are available from Pooky (

Shades truly can be works of art. I have some treasured models hand-painted by Angel Hughes from Tobias and the Angel, which may well have been inspired by the Bloomsbury set, whose Omega Workshops painted everything in sight, including the lampshades. Angel’s fabric designs are also available printed onto card shades.

Another of my current favourites on Instagram is Alvaro Picardo ( His skill in hand-painting onto card is unique, with spiralling geometric patterns taking inspiration from everything from Ballets Russes designs to African barkcloth and back again. Such a shade can elevate even the simplest of lamp bases.

At the end of the day, however, it is all about proportion. So when trying to make a choice, gather, borrow and scrounge as many old shades as you can. Then hover them over your lamp bases and hopefully you will find the perfect size.