Upgrade a bland lampshade by embellishing it with craft supplies.

How to Decorate a Boring Lampshade

by Kathy Adams

Many off-the-shelf lampshades are, well, less than exciting -- solely providing function rather than adding to a room's decor. If boring is anything but what you're going for, decorate the lampshade with craft materials to tailor it more to the room's look, whether for a living room, reading nook or child's bedroom. It's important to use low-wattage LED bulbs in a lamp after you embellish the shade, because some decor materials such as a paper and glue can overheat or discolor if you use an old-fashioned incandescent bulb with high wattage.

Trim and Fabric

You can use flexible trim and ribbons of the kind typically used on the edges of curtains, clothing or pillows to dress up the perimeter of a drab lampshade. Decorative ribbon featuring hearts, toy cars or baby rattles turns a small lamp into one appropriate for your young child's room. Hot glue secures the ribbon to the lampshade, and can be used to apply the trim on a plain shade or add new trim over old.


Dangling embellishments dress up a plain lampshade the same way they do for clothing and accessories. Small "coins" designed for clothing can be stitched onto a shade, dangling down an inch or so for Eastern-inspired styling reminiscent of belly-dancing scarves. This works especially well on shades with a bold, silky fabric. Small toy figures, such as plastic soldiers or farm animals, can dangle from loops of fishing line to decorate a child's lampshade. Use a hole punch or awl to poke holes around the shade perimeter for inserting the thread or line.


Tissue paper, scrapbooking paper or even pages from damaged old books can be used to give that shade a fresh look. Decoupage medium or watered down school glue are brushed onto the backs of each piece of torn paper, which overlap one another until the entire shade is covered. Patterned fabric can be used in the same manner with decoupage medium, giving the lampshade an artist's or designer's handcrafted look.

Special Effects

For a "surprise" shade, cut a shape or silhouette out of opaque paper or fabric, such as trees or a skyline, and glue it onto the inside of the lampshade. When the lamp is lit, the hidden silhouette is revealed when it lights from behind. When done with a translucent colorful paper, such as colored tissue paper, the effect shows up in muted colors, such as a school of fish swimming around the shade. Dried or faux autumn leaves can be used for the same effect. A bunch of slides or filmstrip material, strung together with jump rings, creates an "overshade" that fits over the original, lighting up and showing abstract shapes of color from behind, discernible only when viewed up close.

About the Author

Kathy Adams is an award-winning journalist and freelance writer who traveled the world handling numerous duties for music artists. She writes travel and budgeting tips and destination guides for USA Today, Travelocity and ForRent, among others. She enjoys exploring foreign locales and hiking off the beaten path stateside, snapping pics of wildlife and nature instead of selfies.

Photo Credits

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