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Lampshades that put most others in the shade

On a quest for the perfect lampshade

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Lampshades that put most others in the shade

May 06 2010
Catherine Moye

Can there be a more miserable shopping experience than hunting for the perfect lampshade? Even in the most conspicuously fashionable design emporiums, it’s often a choice between a tasselled affair better suited to the bottom half of a dancer at the Rio carnival or a rigid oval reminiscent of a po-faced aunt’s wedding hat. The colours also tend to lack imagination, being mostly predictable variations on burgundy, cream, or sludge green.

Admittedly my quest for the perfect lampshade was a little more challenging than most. My late grandfather, who hailed from the wartime waste-not-want-not generation, couldn’t bear to throw anything away. One of my earliest memories is of him at the lathe in his garage, turning an old dining-room table leg into a lampstand. The result looked like an elongated sweet potato but when he died I inherited it and it remains one of my most treasured possessions.

I’d almost given up trying to find anything that actually suited the stand, let alone the rest of the furnishings in my living room, until a designer friend recommended Violet & George.

Bespoke lampshade-making has become something of a dying art, thanks to retirement, changing fashions and mass-produced imports. This has left few skilled practitioners. Interior designer Nicky Mudie is exploiting the resulting gap in the market. Mudie launched Violet & George at the Decorex interior design show in Chelsea in 2009. Although she offers a full furnishing service, bespoke lampshades have proved the most popular part of her business.

Starting from just £90, Violet & George offers elaborately hand-pleated, tucked, smocked, gathered and stretched lampshade designs. They can make shades in almost any shape and size – even one in pleated pale grey silk with a red and beige bridge (£230) that perfectly suits my sweet potato of a lampstand.

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