How to Decorate With a Barrel Shade Chandelier


Barrel shades, more commonly known as drum shades, can be used to dress up or dress down a chandelier, depending on the look you want. DIY drum shades are another option for a more customized look. Whether your style is modern, contemporary, traditional or retro, a drum shade is a versatile lighting embellishment that can blend in with a variety of decorating styles.


  • A drum shade can be made from a variety of materials including glass, metal and fabric. Glass and fabric shades provide a softer look; a metal shade can be used for a more industrial, edgy look. Drum shades in natural fibers such as grass cloth and linen will give you a clean, sophisticated look. Drum shades made with organza fabric add a sheer, silky layer to a chandelier. The material of the shade affects the brightness of the light, which should be taken into consideration as well as the placement of the fixture. Glass, light-colored fabrics and sheer material shades are good choices for dining rooms or over kitchen islands, as they typically provide a brighter light. Heavier or darker fabrics and metal shades tend to diffuse more light, making them a better choice for bedrooms, dens or living rooms.


  • Drum shades are commonly seen on dining room chandeliers. A drum shade chandelier used over a dining room table should be sized correctly to keep a balanced, harmonious look. The diameter of the shade should be at least 12 inches shorter than the width of the table. Try to stick closely to this size when looking for a drum shade. In other areas, measure the length and width of the room and add those two numbers together. Convert this number to inches, which will give you an approximate diameter for your drum shade. For example, a 12-foot by 15-foot room converts to 27 inches.


  • Although many people associate drum shades with modern and contemporary styles, these shades can also be used in traditional settings. Fabrics with natural fibers and rich textures such as grass cloth, hemp, linen and leather fit well with traditional decor; especially when used on wrought iron, antique brass or oil-rubbed bronze chandeliers. Sleek finishes such as glass and chrome are good choices for ultramodern and upscale rooms. Sheer, organza shades placed over candelabra style, crystal chandeliers make elegant fixtures with softly diffused light. Shades with vintage-style fabrics look great in both retro and modern settings. Drum shades can be designed to enhance practically any type of chandelier in any type of setting.

Retrofitting Existing Chandeliers

  • Barrel or drum shades are so appealing because of their versatility and the dimension they add to fixtures such as chandeliers. Drum shades provide a layered look with varying levels of light diffusion. Drum shade chandeliers can be bought as is or the drum shade can be retrofitted to an existing chandelier with a simple conversion kit. Kits typically contain some kind of hook or connector that attaches to the chandelier chain and around the inside edge of the shade, allowing you to slip the drum shade over the chandelier, then attach the shade to the connector once it’s installed on the chain. It’s also possible to buy a drum shade wide enough to fit over your existing chandelier and come up with your own method for hanging it, as other thrifty, do-it-yourself decorating bloggers have done in their own homes. Refinishing an existing chandelier and then adding a drum shade allows you to give existing chandeliers a complete makeover.

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