Columbus, Ohio USA
Return to Homepage

The Lamp Shade
It's all about the details

May 2007
by Karen Edwards

Return to Features Index

Photos/ Rick Borgia

Marianne Lannan getting settled in the Short North.

At first glance, they seem inconsequential. A new lamp shade, a decorative finial – trivials, really, in the grand scheme of decorating or redecorating a room. But get these details wrong and suddenly the room seems off somehow, as if you’ve seen the forest but missed the trees. Ah, but get them right, and you’ve just freshened and revived your space – at very little expense.

All of this is old news to Marianne Lannan, owner of The Lamp Shade, 990 N. High Street, on the corner of Second Avenue and High. Of course, 12 years ago, she didn’t know a thing about lamps, shades, or those decorative end-pieces known as finials. She did know a great deal about computers.

Lannan started her working life as a computer programmer for Nationwide Insurance, and, eventually, as a systems analyst for BancOhio (now National City) and then for Bank One. After 20-plus years of that kind of work, however, Lannan began looking for something different to do. She began taking business classes, including a class on “Starting Your Own Business” through Columbus State.
“I’d been thinking about starting a business, but I wasn’t sure what business I wanted to start,” she says.

An outdoors enthusiast who enjoys skiing and biking (she’s ridden the Tour of the Scioto River Valley, but now finds training for the event too time-consuming), Lannan did give some thought, briefly, to starting an outdoors business like landscaping. But something her instructor mentioned in class one day made sense to her.

“He said buying an existing business can be easier than starting one from scratch,” Lannan says.

And it just so happened that down the street – within walking distance of her Bexley residence – was the perfect business, a Bexley landmark that had been there since 1973, called The Lamp Shade.

“I’d been in the store only once, but I liked it,” says Lannan. “It felt homey.”

Rita Quinn, who owned the store, had died in 1988, and the shop had been inherited by five of her nephews. Connie Cooney was running The Lamp Shade for them.

The part-time solution
Lannan believed it was the right place for her, so she walked into the shop one day and asked whether the store might be for sale. Yes, she was told, that was a possibility. Lannan let the owners know of her interest in buying the store, and to make it more concrete, she went to work in the shop part-time, while keeping her systems job with her Bank One employer – but only on a part-time basis. “The people at Bank One were very supportive,” Lannan recalls now, “and I think they were just happy I was still willing to work for them in any capacity – even part time.”

That part-time arrangement in the shop and at her job continued for five years. During that time, Lannan was learning the lamp shade business from the ground up – and from real experts, the shop’s five part-time employees.

“I inherited great help,” Lannan says of her staff, all of whom followed her from Bexley to the Short North location.

Lannan went to work full-time at The Lamp Shade in 2000, and it would be another six years before her soon-to-be landlord, Mark Wood, came into the shop and told her how perfect it would be for the Short North neighborhood.

Charmed by the neighborhood
“I was impressed to see him actively recruiting businesses for the area,” says Lannan. And she was impressed with how he did it. Wood brought her to the area and went property shopping with her, introducing her to Short North business owners along the way. Lannan had been considering a move before Wood’s appearance. The Lamp Shade’s Bexley building needed renovation and repairs, so she had already looked at places Downtown, as well as in Upper Arlington and Gahanna before she ever visited the Short North. Still, she was charmed by the Short North’s friendliness and inclusiveness, its vibrancy and promise, especially the prospect of new home-owners moving into freshly-built condos along High Street. She decided the Short North was the right place for The Lamp Shade to be.

Her decision to move, however, was disappointing to Bexley residents. Lannan understood their disappointment but it was a business decision, she says. “I could walk to work when the shop was in Bexley,” Lannan says. “The move meant I had to change my lifestyle. Now, I had to commute to work, and find someplace to park my car.” But she knew as hard as it was on her and for Bexley residents, it was the right move to make.

Since The Lamp Shade opened in its Short North location last September, she has seen her customer base increase. Some Bexley residents have found her new place, and she’s confident more will as well. In the meantime, she handles decorators and corporate work, as well as walk-ins who are a bit different, demographically, from her Bexley customers.

“We see more men here,” says Lannan. In Bexley, more of her customers were women. And the age, here, skews younger. “We see more young people, young professionals and couples who are setting up their first home and making their first major lamp purchase.”

Her new customers are also looking for more contemporary lamps and accessories than the more traditional styles chosen by The Lamp Shade’s Bexley customers.

By now, of course, Lannan (along with her polished and professional staff) is more than qualified to help any customer make a lamp shade selection.

And there’s quite a selection to choose from: Square, oblong, circular and drum shades, small shades, large shades, patterned, colored and glass shades.

If you think you’re not in the market for a shade, you’ll change your mind once you step inside. Besides, chances are you really do need one. A really good shade, like the kind Lannan sells, last about 10 or 15 years. If you picked your shade up at the local discount store, subtract about five years. Now, when was the last time you replaced your shade?

“The biggest mistake I see people make when selecting a shade is trying to get one that’s exactly like the old one,” says Lannan. “I tell them to branch out and to explore other possibilities.”

Trendy Shades
Just like fashion, lamp shades follow trends. A few years ago, a shade with a dramatic flair was popular. Now, the look is cleaner, more contemporary. The shallow drum shade is now very popular, for example, and lamps are growing taller – from about 30-inches to 34 or 36 inches, says Lannan. “Ceilings are getting higher and spaces are getting larger,” she says, by way of explanation. Patterned shades are also giving way to textures like crisp linens and silk shades with slubs, like twisted knots embedded in the silk.

No matter what the trend is, you need to select a shade that’s right for your home, your tastes – and for your lamp, of course.

When selecting a shape for your shade, the general rule is to follow the shape of the lamp’s base – i.e. put a square shade on a lamp with a square base, a round shade on a round lamp. But don’t be tied to the rules, Lannan says. She encourages customers to try different shapes on their lamps because you never know what might look good.

That’s why Lannan encourages you to bring the lamp you’re outfitting with a shade in with you. She and her staff will help you find the one that’s right for you. Not her. You.

“Don’t ask me if I like it,” says Lannan with a laugh. “People do it all the time.

I want you to like it.”

And you won’t have to pay a small fortune if you do like it – unless you want to, of course. Lannan stocks shades by well-respected designers like Canterbury and Lake Shore Studios. She can also order shades from top designers or sell you a hand-sewn, hand-pleated silk shade, if you like – but she carries such a wide variety of domestic and imported shades, you’re sure to find something in your price range, whether that’s $25 or $150.

Repair and replacements
The Lamp Shade is also where to come if you are looking for a replacement prism for your chandelier or someone to repair a lamp or a shade with a drooping lining. “We reline shades,” says Lannan, “but relines cost as much as a new lamp shade. You’re probably better off just getting a new shade unless the shade is one of a kind, or one of a pair.”

Just don’t bring in your halogen lamps for repair or ask that your chandelier be re-wired. The shop won’t do those tasks. But it is willing to turn your, um, interesting treasures into a lamp, if that’s your desire. Don’t think Lannan hasn’t seen it all before. She’s seen lamps made from parking meters, copper extinguishers, trombones, figurines, and in one especially quirky instance, the hoof of a deer. So go ahead. Bring in your prize. She’s happy to help. That’s Short North service. More specifically, that’s the Lamp Shade’s service.

When she’s not working in the shop, Lannan says you may find her listening to a variety of live music (“blues and folk are my favorites,” she says), reading non-fiction (“I’m reading Barack Obama’s Audacity of Hope right now”) or visiting with family. Her mother still lives in the Eastside home where Lannan and her six brothers and sisters grew up. (She’s fifth of the seven children.)

And lately, she’s been stepping out in the Short North – when she can find the time. She likes Counter Culture next door. She and Mary Ellen Baker have become friends, and Lannan has recently had Counter Culture’s Baker install a new laminate counter in her home. Lannan also likes to stop by the Northstar Café, ZenCha, and the Urban Gardener. “And I love Camelot Cellars. I’ve made a couple of batches of wine there already,” she says. She’s still trying to get to stores in the Short North’s central and southern parts. “It’s just a matter of finding the time,” she says.

In other words, Lannan is finding that she and her shop fit into the Short North quite comfortably. This Gallery Hop, she’s even showing “art” for the first time, in the form of jewelry by local artist Tracy Van Niel.

Lannan says she’s gradually adding other decorative items to her shop – for the color and variety. Candles, tassels, room scents, pottery and porcelain plates all await gift-buyers and home decorators, professional and otherwise. Her collection of finials, by the way, is worth the trip alone.

Still, says Lannan, don’t look for her to expand her home décor items much beyond what she has at present. “I think lamp shades are enough of a niche market,” she says. “And that’s where I intend to keep my focus.”

The Lamp Shade is open Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. and Saturday, 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. For more information, including how to measure a shade, visit The Lamp Shade’s Web site at or call (614) 299-6442.

©2007 Short North Gazette, Columbus, Ohio. All rights reserved.