In the messy digital file I keep of ideas for possible Improvised Life posts — most in the form of a link or image with a rushed notation — I found a trove marked simply “paper shades”. Their big message: A rice paper shade or two adds A LOT to even the most “undecorated” room. They have a unique, rather magical presence, casting soft light as they seem to float untethered in the air. They pull the room together.

@communedesign: Tartine Manufactory, San Francisco

I began to understand the possibilities for paper shades when I moved into a rather dilapidated tenement apartment in Greenwich Village decades ago. A designer friend recommended I hang the biggest paper globe I could find in the middle of the room. It transformed it.

I became smitten when I reviewed Artists Handmade Houses years ago and saw how George Nakashima and other artists and designers from the fifties employed Isamu Noguchi’s original version in their homes. Looking at Don Freeman’s photos of Nakashima’s home for the book, I count five. He hung them all over the place.

George Nakashima home, from Artists Handmade Houses, photos by Don Freeman

George Nakashima kitchen, from Artists Handmade Houses, photos by Don Freeman

At @haus_of_lun’s instagram riff of Masatoshi Izumi’s Stone House in Mure, Japan, paper shades float through many rooms as well.


Masatoshi Izumi’s Stone House in Mure, Japan, photographed by the amazing Yoshihiro Makino @yoshihiromakino for the @cerealmag, via haus_of_lun

And though the original Noguchi shades are truly beautiful

Noguchi Shop

vin ordinaire rice paper shades offer a big bang for the buck…

Gilliam Khaw

Brigitte Wolfgang Drejer

Mikkel Mortensen

Mikkel Mortensen

Paper globes can be stacked…

Brigitte Wolfgang Drejer

…or grouped to give the effect of planets…

Refettorio Felix

For years, I’ve been buying inexpensive rice paper shades at Shoji Decor.

Shoji Decor

They even sell a cord kit for hanging your shade. Or you can make your own custom cord kit here.

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