Ace of Shades Offers Bespoke Victorian-Style Lampshades You Didn’t Know You Needed
At the top of a Brooklyn brownstone, there’s a little pink room. And in that room, there’s a rainbow of fabric nestled on a tower of shelves, a closet brimming with fringe, a wall full of colorful thread, and an array of metal structures. Together, they’ll become bespoke Victorian-style lampshades designed by Ivy Karlsgodt for her company Ace of Shades.
Karlsgodt moved to New York in 2018 to be a costume designer and, in a costume shop, helped develop clothing for Broadway, film, and television. But when everything shut down at the beginning of the pandemic, like so many, she had a lot of time on her hands. Sitting at home, she became more aware of her surroundings and began to understand her personal style as it appeared in home decor. It wasn’t as minimalist as she thought; rather, she turned her eye instead toward maximalism and vintage finds, and soon began craving a Victorian-style lamp, one of those intricate fabric structures twinkling with fringe and embroidery.
The only problem was that such treasures often run at a high cost — so Karlsgodt decided to use her skills as a designer to make her own. “It's kind of a similar process to hat-making,” she says, one of which she was familiar from her costume work. As we talk, she sits on a metal stool adorned with a fluffy white pillow, a tiger print rug at her feet. Her platinum blonde hair is secured with pearl barrettes, and there’s a tattoo of an 18th-century lady on one arm and a 16th-century French emblem on the other. An ace of spades symbol dots her right wrist; she thought it would be fun to use a pun as her company’s name.
While there weren’t a ton of resources out there for lampshade design, Karlsgodt did find DVDs from Victorian lampshade artist Mary Maxwell, and made a few practice pieces of her own. For her bedroom, she made a small tulip lamp, accented with pleated black chiffon, red velvet, and black fringe entirely by hand, and chronicled the process in a video she posted on TikTok. Maybe it would be a new hobby or a small side hustle? She didn’t expect the response she received. “They just kind of popped off right away,” she says. Posted in December 2020, that video now has over 61K likes. She’s up to 374.3K followers on the platform and 172K on Instagram; some videos on TikTok have as many as 2.8M views.
And it’s no wonder. With their glistening fringe and fabric, florals and embroidery, Karlsgodt’s elegant, intricate lampshades are a sight for eyes all too addled by cat videos and car karaoke. Watching them come together in fast motion is some kind of magic, and people took notice. She began to get DMs about lampshade commissions and started making them while still working in costume design, but the combination of what became two full-time jobs was taxing. As of summer 2022, Karlsgodt has been working on Ace of Shades full time. She has even had to close commissions: With her current clients, she is booked into January 2023 — as it takes her between five and 27 hours to do a single lamp — and will reopen for commissions after that. (You can sign up for her newsletter to stay in the loop if interested.)
In the commission process, Karlsgodt’s clients are able to pick from a catalog of lamp shade options and share their vision for color and style. “Sometimes they will have really specific ideas about the types of textiles they like,” she says, explaining common requests include pleated chiffon, velvet, velvet burnout, or appliques. “Or can we get some floral imagery in there? Can you put a bird on it? Sometimes they're just like, ‘I don't know, I like blue,’” she laughs. From there, she comes up with a design — on her iPad, she’s able to stick photos of textiles onto the lamp design — and sends the mock to the client, ensuing a collaborative back-and-forth dialogue until the final design is approved. Karlsgodt has also started making stock lamps and one-of-a-kind creations to sell on her online store if a custom order isn’t possible — they’re all currently sold out, but she’s always making more.
Working on Ace of Shades allows Karlsgodt to participate in both the production and the design of the object, using exquisite, luxe fabrics while doing it. Usually in costume design, she says, you might do either production or design, or you’re making garments like leotards that have to be sturdy enough to stand up to multiple quick changes every week backstage. “With this job, I get to use all of the beautiful things I always wished I was using,” she says. “Being able to use those more delicate and vintage textiles and trims and things that I usually don't actually get to use in costuming has been very exciting.”
Karlsgodt’s lampshades fit in perfectly with style’s return to maximalism in a world that’s ever-increasingly post-pandemic. Along with that fiery Valentino pink, a proliferation of platform shoes, a re-embracing of nostalgia, and a revival of Art Deco’s opulence, it’s as if many people are eager to leave their sweatpants and fleece blankets behind in both a literal and metaphorical sense. Why bother with beige when you can have blue? Why settle for polyester when you could have pleated chiffon? If there’s ever a moment when we have to be stuck home again, why not have it be as fabulous as possible? Karlsgodt’s Ace of Shades asks this question as well, while also providing a lovely and luxurious answer.