Chandelier shades direct and diffuse the light from each bulb. When the shades are configured to point upward, the chandelier's lights reflect off of the ceiling for softer ambient lighting. When the shades point down, the light is more defined and focuses on the furniture below the chandelier.
The opacity of the chandelier shades also affects the brightness of the light from the fixture. The room appears brighter with a set of translucent glass shades on the chandelier, while more opaque or lined shades create more diffuse lighting.
The material, color and shape of the chandelier shades can also alter the chandelier's overall aesthetic to coordinate with the room's decor. Drum-shaped shades give a modern look, while tulip or bell shapes offer a more traditional look.