Archive for March, 2009

Antique and Vintage Lighting

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

Crystal Chandelier
Nothing sets the mood like lighting. From dramatic accent lighting, to soft romantic mood setting to the all important task lighting. Apart from the function of lighting, lighting fixtures can be an all important decorating accessory item for a room. A French brass chandelier dripping with crystals can set the stage for a formal diningroom, or get a romantic shabby chic look in a bedroom or bath. An old 1860 library fixture with a glass shade and globe can be electified and add a traditional look to a den , office or study. Wrought iron or weathered tin can get an Early American primitive look going. I have talked about inspiration coming from out of the blue and get a whole decorating theme going, well a impressive lighting fixture can be a starting off point also for a room. It can set the theme for the selection of all the other furnishings.
Antique or vintage lighting doesn’t require a lot of work to adapt, electify, rewire or dress up. So if you see a great lighting fixture or a special lamp don’t be afraid to purchase it. Many people get rid of lamps simply because they may need a new plug or switch or socket, not realizing how simple and inexpensive it is to fix them. A lamp can be rewired for under $20.00. New sockets are easy to put on. So check out the tag sales, thrift shops, and consignment shops for some real beauties at bargain prices that just need a little work. With all old lighting pieces, if you are not skilled at wiring please take it to a professional to inspect and make needed repairs before you use it. The workings of a lamp are very simple and easy to fix. Be safe make sure the wiring is in good shape.
Start with a basic lamp, that is the right size and shape for the place you want to put it, next accessorize. Does it need a shade? A simple shade or a shade that has braid trim, beads, an unusual fabric or color? If you have purchased a great lamp at a flea market price maybe you can spurlge on a fabulous custom shade. Remember scale when it comes to shades, it should just cover the entire socket area, not too high and the socket shows, not too long that it is uncomfortable trying to reach up under it to turn the light on. A rule of thumb is appoximately, the shade should be 1/3 of the total height of the lamp. The height and size of the lamp should also be in scale with the furniture it is sitting on. Important lamps that are next to seating and used for reading should be high enough to illuminate what ever you are reading as you are sitting, a too low lamp won’t work, a too high lamp will shine in your eyes and make you uncomfortable. Also take into consideration your height. Using lamps you already own of various heights, try them on the table next to your chair to find what heights works best for you, measure it and use that for a guide in purchasing a new lamp. I hate the matchy matchy look in decorating, I call it the Holiday Inn style of decorating. The only exception to my design philosophy of not working in pairs is with lamps on either side of a couch or in the immediate seating area, if you are only going to be using 2 lamps, they should really be an exact match for height, shape and base material, if you don’t want 2 lamps the exactly the same, they have to be very similar in traits. In the rest of the room they should be in scale with the room and furniture and have some single unifying trait that coordinates them all together. There can be 1 single lamp that has a stunningly different look than all the others if it is to be a focal point in the room. Hanging fixtures should be hung at heights, where they will be noticed, provide lighting such as over a dining table, but not placed where they are too low and people will hit their heads getting up from their chairs or the lights shine in their eyes. One rule of thrumb is measure the space from the top of the table to the ceiling, halfway in between is where the light should go, but with about a foot space in that middle half-way point to adjust up or down for your indivual preference. Nothing looks worse or so lost as a chandelier hung way up too close to the ceiling, you can always add a decorative chain to extend it down.
Soft lighting from lamps and chandeliers are the most flattering to you and the room. Chandeliers can be put on dimmer switches to adjust the amount of light needed or wanted. Every woman’s nightmare is the lighting in store’s dressingrooms, the over head flourescent lights are too bright and tend to distort colors, they make every flaw show and turn your skin tones into something from a horror flick. Add the distress of trying on a bathing suits and you can lose your self esteem for a month. This overhead harsh lighting is not what you want in your home. You need soft, subtle lighting to light a room. Lamps can give spot lighting where you need it for tasks, spotlights can highlight special paintings or other works of art, recessed lights can shot down onto work surfaces for doing tasks. Hanging lights on dimmers can softly light a whole room. Out are the glaring overhead ceiling lights as the sole source of light for a room. A single room can use several lamps to spot light areas as needed instead of lighting the whole room. Lamps can vary in size around the room as long as they are proportinate to the pieces of furniture they are on or next to. Don’t over look using floor lamps, great where space is limited and also great for providing light from behind your chair to shine down on what you are reading. Wall scones are also another space saver, some that are used in bedrooms or in bathrooms can be on arms that move, to pull out or fold back. A room can have a combination of mood lighting, task lighting or accent lighting. For example I have a very large bathroom, it is over 22 feet long and has a cathedral ceiling, so it has a very long vanity and mirror to be in scale with the room, over the vanity is a strip of the typical round vanity bulbs, I think there are 8 of them. When the vanity lights are on, it is very bright with that many bulbs, good for applying makeup or shaving but really too bright for anything else. So I found 2 old frosty glass vase shaped lamps, to place on the vanity, decorated with handpainted gold flowers and leaves, very French looking. They are standard height table lamps and I put pretty chintz flowered fabric shades on them for a soothing soft lighting effect. So now just going into the bathroom at night, turning on one of the lamps creates a special soft lighting that is more room like than a cold overly bright sterile looking enviroment. Near the bath I have an antique brass and crystal wall sconce to add more soft light over the tub but not the glaring bright light that reminds me of the store dressing rooms light. Soft lighting in the bathroom can create a private personal oasis to help you to relax in a wonderful bubble bath or a pulsating long hot shower and enjoy some pampering time.
Lighting fixtures can be dressed with shades of cloth or glass, decorated with strings of pearls, hung with chains, or be dripping with hundreds of shimmering crystals, painted, made of metal or wood, the variety is endless as is what you can do to them. Ebay is a great source for buying crystals, drop pendents or strings of them in all different colors, sizes and shapes to suit your decorating taste. Silk ivy vines can be twirled around the chain that suspends them. Christmas brings a whole new area of decorating ideas for your lighting fixtures. A garden room with live ficus trees covered with white mini lights can turn the room into a fairy wonderland. Many people try putting the little white lights on their houseplant trees for the holidays and love it so much they leave them on all year long.
The term “they don’t make them like they used to” certainly applies to lamps and lighting fixtures. many old ones are works of art, wonderful examples artistic handcraftmanship, whether fine china, blown glass, precious metals, hand forged iron, ect.all have a special unique appeal of their own and add beauty as well as function to your home. Anyone can have a store bought, made in China lamp, functional but not unique. You take so much time in choosing the perfect accessories that made your home reflect your unique style don’t lose that creative edge with your lighting. Your home is your “stage” you have designed the set, you are the “star” make sure the stagelights flatter your beauty. Special tip, pink colored lightbulbs in the bedroom will give your skin a wonderful rosy glow!

Thrifting: Giving and Getting, A Win Win Situation

Saturday, March 7th, 2009

Thrift Finds

Thrift Finds


It’s that time of year again…. Tax time. Now you are probably wondering what does the grueling task of getting ready for your taxes have to do with decorating? Lots! I look at tax time as another New Years Eve, time for reflecting over the past year, making resolutions and setting goals for the coming year. Going through the previous year’s receipts and seeing where all your dollars went, reliving the past year’s purchases, good and bad ones, helps you focus for the new year. In these scary economic times we all need to tighten up the budget.
This is going to be a little lesson called “Decorating On a Shoestring”. Along with doing the taxes another chore needs to be done, Spring Cleaning. Time to take stock, purge and organize. This task can be overwhelming and easily postponed but there is no time like the present. Tackle this, room by room, closet by closet. To make the cleaning go easier you got to get rid of “stuff”. First off, set up 3 areas in the room with empty boxes, large contractor size garbage bags, and storage bins or containers. Now comes the hard part, being objective. Start in one area of the room or closet and don’t leave that area till you have completely gone through it all. The big questions are: Do I really need this item? Have I used this item in the past year? Would I like to replace this item? Do I love this item and wouldn’t dream of parting with it? With clothing it is a little easier, does it fit? Have you worn it in the past year? This is like a game, you have to answer these questions quickly and make a decision, the longer you take and think about it, the less you will be inclined to part with it. Once the decision is made decide how you are going to dispose of the item. Here’s the rewarding part, think “Green” the ultimate recycling is to donate your unwanted items to your local thrift store, things that are still in good condition, useable, wearable and saleable for the thrift store will be most welcome by them. If it is broken, torn, or stained do not donate but dispose of. No one is going to buy a chair with a broken leg or a pair of drapes that the fabric is rotting or the tee shirt that would make a better polishing rag, these should never be given as donations. You are helping many people with your donations and you can take a donation tax write-off on your taxes (you must have an itemized receipt of what you have given).
Another fun alternative is a swap party with friends, whether it is a knicknack, decorative items party or a kids or adult clothing swap meet or even a children’s toy swap, it is a great excuse to get all your pals together and have a party. There again make sure all your swap items are clean and in good repair, your rhinestone decorated sandals that pinch your feet and you have never worn could make a smashing new accessory for your best friend’s new summer outfit. Everyone brings and goes home hopefully with a “new” treasure and had a fun afternoon.
Another way to look at all this purging is from a money making angle. Dollars made from selling your items at consignment shops, can be used to buy things that you really want for the new season. Or get together with a couple of friends and plan a tag sale, decide whose house has the best exposure for tag salers to find, pool your goodies and share the work and make some money. In a future article I will cover all the points in having a successful tag sale or estate sale. If some of the items you have decided to part with are collectible and have value you may want to contact antique dealers, used furniture dealers, ect. who would be interested in purchasing what you have for sale. Consult the Yellow Pages in your phone book, go online, stop in some antique shops, find dealers who would be interested in the types of items you have for sale. This is usually the fastest way to get rid of unwanted items. Remember a dealer will offer you a “wholesale price”, not the top retail dollar figure that you might get if you spent the time and money to advertise the item and sell it retail yourself. If you want to sell it yourself and you have time to deal with the numerous inquiries, you can try internet sites such as Craig’s List, or set up an account and sell it yourself on Ebay’s auction site. The classifieds in your local newspaper or Penny Saver may find you a customer. But a word of caution, don’t spend the money till you get it, and have sold the item. These times are tough, many people are cashing out the dollars in their closets and attics and things are a hard sell for the most part right now, you have to have a little more patience and swallow hard and compromise on price. What things were selling for a year ago, is no where near what they are selling for today. I was one of the first sellers on Ebay, in the beginning (ca. 1998) no matter what you listed for sale on Ebay, it sold and at a good price, now only 20% or less of what is listed on Ebay actually sells and many times for a lot less than it’s value. This was a lesson we all had to learn, something is only worth what someone is willing to pay you for it. This “Recession, Depression” whatever you want to label it has hit all of us hard, no one is immune from it. So the dollars you get from getting rid of unused or unwanted items may not be a “killing” but every little bit helps, whether it is cash in your pocket or a charitable donation it still helps.
Now remember I suggested you have some storage boxes earlier. These are for items you are keeping but not using at this time or in their original state or for their original purpose. Now I know you fellow collectors or packrats, didn’t totally reform and get rid of everything you aren’t using. But hopefully you gave it a good try. We are still using the “thrifty mentality” many of these items can be refinished, redesigned, or repaired. Curtains, sheets, bedspreads, many things made of fabric can be made into other things. Decorative items can be swapped into other rooms or areas, furniture can be redone, painted or refinished, the crafty ones will look at these items as raw materials to be transformed or made into something new. Quilts were made out of scraps of material, rag rugs were made out of old clothes, kitchen tables had their legs shortened to be made into coffee or cocktail tables. Old armoires were made into entertainment centers, old dressers into bathroom sink vanities. So back to recycling, what can we make out of our discards that we still like and have many more miles in them ?
We had turned into such a throw away society, our landfills were over flowing and new was always better, but times have changed and it’s time for us to be creative as well as thrifty and responsible. Hopefully we won’t ever be in the position of our grandparents, who lived through the Great Depression and made 101 dishes without meat or put cardboard in their shoes but we can re-examine our spending habits and go back to some of the old ways of re-doing, repairing, and redesigning and come up with some pretty clever and unique ways of decorating.
Now for our reward after sorting, cleaning and purging, we have a fresh palate to work with, to redecorate. After Spring cleaning who wants to put things all back the same way. Family and spouses won’t even notice all the hard work you did. Now it is time for the fun of redecorating, getting creative and achieving a new look. Work with what you have, swap things between rooms, spend a little of the money you made selling off your old things, after dropping off your donations at the thrift stores, go inside and check out the bargains, you may find just the treasure you need to start your creative juices flowing, inspiration may strike and you have a theme for a whole new look. That little ladie’s desk that needs a coat of white paint might be just the thing to put in your bedroom corner and make a wonderful place to sit and journal. Maybe you might find a small brass lamp with a toile shade to go with it at your neighborhood Goodwill. Recycle, it’s fun!