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Thrifty McGee — Lamps

So, because the weather is holding up progress on our front porch project — which is holding up our big Curb Appeal Reveal! — I’m gonna switch gears.

Let’s talk about lamps, bay-bee/Let’s talk about you and me/Let’s talk about all the good lamps and the bad lamps/Yes-siree!

OK… that last rhyme was lame. I admit it.

What isn’t lame is that I got ALL these lamps (including shades) for under $20!!!

“But Amy,” you say, “they’re so very ugly!”Β  Yes, yes they are.

But they won’t be for long — Amy has fancy plans.

Yep. I’m gonna make them over good. But first, I’m gonna do this quick tutorial on buying secondhand lamps.

1) Make Sure it Works

I am superscared of electricity. Seriously. Which is why I have never rewired a lamp. I hear it’s easy & hope to one day conquer my fear, but for now I only buy a lamp if it is in full working order. Fortunately, most thrift stores test lamps before putting them out on the sales floor. Still, even if a lamp is marked ‘works’ — I look it over completely. Any weird scorch marks? Is the cord frayed? Do the connections look sound? Why does that lady with the cart full of belts keep circling me?

Finally, I hang onto my receipt. Then, once home, I plug the lamp in, turn it off & on a few times, wiggle the base, gently tug on the cord, etc. If it holds up to normal jostling, it probably does work & I call it a keeper. If not, I take it back.

2) Don’t Judge a Lamp by its Color

Sure, these two ceramic lamps are outdated as-is, but imagine them with a nice, glossy, all-over coat of turquoise or green apple paint. Top them off with contrasting-color lampshades in an unexpected shape & you go from frumpy to fashion-forward in a few cheap, easy steps.

Or take this standing lamp — yes, it screams Grandma’s sitting room in its current state, but look at the bones on this gem.

A super-stable base:

Thick glass free of chips & cracks:

A nice, long cord free of fraying:

And a big unblemished lampshade:

I absolutely would have bought this lamp if I’d had room in the car to haul it home. I would have sprayed it with a little oil-rubbed-bronze spray paint — hothothot this season, btw — and switched out the shade for one in a bold, dark color (oxblood, eggplant, olive… something like that) with a ‘drum’ shape, like this one:

(Of course, this shade would need some TLC first — too Β ‘tea & crumpets’ as is…)

Anyhoo — once I’d spiffed it up a bit, the standing lamp would have looked totally stylish in a throwback, Mad Men kind of way.

In fact, I wonder if they still have it…

Long story short — don’t write off a working, inexpensive lamp just because it’s ugly at first glance. Examine it. You might be able to work with it.

3) Look for Shade

A lamp that includes a clean, neutral-toned, unbroken shade is an extra-good deal — even if the shade in question doesn’t do much for the appearance of the lamp it comes with.

Lampshades are inexplicably expensive. And frankly, the overall shapes don’t vary much from decade to decade — it’s mostly colors & details that change, both of which you can do yourself. Sure, lampshades can easily look out-of-date. But making one over is almost always cheaper than buying a new one that’s essentially the same thing. And it’s easy. (Stay tuned.)

Plus, because most shades attach to their lamps with a simple, standard fixture, you can easilyeasilyeasily swap out a shade that just isn’t working for you — aesthetically speaking — for another that looks better, regardless of where each component came from or how old they are πŸ™‚

Just unscrew the cap holding the shade on, remove the offending shade, slip on the new shade & rescrew the cap.

Couldn’t be simpler πŸ™‚

4) Consider a Breakdown

Often, lamps have extra pieces that are completely decorative.

Were I so inclined, I could make over this lamp by removing the long rod that holds the original shade & simply topping the two bulbs with individual clip-on shades.Β 

Sorry, I don’t have any individual clip-on shades to demonstrate this idea in it’s totality, so you’ll have to visualize. But, as clip on shades are widely available, I figure you can picture where I’m going with this…

My point being: Many lamps have unnecessary parts; sometimes they’re handles, sometimes extensions, etc. And fortunately, most of the time, they’re simple to remove by just unscrewing — and without damaging the lamp or affecting it’s function.

So, if you see a lamp that you mostly like, see if the parts you dislike are removable!

5) Resurfacing Works

If you like a lamp’s shape, but not it’s surface, try to think of how you might be able to maintain the lines of the lamp while obscuring it’s texture.

For example, Dan hatesΒ the surface of this lamp. He calls it the pineapple lamp. He just can’t get past the checkerboard pattern. But the shape is timeless and it’s in fantastic working order.

So… I assured him that I’d spray paint the base & wrap the body with some kind of attractive ribbon/string/wire/rope — you know, to keep Spongebob from trying to set up camp in it. Or I could glue mosaic tiles to it. Or beads. Or bottle caps. See what I mean? Tons of possibilities.

So… that’s it pretty much what I can teach you about thrift lamp shopping. There are tons of perfectly good lamps at resale stores. You just have be able to recognize their potential & know how to assess their safety/function.

And now you do! And if you’re brave enough to rewire a lamp, you’re even one step ahead of me! πŸ˜‰

Link: How to rewire a table lamp




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2 thoughts on “Thrifty McGee — Lamps

  1. Federico Rebert on said:

    Wow! Thank you! I continually needed to write on my blog something like that. Can I include a portion of your post to my blog?

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