The Lamp Whisperer

Sometimes bad things happen to good lamps.  They wind up neglected, unappreciated, or worse, paired with an inappropriate shade.  But they can be saved.   Most of the lamps at our house are rescue lamps that have thrived with a little TLC.

Paint it Black  – Even When It’s a Bad Idea

Years ago, my husband, Chris, wound up with a 1920s floor lamp that had been in his family for generations.   It was painted black but the paint was eroding and he could tell that there was something else underneath.

Finally, when he had time, he rubbed the lamp down with denatured alcohol and the black paint came off, revealing the original 1920s polychrome paint.

1920s art deco lamp with polychrome paint - diy lamp rehab
1920s floor lamp base with original polychrome paint.

The lamp didn’t have a shade when he acquired it, but eventually we found a fun shade for it.

1920s lamp with reproduction shade

Hidden Art Deco

While at an estate sale, I spotted this ugly, oversized lamp shade sitting on a base.

Art deco lamp as found at estate sale - diy lamp repair
Art deco lamp with oversized shade from estate sale

Luckily I looked underneath to see what was holding the shade up and found a beautiful art deco lamp base, covered in years of grime.

We paired it with a more attractive and scaled down shade, which cost considerably more than we paid for the lamp, for this winning combination of old school glam.

art deco lamp - diy lamp repair

Lesson learned:  look underneath, around, and past ugly lamp shades.  You never know what you will find.

Tarnished Crystal

At the same estate sale, I found a grungy little lamp base down in the basement with the tools. It really didn’t look like much, but the price was right.

We cleaned it up and got a shade for it, and this is what we had.

glass lamp - DIY lamp repair

It’s adorable now after a little soap and water.

Pretty Bird

This hanging lamp was in Chris’s parents’ house for years.  His mother loved estate sales and probably got it second hand.  Each panel has a different, hand-painted bird scene.

Chinese lamp

In rustic condition and unsafe to use, this lamp needed a lamp whisperer.  For starters, Chris cleaned it, rewired it, and added a new chain.

One of the four little wooden support bars at the top was missing.  Can you see from this photo ( which is the view looking into the lamp shade from above) which one Chris replaced?

chinese lamp closeup

If you guessed the lower right side, you are right.  He cut a piece of wood, painted it black, and used a small piece of All Thread to screw it into the middle block.  He then used glue to secure the other end to the shade.

Know When to Call In the Experts

It’s satisfying to find a neglected lamp and bring it back to its former glory – or in some cases, make it better than it ever was before.

But be sure to check if the lamp is safe to use.  Look for frayed or cracked cords, or even cords that have become brittle.  Check the connection between the cord and the plug.  Look for any previous attempts to repair the lamp.  If you find any reason to think the lamp is unsafe, run it by an expert for a second opinion.

And While We’re Talking About Lighting

I just have to give you a little preview of the beautiful hanging lamps my brother, Dan, made us for Christmas.  They are for our new greenhouse and he made them to look like old-fashioned trouble lights, complete with Edison-style filament bulbs.

Reproduction vintage trouble lights
Reproduction vintage trouble lights

They are exactly what I wanted – industrial yet vintage.  He did a custom patina on the metal bulb cages.  Even the little touch of rust was planned.

Vintage trouble lights - closeup

Wow.  But how did he “make” these lamps?  I’m hoping he will tell us, but that will be for another post.  You will be seeing them again when I reveal my greenhouse interior.


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2 thoughts on “The Lamp Whisperer”

  1. What an “enlightened ” post! I can’t believe that beautiful little Art Deco lamp was under that gigantic shade. And I agree with you ~ it’s just not a lamp until it’s shaded properly!!! Popped over from My Salvaged Treasures link party. Best ~ Mickie.

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