All About ReDecorating

By Cindy Dampier
Chicago Times

So you’re in the market for a makeover….a room makeover, that is…but you’re not prepared to plunk down serious cash for new furniture, or even pop open a can of paint. You want maximum impact, minimal effort. A new lamp might be just what you need. To get a truly personal style (and save a bundle), try adapting an old lamp from a thrift store. Refurbishing a vintage lamp is quick, basic project that can cast your room in a whole new light.

Find It:
Our slightly crusty lamp cost us just $2. Try looking at garage sales, flea markets or thrift shops. Look for form, not function. Choose a lamp with a shape you love, and plan on new electrical parts and a new shade.

Fix It:
1. Take the lamp apart. Unscrew all the existing lamp parts, saving them in a safe place. Tip: Take a “before” photo of your lamp for reference. This can be a huge help when you’re putting the parts back together. If you’re really nervous about all those little parts, lay them out in order as you take them off, then snap another quick reference picture.

2. Assemble the parts you’ll need. We got a lamp kit from our local hardware store that included all the necessary electrical “guts” in one little package.

3. Reassemble the lamp. We used wire-cutting pliers to cut away the old cord and socket, then replaced them with new ones from our kit, following the kit instructions.

Tip: Since this DIY involves electricity err on the side of caution. “Be very careful,” says Steve Jacobson, owner of Jacobson Electric in Illinois. “Make sure you use all the parts included, and don’t pinch or bend the wire.”

4. Clean it. We used fine grade steel wool (ours was grade 0000 steel wool; rug gently to avoid scratching your lamp) and metal polish for the metal parts. We cleaned the lamp body with glass cleaner.

Tip: Buying non-lacquered metal parts means that they’ll naturally tarnish over time….which will help them blend in with vintage lamp parts.

5. Dress it with a shade.

A Short And Shady Tale About Lamps

The first rule of shade buying is this: the height of the shade should be about three-quarters of the height of the base. The second rule of shade buying: sometimes you can break the rule. The shade should cover the lamp’s hardware and switch. The best way to tell if a lamp shade is big enough is to bring it home ad put it on the lamp. Or better yet, bring the lamp in and try many shades on it until you find a combination you like.
Then look at your new creation from various angles.

Tips: If it is a table lamp, sit in a chair next to it and see whether the shade covers the hardware. The shade doesn’t need to be as tall if the lamp is in an entryway where you won’t be viewing it from a sitting position.

One way to change the height of a shade is to swap out the harp, the metal structure that holds most lampshades in place. A smaller harp will drop the shade lower. A larger harp will lift the shade higher. The only rule on the diameter of the shades is that it should be wider than the diameter of the base.

If the lamp will sit on a table near a wall, the shade should be slightly narrower than the table or it will bump against the wall.

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