Tag Archives: Lighting

Flipping Switches

Sometimes it’s the littlest things- like having to wiggle a switch just right to get the damn light on when you’re trying to haul laundry up a dark and slippery staircase- that make you curse your house. “Period details” are charming, 20s-era light switches encrusted with 80-some years of paint and dust are not.

Original Switch

Luckily, swapping out switches is cheap, quick, and painless (provided you have the good sense to turn off the circuit breaker first).

But what if you don’t know which breaker to flip? Because maybe the only legible notation on your panel refers to a water feature that you don’t have? Well then! What a convenient time to take on the task of labeling your panel (and the tertiary chore of resetting every electric clock in the house!). Most efficient way to do this? No idea. Adam and I chose to put on a trial-and-error light show and it was super fun. We’re really looking forward to playing the same game with the outlets. Electrical diagraming is tedious, and our wiring isn’t logical, but I know that getting organized now is scoring me major points with my future self.

Labeled Switch Plates

For extra credit, I’ve put the breaker number on the back of each switch plate. The switch plates, by the way, are old but new to the house. I tossed out a mish-mash of plastic and shiny brass greek key covers and replaced them with patinated and period-appropriate pretties that look like they’ve been there all along. I love, love, love them. When I get around to switching out the screws, I’ll have a few square inches of perfection in every room.

Vintage Switch Plates, Modern Switches

There we go. A perfect combination of vintage aesthetic and modern convenience. And no more cussing.

This is about the only instantly gratifying task on our electrical punch list. While a former owner modernized the kitchen and bathroom wiring (and we thank them for it), the rest of the house is powered with the original knob and tube. I’ve inspected it carefully, and I don’t have major safety concerns (the clusters of 3-prong adaptors and tangles of extension cords hiding behind my couch pose a far bigger risk), but an upgrade would be a complement to our house and its value.

I’m confident enough in my own competence that I’ve pondered taking this on myself, but oh, blah… I’m not sure that I want to devote precious weekend time to stapling romex to our basement ceiling and fishing wires up through plaster walls. Saving money will always be a priority for us house-rich cash-poor new homeowners, but a competitive bid from a licensed electrician might win me over in the end. My time is valuable too, and I prefer to spend it on projects that I can show off to admiring guests and blog readers. Herringbone tile floor, upholstered wingback chairs, and a faux-finished ceiling? Prepare to be impressed by my handiwork. House innards? Not so much. It’s difficult to talk people into a tour of your unfinished basement. But we’ll see. After all, you just read a 500 word blog post on light switches…

 

Bar Lights, Star Bright

One of my most beloved Craigslist finds is a petite mid century hutch, with a greige finish and brass details. It’s served us beautifully through the years, storing linens in our Seattle bungalow apartment, and then showcasing curiosities in Berkeley. When we moved into WarLock Manor, I gave it a very glamourous marbled back and transformed it into our bar cabinet.

As if the crystal didn’t sparkle enough, I added strings of starry lights for the holidays…Bar Cabinet and Sputnik Star Lights

Combining my Sputnik-era starburst and lucite obsessions with the astral theme I’ve established for the Living Room, these were a holiday gift-to-self from Pottery Barn. When I found a matching lit star ornament at Target, I didn’t hesitate to snag that too! They’ll twinkle through Christmas and light the way to 2014.
Martini Glasses and Sputnik Star LightsThe stars are on a battery-operated timer, set to light up right at cocktail hour and glow as we imbibe some holiday cheer.

Bar Cabinet and Sputnik Star Lights

Mixed drinks and spiky star lights- that’s how we do merry and bright at WarLock Manor!

Sputnik Star Light

Let There Be [Brass & Lucite] Lighting

The title of this blog, All the Dark Rooms, is borrowed from a favorite poem. It also happens to be an accurate description of our 1928 Tudor as we found it. The house has minimal hardwired lighting (none at all in the Living Room, Study, or Dressing Room), and we moved in with only four working lamps. In my desperation, I rigged up bare bulb fixtures with ring stands and clamps. Those were dark days.

I’ve improved our situation somewhat with table lamps, but we need more, more, more! And more drama wouldn’t hurt either…

Brass & Lucite Chandelier (Thomas O'Brien for Visual Comfort)Thomas O’Brien Brass & Lucite Chandelier via Horchow

Supernova Chandelier

 Supernova Chandelier via 1stDibs

I may be dreaming too big for my little house with either of those statement chandeliers, but I just love the glamorous combination of brass and lucite. So when I saw a sconce on eBay, sized right and priced under $30.00, I bid to win.

But, as is often the case with impulse buys, I had no idea where to put it. So it lived in the basement for a few months, until I had an A-HA moment- it’s perfect for the odd alcove above the fireplace.

Brass & Lucite Sconce

The thrill of thrifting is two-part. There’s the find, and then there’s the finding out. I like to know as much as can be known about every vintage piece that we bring home: the who, where, and when, and (like any Antiques Roadshow devotee), what it’s worth.

So I did a little searching, and found a chandelier with identical lucite swoops and brass fittings.

Dorothy Thorpe Brass & Lucite ChandelierChandelier via 1stDibs

I’ve seen them being incorrectly attributed to Dorothy Thorpe and Charles Hollis Jones, but I believe these pieces were actually part of the Crylicord collection designed by Peter Hamburger for Knoll. The suite included chandeliers and hanging fixtures, task lamps, floor lamps, and wall sconces. I can’t find a match to my fixture, but I think I did well for $30.00.

So, no tv-worthy “I had no idea” valuation, but it’s certainly the dramatic change I was after for the Living Room!

The Living Room: Wishlist

My policy, when it comes to decorating (and life in general, for that matter) is to dream big, then resize to fit. A concept can become reality via money or ingenuity- and I have to believe that the latter is infinitely more valuable. I don’t shy away from shopping high-end resources for inspiration. Limiting your view to what is easily attainable is settling; aspiring for more (and making it happen through creative means) is satisfying!

To prove the point, let’s rip another page out of the Living Room section of my design binder. Design starts with inspiration, translates into a palette of colors and textures, and then takes shape with furnishings. This page focuses on the South wall, which features the original plaster fireplace. It has the potential to impress.

The Living Room features all-original mahogany trim and hardwood floors, a sculptural fireplace, and arched passages to the Vestibule and Dining Room. This is what we were looking at when we fell madly in love with the house.WarLock Manor Living Room, South Elevation

Images, Clockwise from Top: Lindsey Adelmann Chandelier, Paint Color by Benjamin Moore, Crystal Orb Table, Rug (Owned), Wingback Chair

The table is wishful thinking, but doesn’t it belong at WarLock Manor? The unusual shape, the crystal ball… I’m utterly bewitched, but the price tag would spell disaster for the rest of the room. I can’t imagine that our guests would be so captivated by a table that they could overlook the lack of a chair! Since I can’t conjure up the real thing, I’ve been pondering ways to recreate the look with more humble materials (a thrifted table base + acrylic orbs from an old lamp?).

Now close your eyes and envision a pair of shapely wingback chairs flanking my curvy fireplace… perfect, right? Everyone and their brother is selling granny’s old wingbacks on Craigslist- with Queen Anne legs, in the wrong proportions, in singles, in ratty condition, or 200 miles away. Thrifting requires eternal optimism. Someday, the chairs will appear.

Sometimes though, good design is absolutely attainable- and the chandelier is a shining example. The Lindsey Adelmann studio has actually published the instructions (and kit!) for assembling this fixture, and the plans are easy to customize. You can see this chandelier DIYed all over the interwebs, and soon I hope to add mine to the search results!

 

Those of you who follow along on Instagram and Twitter know that I’ve knocked one of these items off of my wish list… one that will be absolutely ideal with a bit of DIY. Pictures tomorrow!