Tag Archives: Vintage

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…

 

Find: Pewter Bee Napkin Rings

I have a fondness for creatures. As my husband has learned through 8 years of walking by my side, we don’t get very far without meeting new friends. Dogs strain at their leashes, cats appear out of nowhere, squirrels and crows sit next to me on park benches. I like to catch snakes, rescue snails from the sidewalk, and share sandwiches with wasps. I’ve never been bitten or stung. It’s like they know.

This Snow White thing translates into decor too. It seems that furry, clawed, or winged things are always following me home…Pewter Honeybee Napkin Rings

Like the swarm of pewter bumblebees that found me at Pacific Galleries this weekend.Pewter Honeybee Napkin Rings + Dirilyte Goldware

Quirky, not too cute, and in a mix of metallics that complements the gold and silver already in my china cabinet. I can see these sweetening up all kinds of tablescapes, but I’m busily testing out place settings with a honeyed theme.

Bee-Themed Table SettingPewter Honeybee Napkin Rings + Gold Pressed GlassA charming addition to our tabletop menagerie- though not quite what I had in mind when I told Adam I wanted to keep bees.

 

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: Wingback Chairs

There’s nothing more satisfying that a good Craigslist transaction. The kind where you get a snappy response, make a same-day appointment, fork over a few twenties, and neatly fit your finds in the back of your Honda Pilot (tetris brain!). When you snag exactly the thing you wanted, for less than a quarter of what you thought you’d have to pay, you deserve to kick back in one of them and gloat about your thrifting prowess. Like so:

Wingback Chairs at WarLock Manor

That’s right, I finally found the straight-legged wingbacks I was dreaming of! For only $50.00 each! Just look at how they complement our fireplace! I’ve been showing off the chairs on Instagram, but an astute friend called me on the fact that I’ve only posted black and white photos. It’s true. Why? Because… orange.

The New (Orange) Wingbacks

An avid flea-marketer, I deal with rust all the time. But this color makes me cringe more than the prospect of a tetanus shot. Burnt orange, rust, russet… whatever you call it, no. But I have plans for you, my pretties: inky black, brassy nailhead trim, faux-ostrich backs. Thanks to the major cash I saved, I can make this happen. Someday. For now, the ugly fabric is in good condition; my upholstery skills are not!

 

PS: I’m posting all the behind-the-scenes details (and amusing outtakes) from our posts at the WarLock Manor Facebook Page. If you’ve hit like, you can take a look at the Craigslist ad that put these chairs in my Living Room