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May 17, 2016

When Broken Things are Worth It

I’m not crafty, and DIY is last on my list of “ways to handle a problem.” I mean, I’m pretty good with a plunger, and I know how to replace a breaker. Why? Because I’d much rather pay $6 and fix something myself than pay $85 to have someone else do it. I’m cheap that way. But if it has to look good, I have to pay someone, because my brain doesn’t work that way.

Did you know that you can pay a professional to come hang pictures for you? Because there are people who do this. It looks great, costs less than you would think, and the pictures never get crooked. AMAZING. And worth every penny. Know an artist who’s used to hanging shows? Some of them make extra money as picture hangers, so call your favorite local artist and see if she does it or can recommend someone. But I digress.

I’ll fix things that break, or get someone to fix them, but I rarely take on things that are already broken. I’m the woman who goes to the counter at Goodwill and asks to plug in the mini Cuisinart to see if it works before paying $4 for it. If the machine isn’t in working condition, I’m not buying it. I like things that function, forever and ever. This is why I drive Toyotas, though not many of them because they last forever and ever.

But what do you do when you find a perfect, awesome, beautiful thing…that doesn’t work? Last summer, I found two floor lamp bases I absolutely loved.

lamp2

I could see them in my kitchen, my living room, my bedroom, or anywhere else in my house. But one of them didn’t work at all and they were both wired for large based bulbs that had to be special ordered. I don’t like things that have to be special ordered. And the shades were trashed, and the finials were long gone. And the lamps were so dirty.

Cleaning, I can handle. That was the easy part. A sponge, a little vinegar, and some wood cleaner were all that I needed. After that, I was at a loss, so I went and got my middle son, the one who’s good at stuff like lamps. We went straight to YouTube to learn how to remove and replace the wiring and bulb sockets (or whatever you call them). This guy made it look easy.

For the most part, it was easy. We were a little bit confused about how much of the whole thing we needed to replace. (All of it. Do you want 80-year-old wires in your lamp? No, no you do not.) In the end, I took it to Cedar Terrace Hardware, way in the back of Cedar Terrace Shopping Center, just down the street from my Goodwill  The nice guy there who always tells me how to do things took a look at our lamp and showed me what we needed. He sold us the kit and the wire and we were ready to go.

But we weren’t, because we ended up needing something called a reducer. The hardware store didn’t sell them, so I went to Carl Thomas Lamps, where they also didn’t sell them. They offered to rewire the lamps for me, which was so totally not the point. I offered to pay them whatever for the reducers and promised to come back for finials and lampshades if our project worked. Y’all, they gave up and gave them to me. I skipped home — okay, drove — and my son and I fixed the first lamp. And it worked. Let there be light, indeed.

One lamp down, I left for Carl Thomas, because I wanted to buy finials and shades before they closed. Cheap? No. But they’re great quality and you’ll still spend less than if you bought a similar quality lamp at a nice shop. And I love these dang finials. When I came home, my son had done the second lamp by himself, in about ten minutes. Darn kids.

lamp1

By the end of the day, we had two gorgeous floor lamps and a new skill. Sometimes, the broken things are worth the effort.

lamp3

8 Comments

  1. You do not want 40 year old electrical in your lamp, either. We’ve rewired the inherited lamps and the thrifted lamps- attic or basement storage with creatures eating wires, and -40F to 116F temps and moisture are not kind to lamps.

    We have also learned to use the 3-way sockets instead of just the plain on/off sockets for more versatility in the rooms(mood, accent, task) and the aging eyes (eyes need more light as they age).

    We’ve refinished the lamps too. No biggie, just do not paint the cords or socket/switch.

    Biggest expense is the the shade.

    • Great points! And you’re right about the shade. I think a nice shade can make the lamp look much more expensive than it was.

    • Newbies might want to be careful with the 3-way, though – depends on how much room there is between the bulb and shade in order to prevent scorching or fire with high wattage.

  2. But where is that amazing piano from??

    • Thanks for asking — we love it! A few years ago, we were in the market for a used piano and the Philharmonic was raising money by having local artists paint pianos, which they auctioned off. Sadly, the auction wasn’t marketed very well, and I don’t think they sold many. On the upside, we got a crazy good deal on a piano I love.

    • Aha! Just found a post I wrote about the piano.

      http://www.theshoptart.com/2010/11/fancy-stuff-yall/

  3. sweet!

  4. Beautiful! I rewired some thrifted floor lamps and I love that you have too! 🙂 (Yours are nicer though– durn it!) I love Carl Thomas’s selection, but will admit that I have bought more than a few really good looking shades at Ollie’s. If they have what you want, it is usually ten dollars or less.