Tuesday, July 31, 2012

lighting gone wrong: the pitfalls of home improvement projects

It is an absolute fact: no matter how easy the home project and no matter the skill of the projector (projectee?), projects can quickly spiral out of control. One fix can break something else, a purchase to right a wrong will lead quickly to the next purchase. I have been waiting months to write this post, thinking, that at some point we would be done. Since we will never be done, let's get going.

In April, I went to New York City with my cousin.

Meat Packing District NYC
Me in the Meat Packing District

We stopped by my favorite mid-century modern glass shop, The End of History, down in the West Village and I spotted the same Danish Holmegaard mid-century glass fixture that I had drooled over the previous September trip to New York.

Stunning Homegaard Glass Lamp
Stunning Homegaard Glass Fixture

My favorite color is green and my favorite thing in the world is green glass. And, I am pretty much a sucker for lighting. I sent the above picture to Albert and asked permission to purchase said lamp to replace current 10-year-old Pottery Barn fixture.

Pottery Barn glass fixture
Pottery Barn glass fixture, plus Annie's butt. Yes, we know, it is big.

Albert said he thought it was beautiful and would be perfect. Or he said, "Sure, why not." I can't honestly remember. So I bought it and had it shipped.

On a Saturday in May, Albert spent the better part of an afternoon with trips to Home Depot and Ace Hardware trying to install the new (old) light. This is a for-reals picture of all the parts we bought trying to figure out this fixture.

lamp parts
Albert with lamp parts.

Finally, after much wrangling, discussion and trying things out, we accomplished this:

Holmegaard Lamp Installed
Holmegaard Lamp Installed
It looked good, especially with the current the mid-century modern design direction (please ignore the Frank Lloyd Wright windows behind the lamp, you see nothing). But the swag to the center with the white cord looked dumb (previously with the Pottery Barn it was a real swag chain). And worse then the swag, no way did this one dinky fixture replace the light given out by a six-arm chandelier from Pottery Barn. Our dining room became totally unusable.

Tip#1: When purchasing a fixture, figure out the wattage you need to light the room before you purchase the lights.

Shopping to the rescue (again). I decided that a couple of skinny table lamps sitting on the buffet at the end of the table would cast enough light to solve the problem. This little beauty from Jonathan Adler looked perfect. I measured carefully and click, click. Two were instantly mine.

Jonathan Adler Capri Bottle Lamp
Jonathan Adler Capri Bottle Lamp

I got them a few weeks later in June. This is what they looked like in the designated location:

Jonathan Adler Capri bottle lamp
Damn. I had measured the base to fit on the buffet but hadn't realized that the shades were GIGANTIC. And really white. And BIG.

Tip #2: When selecting a lamp, take into account the width of the shade as well as the width of the base in your overall space plan.

What to do? Actually, I have to give Albert credit. He suggested that I swap the master bedroom lights with the new dining room lamps. The crystal column table lamps in the master bedroom were purchased from Overstock.com and are a tiny bit Hollywood Regency which isn't exactly mid-century modern. But Jonathan Adler himself, quoted in DesignPublic, stated that, "Hollywood Regency added a layer of pattern and decoration and opulence and glamour to the minimalism of mid-century modernism."

Hollywood Regency from Overstock.com?

Jonathan Adler Capri lamps in master bedroom
Perfect size, color and proportion for the Master. Yay!

Now the dining room looked like this.

New light fixture and lamps
New light fixture and old lamps

new light fixture and lamps
Another shot, don't love the swag, not enough light.

I really wasn't satisfied. The overhead lighting was still not great. The table lamps were okay.

Tip #3: See Tip #1.

My expert home decorating friend examined my handiwork and commented, "Just punch in a few canned lights and it will be fine." Brilliant! This is one of the few areas of dropped ceiling in the house and a perfect area for canned lighting.

Coincidence (or not?) a few days later I saw a coupon in one of those home coupon magazines for a company called "InstallMyLights" which specializes in recessed lighting. Suffice it to say, these guys came out in July, provided an estimate, came back a few days later and did a clean, quick and professional recessed lighting job. They even moved my new (old) fixture to the right spot. And their prices were SUPER reasonable. Seriously, I was extremely impressed and very satisfied (this post NOT sponsored by InstallMyLights). I do have one tiny little complaint. They patch but they do not paint.

Beautiful new recessed lights, with 50's mid-century dining room fixture,
with Hollywood Regency table lamps.

Another view. do you see the paint patch? New project.

Tip #4: When all else fails, call the professionals.

At some point, we will paint the ceiling. Maybe in August. Plus, I think the dining room would actually look better with true vintage mid-century modern lamps, something like my mom had in the sixties. I am sure I can find something inexpensive but style appropriate on ebay. Or maybe back at The End of History this September.


  1. frankinclt@hotmail.comDecember 11, 2012 at 12:06 PM

    Very funny!!! Glad you keep up the good spirit. Next time when in NYC, try some of those antique stores on 24th Street between 5th and 6th Ave. There is also a larger antiques "center" where I spotted a stunning Lightolier Sciolari "wedding cake" light fixture. Good luck with the paint project...

    1. Thanks for the encouragement and the shopping tips!!! The painting is pretty much finished... But not quite.

  2. frankinclt@hotmail.comDecember 11, 2012 at 12:19 PM

    btw, it looks as if your green light fixture has 2 bulbs in it which can be turned on and off separately. Is that so? And if that is the case, what type of light switch did you use for that? Just asking because I am trying to install an Art Deco light fixture in one of our guest bedrooms which has a center bowl and smaller satellite bowls around it which can be light up all together or the satellites individually from the center and vice versa.

    1. There is only one bulb thank heavens. That one bulb gave us a lot of trouble.

    2. I was just looking at this light picture again. There was another problem. The InstallMyLights guys broke a little plastic piece that held the bulb down in the bowl of the light. I had to call the original shop I purchased the light from, find out where the piece could be located, order, disassemble the whole thing again (husband to the rescue), and re-install. It is good now. What a pain.

  3. Thanks for the tips...probably saved me some money and time! I, too, have a mid-century modern home. Not an easy task to upgrade fixtures and stay somewhat true to the style.

  4. Any carpenter or handyman can do this job. Look in your local newspaper classifieds for them, or get referrals from friends, relatives, or neighbors. This is a one day job, or less.
    General Contractors Wycoff

  5. First world problems.

  6. You may not think of a modern light switches covers as an ideal starting point for the redesign of your space. However, professional designers have been known to choose a color palette from any interesting piece of art, even what you could use to cover your lights.


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