Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Affordable Lighting...
...With Just A Few Brushstrokes

As you may have gathered from my paintings (click here to check them out), I am a fan of the Arts & Crafts Period. Some of my favorite pieces from this era are lamps. I love the soft glow from a lamp with a mica shade and the play of color from a stained glass shade. Buying period lamps or even high quality reproductions is a bit out of my price range, though. Fortunately, thrift shops are a great source for finding great lamps that just need a little update to their finishes.

This first lamp had that antique brass finish found on so many replica pieces. It was also missing it's glass shades.

Waterlily Lamp
(c) 2012 Eric E. Paige, All Rights Reserved

The first step is to check the lamp over to make sure the cord and socket are in good shape, and that the lamp works. Don't despair if you find a great lamp with a bad cord or socket, these parts can be replaced. If you aren't mechanical, there are lamp and hardware stores that will do the re-wiring.

I decided for this lamp I wanted more of a copper tone rather than brass, and I wanted to add just a hint of color on the lily pad and blossom. I cleaned the surface with rubbing alcohol to remove any dirt and grease that might prevent the paint from adhering. In this case I painted directly on the metal, but if the lamp is going to be handled quite a bit or is subjected to humidity or temperature changes, you might want to prime the surface with a metal primer. Try to pick a primer similar in color to your base coat. For example, I would use a red primer for a copper painted piece.

Metallic paints often take several coats (though a primer will help reduce that number). Once I had the whole thing a nice copper color, I went back and lightly brushed on some metallic colors to bring out the lily pad and blossom. Though the glass shades were missing, I found two mica shades for 50 cents each at a thrift shop. Though they don't look like lilies, they are similar to other lamp shades from the Arts and Crafts Period.

Base after applying copper paint and metallic colors
(c) 2012 Eric E. Paige, All Rights Reserved
Detail of mica shade
(c) 2012 Eric E. Paige, All Rights Reserved
The finished piece
(c) 2012 Eric E. Paige, All Rights Reserved

Sometimes it is not just the base that has a not so great finish. This next lamp had a nice shape, but the glass shade was definitely stuck in the 1980s!

Stained Glass Lamp, circa 1980s
(c) 2012 Eric E. Paige, All Rights Reserved

I used a combination of glass paint, acrylic mediums, and metallic paints, to glaze over the original colors to get the colors that I wanted. I also painted over the black 'leading' with pewter colored paint to make it look more like real lead. As with the other lamp, I base coated the body in copper and used colorful metallic paints to highlight the design.

The finished piece.
I painted over the 80s color scheme with glass and metallic paints
(c) 2012 Eric E. Paige, All Rights Reserved
Lamp base painted in copper and detailed with metallic paints.
I also applied a coat of  asphaltum to bring out the details
(c) 2012 Eric E. Paige, All Rights Reserved

I was pretty aggressive with my color on the stained glass, because I knew I wouldn't have this lamp on very often, so the translucency wasn't the main concern. Still, it's not too bad when lit. I have since done some other shades using solely glass paint, and they definitely do better when lit. I don't leave the bulbs on in these lamps very long and use a lower wattage bulb so as not to melt the paint.

The shade lit
(c) 2012 Eric E. Paige, All Rights Reserved

The next lamp was made from two separate purchases. I found the shade at a thrift store for a few dollars, but it is missing the piece that allows it to attach to a base (it also was missing the base!). I found the base at a yard sale. It had a paper shade that was squarish like my glass shade. I removed the paper part of the shade exposing just the wire framework and then 'squished' the framework flatter to accommodate the shorter glass shade and simply set the shade on the wire frame. Though this works, it isn't the most sturdy solution and you wouldn't want to do it in an area where the lamp might get bumped or handled a lot (I have the outlet on a remote, so the only time I need to touch the lamp is when I dust it or change the bulb).

Prairie style lamp
Prairie Style lamp shade as missing the top piece
(c) 2012 Eric E. Paige, All Rights Reserved
I found the wooden base at a garage sale.
I reshaped the metal frame from a lampshade to hold the glass shade
(c) 2012 Eric E. Paige, All Rights Reserved

Paint can also be useful for matching replacement parts. This ceiling fixture, which I picked up for under $15, was missing the chain and the hardware to mount it to the ceiling, including the cover for the wiring. While I was able to find chain in a color that look alright, all of the covers were in bright brass, antique brass, and chrome. I simply painted the cover a copper tone similar to the color of the fixture.

Prairie Style ceiling light
(c) 2012 Eric E. Paige, All Rights Reserved
A bit of copper paint makes the replacement cap match the light
(c) 2012 Eric E. Paige, All Rights Reserved

Not all lamps are so labor intensive. This next one had a nice finish, but was missing its glass shade. My living room and dining room are in different styles and open to each other, so I like to have some elements in each room provide a nod to the other room's style. I simply put an inexpensive contemporary shade from IKEA on this Craftsman-style base. No paint, no labor, and under $25 for the lamp and shade!

This Goodwill find has great Craftsman Style details
(c) 2012 Eric E. Paige, All Rights Reserved
The stained glass shade was missing.
This simple, white shade fit great,
and fits in with the more modern decor of this room
(c) 2012 Eric E. Paige, All Rights Reserved 

Lighting is key to a great looking room, and with a little paint, some imagination, and perhaps a new lampshade, you can have great looking lamps at affordable prices.

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