Before and After: Lighting the Boudoir

After last weekend’s extreme snagging adventure, I was tired, bruised and sore and I promised myself I wouldn’t be traveling for finds for awhile. I managed to keep that promise for about a day. Early in the week I found a critical item for a much needed lighting upgrade in my bedroom. That’s enough justification for another 120 mile road trip, right?

Years ago, before I even owned a house to put it in, I found this 1960s pull-down light fixture at an auction. And by found I mean I saw the edge of it poking out of a mountain of junk someone had just bought. I casually made my way over and asked if they had intentionally bought it or if they would be willing to sell it. The lady looked at me bewildered and said, “You want that? Just take it.” Away with me it came. A few years later I bought a house. Not the mid century home I’d always dreamed of—and still dream of—but a new house that made sense at the time. Although nice, it was new and filled with terrible frosted contractor dome lights. Bleh. I was glad to have this on hand.

Before

Before

I always loved that it had a retractor that allowed the height to adjust—it worked great with the angle of the vaulted ceiling. But I was never quite happy with how it lit the room. Designed to light straight down on a table surface, it left the room in some pretty harsh shadows. I’ve been looking for awhile and had a couple near misses at sales the previous weekend, but when I saw the perfect light posted online early in the week I knew I had a long drive in store for the weekend.

Light_AloneDid your jaw drop? Mine did. Not only does it combine brass and walnut in mid-century amazingness, but it also has a retractor for my wonky ceiling! The fixture was listed on an auction site but rather than bid, I used the Buy-It-Now feature and purchased it for a very reasonable price. When the weekend came I was on my way to remove it from the house myself.

After

After

It works so perfectly for my bedroom. The colors are perfect and the variety of lighting options are great for the room. My favorite feature, in fact, is a switch on the lamp itself that allows you to light it three different ways.

Top lights only

Top lights only

Bottom lights only

Bottom lights only

All lights on

All lights on

The retractor is also a nice feature. This fixture was designed for a dining room and the retractor made it possible to pull closer to the table for task lighting. In a bedroom this isn’t so necessary, but it does make cleaning it and changing bulbs a snap.

Burnt bulb? No problem, just pull it down

Burnt bulb? No problem, just pull it down

If you’re thinking about swapping out your modern lights for a vintage fixture, there are a few tips I can share. First, insist on removing the fixture yourself if it hasn’t already been taken down. This gives you a chance to make sure it’s handled with care, plus you get to see first hand how it assembles. Also be sure to take the original mounting plate. This is the metal bar on the electrical box the fixture attaches to. It can sometimes be hard to match a new plate with an old fixture. Before you hang it up in your house, inspect the wiring for signs of heat damage or brittle shielding and rewire if necessary.

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2 Comments

  1. chloe
    Posted August 1, 2013 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    Any advice for rewiring a lamp like this? I recently found a sweet mid-century globe pendant light with a burnt out socket and having never rewired a lamp like this am struggling to find a good how-to online!

    • Austin
      Posted August 1, 2013 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

      Hi Chloe. Rewiring lamps and light fixtures is usually pretty easy—a lot of people just shy away from it because electricity is scary. But most light fixtures, especially those from the 1950s and newer, use standard parts that can be found at most hardware stores. My advice is to carefully disassemble the fixture, noting how it went together on a sheet of paper. Maybe even snap pics with your phone to help when you put it back together. Once it’s apart, look for signs of the problem. If the wires don’t look damaged and are soft and flexible (not stiff and brittle) there’s no need to replace them. If the wires are fine, you probably just need a new socket. Take the existing socket to your local hardware or electrical supply store to find a replacement, ask for assistance if you’re unsure. Usually even big box stores like Lowe’s will have what you need.

      We’ll try and get a post on rewiring up in the future. In the meantime, feel free to comment or email with any questions you may have. We’d love to see your light!

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