Glassy brassy light be gone!

I’ve made references before to the ugly lights in our house:

I’m guessing these were somewhat expensive and probably “nice” in their day, but they just aren’t our thing.

Shortly after we moved into the dining-turned-talking room, we started fooling around with the fixture you see in the first photo.  One day I just couldn’t take that glassy shininess any more and I took off the glass panels:

We tried to convince ourselves that perhaps, somehow–maybe with different bulbs?–this could look arty/funky/creative on its own.  We’re definitely not the most conventional in our tastes, but even we couldn’t go there with this thing. Time to move on.

First stop:  Ribbon Chandeliers

We started thinking about how we might work with our fixture, in the spirit of not buying into our consumerist culture, saving the planet, living minimally, etc. (And, we just don’t like spending money if we don’t have to, and light fixtures can be spendy.) We wondered if it might be possible to hang ribbon or fabric or something from those spokes and do something a little whimsical, sort of like these (only not so girly):

(Image credits at the end of the post.)

We thought our idea was super-original, until we saw how many other people had already done some variation on it. I think that dimmed our enthusiasm a bit, but it might just have been that we couldn’t get a clear vision of  how to make it work for our fixture.

So the light sat there for weeks, looking pretty naked and stupid, because we got caught up in the fall whirlwind of school, football, and volleyball.  However, the more I thought about it, the more I thought I wanted something more substantial than ribbon or fabric.

 Stop Two:  Spray paint and drum shades

I started to think about doing something with spray paint. I’ve seen many a DIY post about spray-painting old fixtures, with results that look like those you see here:

(We swiped this lovely collage of images from Apartment Therapy.)

We realized, however, that simply spray-painting that spokey old brass thing would only make it a colorful spokey old thing. We then had the great idea of somehow attaching a big old lampshade to it. We were fooling around with some lamps and shades (subject of another post to come soon), and we liked how the fixture looked with a big shade around it.

This would be a great project to do and blog about, we thought.  And then, before we could even consider it seriously, we were scooped by the Petersiks over at Young House Love:

That took some of the wind out of our sails.  It’s not like we weren’t going to do it just because we couldn’t be the first (and we’d therefore look like blogging copycats)–but it just wasn’t as compelling to us.

Stop Three:  The ReBuilding Center

That was pretty much the state of things when we found ourselves wandering around The ReBuilding Center in north Portland’s Mississippi neighborhood a few weeks back.  This place is much like a Habitat for Humanity Re-Store, but way more fun–because there’s way more stuff.  Rows and rows and rows of doors, windows, sinks, toilets, cabinets, doorknobs, hinges, you name it if it’s ever been in a house.

Look, a little section with nothing but drawers. Saw some great posts in DIY blogs a few weeks back about projects to do with discarded drawers.

Or perhaps it's not drawers you want, but doors. They've got those, too. Lot's of 'em. And windows, too.

I got a great pedestal sink there for about $35 that went into the kids’ bathroom in my last house:

We loved this big wide sink. It was perfect for doggie baths.

We weren’t in the ReBuilding Center because we were looking for anything in particular.  Wandering around in there is just our idea of a good time.  But then we got to the lighting section…

At first the cacophony of lights was more than a little overwhelming.  But when I got my eyes to calm down, I spied this hanging from the ceiling in a back corner:

I was immediately drawn to its 70s vibe.  I liked the chunky wood, the burnished metal, and–especially–the creamy glass with the Jetsonsish shape.  (Too young for the Jetson’s?  Check them out here.)

From the beginning, we’ve liked the idea of restoring some of the original 70s style to the house.  We don’t want to live in a time capsule house (won’t be going out and buying any avacado-green appliances any time soon–though we both really love the ones that Rachel and her husband have in their 70s house), but we’ve wished that some of the “upgrades” made in the 90s (such as the lights we now have) hadn’t been done.  They just don’t seem to fit the character of the house.

Still, I wasn’t sure that this light was the way to go.  I’m not super-confident when it comes to my design eye.

“Am I crazy?” I asked Cane.

“Um, no…I don’t think so.”

That wasn’t exactly the ringing endorsement I’d hoped for.  We wondered if it was too 70s, and in a bad way.  We talked about some other lights we’d considered, and how this one might eliminate some of them with respect to the other two light fixtures we need to replace.  Because those are in the entryway and kitchen, spaces that flow into the Talking Room, we want all three lights to “go” together.

“Let’s just see how much it is,” I suggested.

We found a helpful ReStore employee.  “How about ten bucks?” she said.

How about SOLD?

The best choice, for a coupla reasons

At ten bucks, we figured, we really couldn’t lose.  We knew we liked it better than the brassy spokes we had going on.  If nothing else, it could be a place holder until we find/make something we really love.  If we decide to go in a different direction later, we can just donate it right back.

However, the more we thought about it, the more we realized that this was actually the best choice we could make, for lots of reasons.

Reason #1:  Money  

To keep our existing light fixture, we’d need to invest far more than $10 in paint and a new shade.  (Have you priced drum shades lately?  They are not cheap!)

Reason #2:  Time

Then, we’d need to invest even more in time.  Our ultimate goal in everything we’re blogging about is living a better life, and part of that is spending our resource of time more wisely.  Why spend a weekend of our time to re-make our brassy light fixture, when we could recyle one we already like?

Reason #3:  The green thing

We like how this got us thinking about what it really means to go green.  Even if we kept our fixture, we’d still be discarding the glass.  And we’d be buying paint and a new shade.  Buying the ReBuilding Center light meant buying something already manufactured, as well as donating a whole fixture that someone else might want.  This seems like the truly greener choice to us.

Reason #4:  Keeping it real

To us, there’s no sense in doing DIY for the sake of doing DIY or for having something to blog about. This solution gave us time to do another light project that we really wanted to do more, (yes, that’s a teaser…) and hey, looks like we still got a post out of it!


So that’s what we’ve done.  It took us all of about 30 minutes to clean the new(old) light and get it installed. And we really like it:


An additional benefit?  Just swapping out that light got us moving on some other things in this room, ending what was starting to feel like incurable inertia.

This post is already long enough, so we’ll save that sharing for another time.  (Yes, that’s a teaser, too.  You’ll just have to check back later if you want to see what else we’ve been up to.  I know–you’re on the edge of your seat, right?)

We've switched up a few things in this room since we snapped this shot--which isn't the greatest, but gives you a feel for how the light looks with the rest of the room.

How about you?

What’s the best deal you’ve ever scored?  What’s the best simple solution to a household dilemma you’ve stumbled across? And do you think we’re crazy to love this light the way we do?


Image credits:

Ribbon chandelier 1:   Canvas & Canopy Events by Cortney

Ribbon chandelier 2:  Living with Lindsay

Ribbon chandelier 3:  Hart’s Desire

Ribbon chandelier 4:  The Bride’s Cafe

Spray-painted chandeliers:  Apartment Therapy

Drum shade chandelier:  Young House Love