Let there be light! It’s a must for every room in the home. Natural sunlight from windows is the beginning of any good interior lighting plan. But, additional lighting fixtures and lamps are needed for focused task lighting and for soft ambient lighting that sets the mood in a space. When selecting lamps for your home it’s best to consider functionality first. However the decorative impact of lamps is equally important when designing a room. With such a wide selection of accessory lighting available from manufacturers today it’s a relatively simple matter to find something that is currently in vogue. But, why just follow the trends? A design-it-yourself lamp will add your personal style signature to your home’s decor.
Designer James Farmer claims that no really good lamp starts out its life that way. Just think about some of most unusual eye-catching lamps you’ve seen in designer showhouses and shelter magazines… you’ll see that James is right. There are so many lamps that have been created by illuminating wonderful tabletop accessories… vintage containers, statuary, natural artifacts, and more. The result is lighting that complements the decor of a room and expresses the personality of the homeowner perfectly.
The idea of transforming objects into lamps isn’t new, of course. People have been turning vases, pottery, and objets d’art into decorative table lamps for over a century. Asian pottery, brass candlesticks, and enameled cloisonne’ vases have always been and will continue to be favorite choices for making lamps.
BASIC LAMP ANATOMY
A basic lamp consists of the body, the shade, and the inner workings. Decorative bases and finials are often added to help hold everything together and keep a lamp stable.
Wiring components are available at any big box home building supply store. And, online lamp supply outlets have it all… wiring, shades, bases, finials, etc. It’s not very difficult to wire a lamp. Anyone who can read directions or watch a video and use tools can handle the job. But, just to be on the safe side, it’s a good idea to have a qualified electrical pro double check the work prior to plugging up a lamp for daily use at home.
FIRST THINGS FIRST: THE BODY
Almost anything can be transformed into the body of a table lamp. Antiques and vintage items are the obvious choice when searching for something that would make an unforgettable one-of-a-kind lamp. Take a look in your attic for forgotten heirlooms before heading out to shop. Take your time to browse at your favorite vintage shops and antique stores. Look for good ideas as well while you’re shopping for an interesting lamp body. Many vendors sell lamps made out of the unexpected. Their creative ideas might inspire you to so you do something similar.
Draw on your personal interests, hobbies, or a favorite theme for inspiration. You’ll know you’ve found the right thing when it catches your eye and ignites your creative energies.
Let size and proportion be your guide if you have a specific place in mind. Are you considering adding a lamp to a spot that needs something large or small? Also think about how you want to use the lamp and the type of light it should provide. Do you need good strong light next to your favorite reading chair, by the bed, or on a desk or other work surface? Or, do you just want a little nighttime glow in a dark corner or hall.
Hollow, unbreakable objects made of woven materials, wood, or thin metal make for an easy DIY project. But it’s wise to consult with or hire a lamp professional to put your design together if the project involves working with an irreplaceable antique or an item that’s extremely fragile.
To use a fine antique or rare artifact as the body of a lamp while maintaining its original condition (and value) you can opt for the easiest way of all to make a lamp… use a figurine base. It’s a lighted display stand that requires no handiwork or tools at all. SImply place your item on the stand, choose a proper shade, and you’re done.
SIZING UP SHADES
Choosing a shade can be tricky. The proportions must be just right. Take a look at the diagram below to help you figure out a starting point for the dimensions. It’s a good idea to try on a few shades in various shapes and sizes. Remember to consider where the lamp will be sitting in your home. Will it be on an end table, a sideboard, a mantel, etc? Eyeball several different shades on the lamp at a similar height to make sure your final choice works for the spot where you will use your lamp. The socket should be completely covered. If the proportions seem a bit off the problem can usually be solved by changing the size of some of the lamp’s components… the harp, extenders, a finial, and such.
MAKING A FASHION STATEMENT
A lamp is “dressed for success” when it’s wearing a perfectly fitted shade in the latest fashion. So, what do you want your lamp to wear?
You can opt for the simlplicity of a stylish basic shade or perhaps add some personality with color, fabric, trim, etc. The addition of unique design details that enhance the overall look of a lamp as well as the design of the room can be wonderful. And later, as time and trends move on, you’ll know when your lamps needs a new shade for a style refresh. You can have fun choosing and personalizing a fashionable new shade for your lamp all over again.
When “just a shade” won’t do there are repurposing options galore.
TOP IT OFF
A lamp is often topped off with finial to hold the shade in place. If your lamp needs one, why miss the chance to add one more little decorative touch to complete the look. If it seems like “too much” you can just skip it and go with an unobtrusive no nonsense finial.
LET IT SHINE… THE BULB
Not all lamps wear shades. Sometimes the bulb itself is the star of the show. Edison bulbs and other meant-to-be-seen bulbs are perfect for making unusual items and artsy compositions into accent lamps that run the gamut from cute to quirky.
With all these thoughts in mind it’s time to start coming up with your own bright ideas and to collect everything you need to make a design-it yourself lamp. Your new creation is sure to be a favorite feature in your decorative scheme at home for years to come.
Check out all the vendors’ spaces at Montgomery Antiques & Interiors during your search for just the right vintage or antique piece to start your project. And, all of us at MAI would love to see a picture of your unique creation when it’s finished. Please post a photo of your design-it-yourself lamp on Facebook or Instagram with the tag #montgomeryantiquesdiylamp.
Montgomery Antiques & Interiors