Tuesday, December 16, 2014

One (or two) light fixture(s) at a time

I know that I just finished talking about my mudroom light fixture revamp (if you can call it that). But, there are plenty more ugly light fixtures where that came from! When I first moved in I was bothered every day by this ugly hallway light. While it's possible that it's original, I couldn't stand to look at it. In fact, taking it down was one of my first acts as homeowner. The only problem with this was that I then had a naked light bulb in the hallway for 4 months. Whatever. Still better than what was there.
Perhaps even more offensive than the funky hallway light was this monstrosity in the kitchen. Old is one thing but this was just dated. Someone (I presume in the 1990s) really thought this was a good idea in my mostly original 1940s kitchen. Bah, it makes me wan to listen to Paula Abdul.
As soon as I saw the Vanadin light fixture at Ikea I knew that I wanted it in my house. In fact, I didn't even have a house when I first saw it and I wanted it in my house. Having an old house in desperate need of new fixtures while it was still in production was just dumb luck. 

The hallway replacement was relatively painless. It does appear (from the shotty wiring job) that I removed an original fixture, so I'll leave it in the basement for a new owner on a treasure hunt someday. I'm much happier with the new look. 
Best of all, now there is some continuity in the house (imagine that) as this now matches the mudroom, and I planned to make it match the kitchen. 

Of course, when working in an old house I'm learning that plans aren't always as easy as they seem. When I removed the space ship from the kitchen ceiling I found this huge hole. Now you may not be able to see the scale in this image, but this is 12" square in my ceiling where someone (luckily) updated the wiring. Apparently the worlds largest light fixture was there to cover this giant hole. My favorite part about this photo, though, it how nicely it demonstrated that even the ceilings of the kitchen are brown. What the heck past owners, enough with the brown already. 
Unfortunately, the hole was a little too big, and my light fixture wouldn't quite cover it. So, I stole the old (ugly) white rim from around the old fixture and used it as a base for my new one. While it's not exactly what I had in mind, the outcome wasn't terrible. I'd say it is still an improvement over what I had and brings a little bit of midcentury charm back to the kitchen. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

(Somewhat) updated light fixture

When I was renovating my mudroom, an overall drama free project, I did reach one sticking point. The dropped ceiling in the small room and my already low ceilings mean that the light fixture must be on the wall for the door to clear. Beyond being awkward, the fixture that was there when I started the remodel felt a little out of place, even before I started painting. When I removed it to paint (which apparently no one had ever done before, there was brown paint all over it) I could tell by the wiring that it was the original fixture. So, although I didn't really love it, I felt a little badly about my plan to sent it to the goodwill.
My dad told me he liked it and that it felt kind of "art deco." My mom, on the other hand, told me that it looked like a cheap 1970's knock off. Despite my attempts to capture it in all it's ugly glory, back when the mudroom was brown it was always too dark to get a photo.
I looked at every wall fixture at Home Depot and Menard's and spend hours online pouring over my options. As it turns out, I didn't like any of them. Wall fixtures, I decided, are innately ugly. Rather than waste another $50 on a light fixture I knew I would never like, I decided to try to salvage what I had.

With the fixture still hanging off the wall, I gave the globe a good wash, wrapped the fixture in plastic to protect the wall and gave the whole thing 2 coats with Rust Oleum Metalic Spray Paint in "Oil rubbed bronze" to match my coat hooks. It looked a little bit like a horror movie.
The lamp had the same color gold on it that the fixture had been originally, which I decided I didn't like. I covered the gold with a tiny paintbrush and some charcoal gray paint. But, when I put the lamp back up, I sort of hated the way that it looked. The lamp hadn't seemed so yellow and gross when the walls were brown, but now with soft colors on the walls, it just wasn't going to work. I didn't even take a photo. That's how bummed I was. So, here was my "before" photo.
To the basement I went with a can of heat resistant "appliance epoxy" white spray paint. I have the fixture two coats of paint and put it back together. I was thrilled. It looked just like I wanted it to.
But then I turned on the lights.
What the heck? I didn't think of that. With the light on the fixture was yellow again, and my hand painted charcoal lines were the first thing you saw. I pondered it for a day, not sure what might help. I figured my options at this point were to soak the whole thing in laquer thinner and start over, or try to at least tone down with another coat of paint. The outcome? I gave it one more coat and gave up. Hey, at least it's better and looks nice when the lights are off...

Monday, December 8, 2014

From sweater to stocking

Now that I've got a mantle of my own, I'm feeling a lot of pressure to try to live up the high standard of mantle decor. It was easy in a tiny apartment to avoid much decorating because the space was too small. But, with great mantle comes great responsibility. So, this year I decided that it was time for a real stocking hung on my real mantle.

I love the classic look of the chunky cabled knit stockings in the stores this season and thought they would be a perfect addition to my Christmas decorations and midcentury modern living room.

But, obviously, I'm not going to give Anthropologie or Pottery Barn $40 for something I could DIY. When I started looking at patterns to knit my own, though, I decided that just wasn't worth the time. I'm freezing, here. I need earmuffs and scarves a lot more than I need a stocking. So, I started looking for an alternative.

Luckily, I saw instructions for stockings made from sweaters on Pinterest. They seemed like good low budget stocking solutions to give an expensive appearance without a lot of expense (or time). So, I glanced through the blog entry by Imperfect Homemaking, ran to Goodwill for a $5 outdated sweater, and went for it.
I made a quick freehand stocking template and centered it on the cabled pattern on the sweater. Then I took a deep breath and did something that many years of knitting made difficult: I cut. In the hopes of getting through this very unsettling process as quickly as possible, I cut both layers (front and back) at once.
Since the sweater didn't have ribbed edge at the bottom, I cut an extra 7 inches of ribbing from the side to make a cuff.
I started with my serger, thinking that I could finish the edges all professional like, and be done in 5 minutes. Instead I broke 3 serger needles. After rethreading the dumb machine for the seventh time I gave up and switched to a three-stitch zig-zag on my traditional machine. In the time I spent threading my serger once I was able to sew up the stocking. I did find that the toe seemed to grow in length as I stitched because of my feed-dogs, so I had to trim about 1.5" from the toe-end and restitch. Still faster than threading the serger again...
For the cuff, I just stitched a little extra rib pattern up into a tube and placed it right side out around the stocking (yes, right side of stocking to wrong side of ribbing), ran a quick zig-zag across the top, and folded over the cuff to hide this ugly seam.
Eventually, I may add a tab for hanging the stocking from a proper hook, but this year I just threaded a piece of twine through the corner and hung it from a candle stick. I have no proper hooks anyway... The only question now is should I make one for Barley?