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Get it done / A tale of two lamps

Repair and revive

Photo by Nancy J. Parisi


Two lamps were in need of repair in my home. One lamp had been without a pull chain for a decade, a decade of non-use because two tiny silver balls of a pull chain broke loose from one another. This lamp lit one corner of my bedroom and was a fifty-dollar purchase from TJ Maxx, a jaunty lamp with silver body and a cloth lampshade with vertical, rainbow thread decoration.


The other lamp was also a fifty-dollar purchase from an indoor rummage sale benefiting Hamlin House. Festooned with hand-painted naked male and female figures (cherubs perhaps?), this baroque lamp sits on a metal base that is equally ornate. Inside the body of the lamp, a workman painted “Italy” in small, tilted letters. At checkout, the lady manning the cash register informed me that “This is a very expensive lamp.” It, too, sat idly in my house, awaiting rewiring, a shade, and a good cleaning. 


At Ed Young’s True Value Hardware on Main Street in Williamsville, the lamp guy gave the cost estimate for both projects: roughly forty dollars. The pull chain would be replaced (I had the original with the lamp) on the newer lamp, and the baroque lamp would be rewired, and receive a new three-way socket (keeping the original, copper casing). He handed me the ticket and told me when the lamps would be ready: turnaround is quick.


With the lamps on the mend, it was time to head to the great Shades Unlimited on Genesee Street in Buffalo. As any lampshade purveyor worth their fabric will tell you, you cannot shop for a lampshade sans lamp. You can look, but don’t trust your memory to recall the exact shape and height of the lamp. I spotted a great green lampshade in the store’s Clearance Closet: darker green fabric printed with golden fleur-de-lis. It felt like a winner, but I’d need to have the baroque lamp in hand. Alternate shades were noted: a vertically-striped one, and another that was a simple cream-colored silk.


When the lamps were ready—total bill was the forty dollars quoted—I went back, and, as it happily turned out, the green lampshade with the fleurs-de-lis was the winner, priced at twenty-six dollars. The lady at the store directed me to put the lamp on the store’s work table, where she put in a bulb and turned the lamp on to see how the shade looked: fabulous. (For the sake of certainty, I did try a few others that were too short, too wide, and just not the right color to bring out the hand-painted ceramic lamp or its copper-colored base.)


Knowing that a finial is the capstone to a great lamp project, I selected a golden fleur-de-lis finial that brings out the golden flourishes on the hand-painted lamp and in the shade. The bill for the finial, shade, and new harp (the one from the hardware store had a screw that was too short to accommodate the finial) came to fifty-five dollars.


The first lamp is now lighting a dark corner of the bedroom; it’s a wonder that it took a decade to fix this. And the baroque lamp, in its new shade, topped with its fancy finial, looks incredible in its new, special spot in the dining room, where it has been on a lot. How many more months/years would these lamps have been in limbo?



Useful Info: Getting a lamp wired and shaded

When getting a lamp rewired, call ahead to a hardware or lighting store to confirm that they do lamp rewiring. Look at your lamp and, if the socket (where light bulb screws in) seems in good condition, request that yours be reused instead of replaced.


Be specific with the repair person about whether you’d like gold or silver for the lamp’s harp and/or pull chain.


For lamp shades, big box stores like Target carry stock that changes seasonally but selection is limited. Shades Unlimited and other stores that specialize in shades have greater options; always bring the lamp with you to try on shades. Try the shade on a lit lamp to see the true color.


Splurge on a finial; it’s a small expense and personalizes your lamp.—N.J.P.


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