That Dang Light

Hi Y’all! Long time. Guess what? I finally finished the bedroom light!

I had some setbacks, but it’s done, and I’m really happy with it. Remember back in March when I started all this? I spotted a type of light fixture on ebay I hadn’t seen before, but I wasn’t willing to spend what it sold for. So I hatched a plan and bought this chandelier to modify instead. As you can see it had hanging sockets, but not for long.

It arrived from the ebay seller as described: broken, discolored and as-is.

I began by taking everything apart that would come apart, and cutting away the old cloth-wrapped wiring. I got rid of the hanging sockets not intending to replace them.

Then I gave it a bath! It was… gross. I knew it had been repainted at least once so it couldn’t be a whole century’s worth of dirt, but it seemed like it.

I readied my supplies: plain old acrylic paint (metallics). I don’t know that this paint will last a hundred years, but I think it’ll survive on something that doesn’t get handled often.

I mixed a color I liked, a nice rosy gold and painted all visible parts with a brush. I didn’t want it to look like a flat spraypaint job, so when the gold was dry I went over it with a watered-down wash of black paint, wiping it away with a rag anywhere it was too obvious. This toned down the gold and gave it some patina and dimension.

This is how it looked:

It was okay, but in the months since I started this project, I had bought some gold leaf enamel that had worked well on the house numbers, so I decided to accent with it. It helped make it look more like metal and less like paint.

I also bought scraps of mica from another ebay seller who makes lampshades and proceeded to cut out the shade inserts. I bought silver mica, not the usual amber color. Turns out working with mica is pretty easy, at least for simple curves. It cuts with scissors and all you need to shape it is a heat gun, some tongs and patience.

To secure the mica panels in place I used a rubber compound called Sugru that Randall had given me. It sticks to what it’s molded to and cures in 24 hours. That’s what the black lumps are. It’s not the best looking adhesive but it was perfect for this.

Here’s how it looked all painted with the mica in place. It certainly is gold. Now I just needed to wire in some sockets.

MEANWHILE, we moved our giant bed and went up the ladder to see how the current light was rigged up. Bad news – it was affixed not only by screws but with paint and plaster. We would literally need to chisel it out, and we wouldn’t know how to rig the new canopy until we saw what was in the ceiling, with the power turned off all the while. So we moved the bed back and delayed. For months. Until finally one day I realized that our local hardware store sells all kinds of obscure chandelier parts, and I got my confidence back. Randall got the old light down with a chisel and hammer, and we went right back to the store to get the couplings and bolts we needed to hang it. We bought the canopy there too. It’s not a great style match, but it’ll do.

Finally, after heroically wrestling with bolts and wires for most of the afternoon, Randall succeeded in getting it operational.

When I got the silver mica I was a little disappointed that it just looked like parchment when held up to the light, but with a bulb it looks lovely and crystalline. It’s a nice soft light for the room with a great silhouette design. I’m really happy with it and stare at it a lot.

Rehab: the chair

The neighbor across the street was moving and discarded this chair on the sidewalk. Solid wood utilitarian fabulousity from the earlier half of the 20th century. I thought it was vinyl at first, but it turned out to be leather beyond saving. It’s too bad, it was handsome.

This is not the first chair I’ve picked up off the street with intentions of reupholstering, but it’s the first one I’ve actually *done.* I went to Discount Fabrics for upholstery. Their stock constantly shifts and it’s pretty cheap, so I didn’t go in with any strong opinions and went with whatever caught my eye. I was thinking maybe something in a mod pattern or bright tweed, but the winner this visit happened to be magenta velvet. It was the best choice! How can you go wrong with magenta velvet? That’s right, you can’t! I also got some 8oz. batting to pad it out.

I began by prying off the leather with a flat-head screwdriver. It was very stabby. Lots of this action:

I have newfound respect for upholsterers. Many finger-stabs and skinned knuckles later, I had this and this:

I threw away the old batting and labeled all the pieces (Label first! You’ll forget later.) and noted their orientation in sharpie. Everything you need to know about reupholstering you can learn from taking the chair apart. Take photos if you need to. Make notes about the order in which you took parts off. I had bought upholstery tacks but there were so many on the previous job that I reused a lot of them.

The chair looked pretty good in just muslin, but it was half-naked. It’s a nice chair. It has tied springs and strapping under what you see above, and it’s still in good shape. I started out using the pattern pieces to cut new ones, but allowing enough edge to work with they were basically just large square shapes. So I just cut big pieces and fit them to the chair as I went. I did the same with the batting first, tacking it down at critical points and trimming away the excess. You want the batting to be able to move a little as you adjust and smooth the upholstery over it, so don’t go crazy on attaching it.

I squared the grain of the fabric with the frame of the chair, and started nailing the underside, six or eight evenly-spaced nails per edge. I did one whole edge of the seat first, starting in the center and smoothing between each nail to keep the fabric from puckering. Oh, and if you care about keeping the wood pristine, use a rubber mallet, not a regular hammer like I did.

Once one side is nailed in, turn the chair over and smooth the fabric in the direction of the opposite edge and do the same on that side. It involves a lot of tugging and nailing at the same time because you want the fabric to be taut, not baggy. Three hands would be useful at this point. I was folding the raw fabric edges under for neatness, but I think I’m going to just cover the underside with that black fabric the pros use and not worry about it. Fold the fabric into hospital corners at the corners of the cushion just like you would when making a bed, and nail those down too.

It’s pretty much done and Mooncookie is into it. It will look more finished if I ever get around to doing the edge piping. Maybe later. Magenta velvet chair!