I realised with a bit of a jolt recently that I am lighting-illiterate.
Now, obviously there are many things about our house that I would like to improve. In fact, I have a tentative blog post in my head about ‘fantasy house’ where I would take one room and list all the things that I would do to it, with unlimited time and money. Part of me thinks this would be brilliant. Another part of me fears I’d find it wearisome and depressing.
Anyway. The point is that I think most of the things we need to improve around the house are things I’m aware of. The awful curtains that were here when we moved in which I haven’t replaced. The bare plaster in the kitchen. And so it goes on. But lighting? Lighting?
There are people for whom the harsh beam of an overhead light is a physical kick in the teeth. I am not one of those people. This might be an eyesight thing: I am terribly short-sighted, and I’m often reading, meaning full, bright light is what I’m normally looking for. But I think it goes deeper than that: I think I’m just not very aware of lighting. It might be a bit of a blindspot of mine.
So, having thought about this rather traumatic piece of information recently, I decided to embark on some self-improvement. I decided to learn conversational lighting. I know I will probably never be fluent, but I nevertheless thought that, rather like learning just enough French to go shopping, I could learn some key phrases and some sentences that would at least get me through.
The front room, I decided, would be my first place to put this ambition into place. And lamps would be my tool.
I was aided somewhat in this endeavour by the happy fact that I found a second hand lamp in a charity shop down the road from me a few months ago. I went past it twice, thoughtfully, before going in and asking to buy it. Sometimes I walk past perfectly good items in shops for no good reason, then find myself waking up at night a few days later cursing myself for not making a purchase. This, I was determined, would not be one of those times. In spite of the fact that it was a Thursday morning, so said lamp would have to travel with me to playgroup, and then back to pre-school, and then back home. All the while swinging precariously off the side of the buggy, and occasionally (and accidentally) proving its safety and worthiness for a house of small children by being clanged against lamp-posts.
She’s rather a beauty, isn’t she? And only £6! Once I’d got her home I was jubilant. I reckoned all I needed was some spray paint, and a new lampshade. So then of course I put her on top of the piano and left her there for weeks and weeks, not plugged in (told you – lighting illiterate).
Then just a week ago I had an extremely
expensive productive trip to T K Maxx. Whilst I am a theoretical fan of T K Maxx, for some reason I rarely seem to actually find stuff there. This time, though, was different. I popped in as Oli was taking the girls to soft play, and whirled around with my credit card like a dervish. I not only found a lampshade for my charity shop find for only a tenner, but also another whole entire lamp for £29.99. (And also some hilariously cheap katvig babywear, and some cutprice grobags. Hurrah.)
So here’s the lamp with new shade on. I also took the drastic step of peeling off the sticker saying ‘£6′ (authentic, but maybe not that aesthetic) and giving the base a quick clean. Although this photo isn’t the best lit one in the world, I’ve put it here because the of the lovely golden glow you can see at the top of the lamp base.
That’s because the inside of the shade is gold! This pleases me very much. I imagine it will bounce light around in a beautiful way. But also our sitting room is very broadly purple and cream and goldish in colour.
And here she is with her new lighting partner in crime. Interestingly, having thought I was going to spray paint the second hand lamp base, I am now not so sure. I quite like the pattern on it, so I’m going to keep it and save my spray paint (I do love spray painting things, though. So fast! And slightly addictive!) for another day.
Although it’s just another small addition to our front room, I am rather proud of how these two mis-matched lamps go together. I didn’t want two lamps the same. I have seen many lovely pictures of tables with two matching lamps standing imperiously on them like columns of a classical building. And whilst there is something beautiful and impressive about them… there is also sometimes a little something which, to me, says, ‘I went to a department store and bought everything I needed for my house one afternoon and now here it all is so my house is finished’. I like more of a piecemeal, collected-over-time look, myself. So I wanted two to sit in two different places and to look nice together, but not too matchy-matchy. (On a practical note, whilst the TK Maxx lamp was a bargain at only £30, it is a sad fact of economics that 2 x £30 is still £60 which is officially over £50 and therefore a substantial purchase. India Knight comments in disbelieving tones in her wonderful book The Shops on how unbelievably, unaccountably expensive lighting is. She is sadly so right.)
I like how both of these lamps are warm, cream, and gold and neutral. And their shades are roughly the same shape, and the roundness of the bases complement each other. But the classical sweep of the one on the left compared to the pottery-homely-roundiness of the right-hand one, and the contrast between the pleated shade and the hessian shade are just different enough. Pleasing.
Next step in my plan is to buy an uplighter. I thought if I got an uplighter with an attached reading light, I could read by it, and not have to keep the overhead light on. Next step, obviously, is to plug in these various electrical items and to experiment with actually turning them on occasionally.
I will report back!