03 July 2012

DIY: reversible chandelier update

“Okay, Sarah,” you’re saying. “You used to blog mostly about your house, and then you moved into this great apartment that you wouldn’t stop talking about. But now you’re going on about events in St. Louis and three-ingredient macaroni and cheese and your honeymoon WHICH WAS TWO LONG YEARS AGO BY THE WAY. Maybe you could, I dunno, tell us about your apartment and get back to that stuff we like so much more?”

So let me assure you, dear readers who in my head are quite lovely but also frustrated, I am trying to get our new place together! But it’s slow-going. While we have more than enough room and everything that we need, the space here is just so very different from our old house. We can’t just dump everything from the old house in a corresponding spot in the new apartment, because there’s not a corresponding spot. It’s taking a bit of thought.

Also, because we’re renting instead of owning, we have to be more creative in how we make the space our own. No painting (for now), no tearing out the dark green light-sucking countertops, no replacing light fixtures. And unfortunately, almost every one of the light fixtures in this place is froofy, super-shiny brass – you know, the kind I spray-painted in our old house to banish the brass. And one of the froofiest, shiniest fixtures is this one:

That’s the chandelier in our dining-room-turned-office-turned-catch-all-room. I’m having trouble “seeing” how to decorate this room right now, so it’ll be long-term project for sure. But no matter what, a brown and gold chandelier is not in my vision.

As far as fancy, traditional chandeliers go, this one is pretty swanky. The shades are even made of metal! But... it’s not my style. Since we’re renters stuck with the landlady’s choices for light fixtures, I decided to see what I could do to make it a little less froofy and formal and...noticeable.

Fortunately, the metal lampshades lifted right off.

They really needed to go, because on the occasions that Mr. P’s head bumped the fixture, the shades went all askew. But I wasn’t so sure that those white metal shade-holders would go so easily. Several seemed like they were glued on to the white “candle” part of the light. However, once I took the lightbulb out, I could gently slide off the entire holder + white “candle” shebang:

I figured if I couldn’t separate the holder from the candle, I’d cover up the innards of the light shown above with some white heat-safe PVC cut to size.

But I was in luck! With the candle + holder removed, I could very gently twist them in opposite directions (must not break a light fixture we don’t own!) and separate the holder from the “candle”. I slipped the “candle” back on, replaced the bulb, and voila:

The holder did leave a faint purple ring around the top, but that wasn’t a big deal to me. At least, not big enough to fix. I notice it, but... eh. Is that a renter’s mindset, or what?

Anyway, just taking off the shades was a big improvement, I think!

But remember how I said above that Mr. P actually hits his head on it? Because we don’t have a big dining room table in the room, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to have a chandelier hanging in a place that can take out your noggin’. But it’s already raised as high as we can, so I decided to fix two problems in one by trying to remove the finials on the bottom, which were both shiny brass (ick) and low-hanging (ouch):

To my surprise, they screwed right off! One did require Mr. P’s arm strength to loosen (while I cowered in a corner moaning “Don’t break it! Gentle! BE GENTLE!”), but once all of the shiny finials were removed, we were left with a much more Casa-P-ish chandelier:

Still not quite what I’d choose, but much better! I did try to wiggle some of the other shiny-brass accents on the central part of the chandelier, but they seem stuck in place, and I wasn’t about to make any permanent changes to this light! Everything I took off can easily be re-attached when the time comes, and for now the parts are hiding in storage.

So now, I’m pretending that the brown is actually oil-rubbed-bronze, and that it’s similar to something you might find at Pottery Barn or Ballard Designs. Which is perhaps – no, definitely – a stretch, but at least the chandelier is no longer a giant mental block for trying to figure out how to decorate this room!

Also no longer a giant physical block for the space, as both the natural light (what little there is from the single recessed window) and our heads can move around it more easily now:

Because it doesn’t take up as much physical space now, the chandelier seems more appropriately in scale for an office, and less like we’re just keeping office furniture in a room intended to have a grand dining table. Of course, it also helps that hanging chandeliers in non-traditional spaces, like offices, is super in-style right now. Since I always wanted to hang a chandelier in our old office, but couldn’t because of the low ceiling, I’m happy to embrace this one a bit more, even if it does still have a bit of brass on it.

So if you’re renting, or just don’t have the wherewithal to replace a disliked light fixture, see if you can strip it down! It’s a free and totally reversible way to update a light fixture into something more your taste.