09 April 2013

Let there be light

a.k.a, how I turned a birthday present into a renter-friendly lighting solution!

Hey, ‘member when I showed you this beautiful lamp that Mr. P got me for my birthday?

It’s got form and it’s got function (it’s lighting this room as I write!). So basically, it’s the perfect birthday gift for me, lover of all things with aesthetics and purpose.

Unfortunately, I am not as good a gift giver as Mr. P. And worse, he is dang near impossible to buy presents for, even if a talented gift giver is doing the shopping. He doesn’t want for much, he’s even more practical than me, and on the occasions he does want something, dude goes out and straight-up buys it himself. And worst of all: his birthday is two weeks after mine. So not only do I need to figure out a gift, I have to select one in the shadow of whatever awesome gift he gave me.

So, what to get him this year? Most of his wish list was fulfilled at Christmas (a mere two months ago), and I hadn’t noticed anything he could need or want. I’ve noticed that a lot of Mr. P’s family goes the gift card route, which is great for them, but not so much for his wife. “Hi, instead of actually buying you a gift, I’ve instead just taken your own money and limited where you can spend it. Happy birthday!”


So after racking my brain, thinking about what he could want, I instead flipped the question around: what can I do for him? What am I good at? Let’s see. I’m good at science. I’m good at meal planning, and recognizing undertones in shades of beige, and writing run-on sentences. And I’m good at house projects. Hmmm. Was there a project I could do for him, one he needed or wanted, one he wouldn’t think to do himself?

Suddenly one morning I glanced in his dark “walk-in” closet (shot with my iPod, as my DSLR was out of commission that day) and a lightbulb popped on over my head:

Wait, that’s not quite right. No lightbulb over my head – a lightbulb in his closet! One birthday light for another.

See, when we moved in this apartment, there was one of those plastic push-on wall lamps in there, but it barely put out any light, and the batteries always ran down quickly. And there’s no overhead light in there...

Or any light source at all. And no light source near the closet. Which means, in the winter months, when Mr. P is dressing for work at 5:30 AM... he is literally getting dressed in the dark. Not cool!

I decided that I secretly could rig up a bright, wired lighting solution in there as his birthday present. None of that battery-operated business! Although that meant it would have to plug in the wall outside the closet, as we’re renters, and besides, there is no way in hades I’m dealing with the wiring in a century-old mansion. But I figured a cord running around the baseboard was a small price to pay for a reliable and bright closet light.

Extension cord as a birthday gift? Um, sure.

But what sort of light to get? At first I planned to rig up some sort of pendant light, but I was disappointed in the offerings for that at my local big-box hardware stores. I was also nervous about support for parallel weight from the plaster ceiling (as opposed to perpendicular weight, like when you hang something on a wall). I began to doubt that I could pull off this lighting gift at all, when I suddenly spotted this:

It’s a track light, which is not the prettiest solution ever, BUT... it plugs in! And it has an easy-access power switch with a dimmer! You can get your own here, if you’re in the market for such a thing (though be warned, the dimmable halogen lightbulbs it needs cost half as much as the light itself. It’s still a good deal if you need such a thing, though!).

Best of all, I didn’t have to worry about anchoring it to the ceiling – or even to the wall. I decided to hang it into the wooden door frame itself, where it would be extra secure! See those screws?

You don’t? EXACTLY. We need a light up in this place!

I did feel weird putting holes in the old wood door frame, I admit, but there was already a big hole from the screw holding the push-on light (it’s there in the middle). Plus, these frames were painted... a little spackle and paint could fix it later, if need be.

In order to keep the cord out of the way of the door, I screwed in this cup hook next to the door frame, in a creepy corner of the closet that reminds us just how old this place is:


Then it was time for one more thing. See, I worked on this project on Mr. P’s birthday... over a month ago. And I nearly completed it, except for one thing: THE LIGHT WAS BROKEN. Seriously. For whatever reason, the one I purchased had a defect such that the switch only controlled ONE of the lights. The other two were always on. I actually tested the light and the bulbs before Mr. P’s birthday to make sure it worked, but as luck would have it, I only tested the working socket... NOT ALL THREE. I only discovered the problem as I was installing it on his actual birthday. Frowny face!

So poor Mr. P’s birthday present was busted, and for the last month, when he’s wanted the closet light, he’s had to actually bend down and physically plug the thing in. Which was totally not my intention for a nice, easy-to-use closet light!

Fortunately, when I FINALLY got back to the store this week, I was able to swap it out for a working one:

Huzzah! Once I was convinced it worked, I added the light shades over the light bulbs and hung it in place:

I couldn’t be happier with the perfect fit!

The dimmer switch is on the front, in between the second and third lights and right in the middle of the door frame, making it super easy to reach up and turn on as you enter. I can reach the switch easily on my tip-toes, so Mr. P has no problem reaching the switch at all.

And the best part of all: he can see what he’s doing in there!

Okay, not the most pinnable “after” photo, with the iPod photo and the cluttered closet in the background. But I’ll resist the urge to go in and organize and de-clutter. It’s his closet, his space, and his mess. And let’s be honest, a closet organization project is the sort of project would be all for me and not really for him.

Still, there are little auxiliary projects I’d like to take on: a nice little fabric cord cover to dress up the cord running down the inside of the door frame, and attaching the extension cord to the baseboards (either with Frog tape or something more permanent, like staples). But that’s more form than function... and Mr. P is way more function than form. They’re low on the priority list, but I think this could be zhuzhed up a bit more... to make it as pretty as my birthday light.

So for now, I’m just happy that I found a birthday present that Mr. P can use and that only I would think to do for him. Is it the most romantic birthday present ever? Nope! But is it the most thoughtful? I bet my tired present-searching brain it is.


Rachel said...

What a great idea! I usually just let Blair pick out a power tool and deem it that year's Valentine's Day, Father's Day, Birthday, Anniversary, and Christmas gift. Wow. Typing that made me feel really lame...