How a lamp found a home…
A few years ago I experienced a major life change that forced me into a 1953 Cape Cod home with very little furniture to sprinkle about the blond, oak floors. The tragic event wasn’t something I’d ever wanted to happen, but had to accept for the time being. So I scavenged some cheap thrift store, flea market, estate sale, and (free!) roadside finds up into a cobbled mid-century mess in my new residence. I was safe with comfortable places to sit and sleep, but definitely far from content or satisfied.
One afternoon during those early days I stopped into an antique mall that I frequented in better times. I hoped to find an affordable treasure, one with enough magic to pull all my mismatched furniture pieces together. What I found and fell in love with was a 1950s, two-tiered, walnut laminate coffee table. Unfortunately for me, it was appropriately priced at $195. So I took a risk and waited. Every couple of weeks I stopped in, hoping the table would be on sale.
About six months later I found it red tagged for $115. Ecstatic, I began clearing all the smaller decorative items off the table, because it was going home with me. I got down to the last item and took a step back. How long had that object been displayed there? In the center of the table—on the long, single stretch of its lower tier—sat a very large table lamp. I think all this time I’d been so obsessed with the table that I never noticed the beauty of this mid-century lighting piece—a 1956, Quartite Creative Corp lamp.
The two pieces—the table and lamp—were the same age (from the 1950s), and the same style (very modern), and both were designed for the living room. I imagined the couple not only originated from the same household, but from the same room in that house—the living room. They’d been functional, decorative partners for 60 years. And who was I to break up a good partnership? So for $35 I took the lamp and my $115, on-sale coffee table, and headed home to enjoy the Friday evening in true Vintage Chick style.
I immediately placed the coffee table in front of the sofa (duh!). Perfection…and in ways I hadn’t even expected. The table’s designed with a long lower tier which is open in the middle, and two short second tiers on both ends. The spaces between the lower and upper tiers are perfect for laptop storage. A pillow resides on the open part of the lower tier mimicking an ottoman. The upper tier surfaces are great for drinks, books, reading glasses, junk…you know. The table and my sofa create a second, very comfortable, writing environment. But for all of the wonderfulness of the coffee table came struggles with its lifelong partner, the lamp.
As I drove my mid-century acquisitions home that Friday night, I had high hopes the lamp could set on the fireplace mantle in the living room. I wanted to pull light upward in the room and accent the fireplace. Also, the builders of my Cape Cod cleverly placed an electrical outlet in the center of the mantle surface, and I really wanted to indulge in their ingenuity. Unfortunately, the space between the mantle and ceiling is 42”, and my new lamp with its original shade was 44”. Impossible fit.
The Quartite on the walnut sofa table. Not bad.
I have a walnut sofa table in the living room which, by the way, looks smashing with the coffee table! The night I brought my lamp home, the sofa table was centered in the picture window next to the sofa and was partnered with a small, Frank Lloyd Wright/mission style lamp. Both pieces had come from my last residence and had been paired for about 8 years. But I split them up and placed my new lamp on the sofa table. It stayed there for a month and looked okay, but its huge lamp shade, 19” x 17”, ate up too much of the window view. So I shifted the furniture moving the sofa table east 3 1/2 feet. The lamp no longer blocked the view of my water fountain and gardens. All was fine until I discovered an affordable, depression era, art deco sofa table at a flea market.
Yeah, I bought the art deco sofa table. I reasoned with myself that I needed an entry table for my non-existent entryway. So the Quartite lamp moved to the art deco sofa table next to the front door. And the mission lamp moved back to the walnut sofa table by the window. Things were tight, but now I had a surface by the door to set down my purse and other items when I came through the front door. The arrangement was good, until I started painting the room.
I tried several test samples of color on the living room wall. Shades of gold and tan dominated in my furniture, but I hoped to eventually change out to a grey scale. I ultimately matched the paint to the grey-ish tan on the Quartite lamp. I guess I was trying so hard to make the lamp work in this room with its companion, the coffee table, that I painted the wall a color that matched the lamp. And to remind myself how well it matched, I rearranged the furniture yet again. The lamp stayed along the far wall with its new coat of paint, resting on a Heywood Wakefield side table, for awhile…
Different room, different problem
For a long time, my bedroom in this Cape Cod was pathetic. My bed sat on the floor for over a year and I had no night stand. The walls in the room were in rough shape and painted a shade of green which may have been popular for two months back in 2007. But now they looked awful. I disliked the room so much I slept on the couch in the living room, the bedroom strictly relegated to clothing storage. Looking back, I realize the room embodied all my emotions regarding my new status in life. Deep down I didn’t want to accept that status so I avoided it. Same went for the room; it remained ugly, neglected, and unused. Until I ventured into my favorite second hand store…
Did I mention I sometimes hear vintage pieces calling to me? From outside the store? It’s true. When they call I go in and always find a treasure. Last January I was leaving my part-time job and hesitated before I got in my car. Yes, I stood in the cold parking lot staring at a great second hand furniture and accessory store, “Once More Décor.” I finally went in and discovered a headboard I’d seen months ago suddenly half price. The headboard, definitely 1960s, and metal bed frame together were $75. I was interested but uncertain until the sales lady pulled the the headboard finials off. Without the finials the headboard’s style was a wonderful modern, art deco mix. SOLD!
I went home and started scraping, sanding, cleaning, spackling and priming those awful bedroom walls. I was excited! Invigorated! In love! And I decided to use the same paint I’d starting using in the living room, the “kind-of-grey, kind-of-tan” color, more accurately called “taupe.”
While painting late one night I needed more light to cleanly cut paint in around the trim and windows, so I snagged the Quartite lamp and sat it on the floating table with my paint can. I remember this night well—I’d been listening to “Maybe I’m Amazed” by Wings, over and over on my phone. Perhaps it was the quintessential love song in the air, or my goofy, tired, lingering enthusiasm. Regardless, in an instant I knew the lamp was destined for this room. Its taupe segments matched the new walls to a tee. Its copper segments mirrored the coppery color of the headboard. The turquoise blue in the lamp was a color I hoped to incorporate in as an accent. The poor lamp had spent over a year, not so happy, in the living room. But it needed to be in this room—in my new creation. The partnership with the coffee table had to be dissolved, no matter how much my mind fought the idea. So the lamp stayed. In the bedroom. Ready to begin a solo journey.
A Vintage Chick needs a pretty and comfortable place to primp and relax.
The whole point in this experience? Sometimes two objects just don’t go together anymore. After many years in aesthetic harmony, fending off cultural and style revolutions together, a friction surfaces and erodes the once vogue connection. You struggle and rearrange until you realize it just won’t work anymore. So you split the partnership, placing the objects in separate rooms, where their clashes can no longer be seen. And after a bit, or perhaps a very long time, you conclude its okay. Happiness can be found in new environments, with new companions, and new attitudes. It’s a hard lesson in decorating, and in life. Separation from a long-time mate can really hurt, but sometimes the resistance to the split hurts more, and keeps décor—and people—from bliss and contentment in new homes.
Although my lamp is finally satisfied in its spot, I’m still not entirely content in my new home. But that’s one reason I’m writing this blog and sharing my journey. Stay tuned, folks. But be forewarned. I’m not aiming for “okay.” I’m shooting for “fabulous.” Fun, flirtatious, mid-century, and fabulous. I can’t imagine a more fulfilling theme for the journey to my final home.
Ahhh….at last. Good night.