It is no secret that I love vintage Art Deco lamps. And over the 2017 Holiday season with time off from work Chris and I hit the local antique and thrift stores. We did have some luck in finding a “treasure” at a bargain price.
Our first stop was Greenovation on East Main Street in Rochester, NY. Located in the former Vietnam Veterans Thrift Store, Greenovation is a combination thrift / antique store. While Chris and I have not have the same consistent luck at Greenovation as we did with the former occupants, we still get an excellent find now and then. This time Chris spotted a great Art Deco / Machine Age table lamp in need of some TLC. I have to admit that when Chris showed me this lamp, I was not enthusiastic about at all. The chrome looked pitted and stained and the black cast iron base was rusting.
There were cobwebs on the underside of the base and in the light socket. We knew if we bought the lamp it would need rewiring, the rubber power cord was crumbling and the plug had melted. Now the moment of truth, how much? Because it was the Thanksgiving weekend Greenovation was having a “black Friday” sale and everything was 75% off. The lamp had a price of $30.00, but with the discount it came to $7.50! No matter what I thought of the lamp originally, at that price I wouldn’t have left the store without it.
After getting the lamp home, Chris started to clean it up. To his surprise, what we thought was pitting and rust was just dirt and tar stains from heavy smoking. The lamp started to come back to life. A little Turtle Wax on the base helped to bring back some of the original crackle paint finish. Now time for rewiring. In the nearby town of Victor, New York is The Top of the Lamp, not only a great place for lamps and lampshades, but also a great lamp repair shop.
Because the lamp is large, we had a three-way socket installed. I have no way of knowing if this was true of the original socket, but I assume it did. With the lamp repaired now it needed a shade that would be period appropriate.
Created in the mid-1900’s the Illuminating Engineering Society (I.E.S.) studied the relation between illumination and good eye sight. The I.E.S. designed lamps in the 1930’s that gave glare free light for reading as well as providing general room illumination. To do this a glass diffuser is the solution that I.E.S. came up with. These diffusers softened the glare of the light downward, while sending light up toward the ceiling to illuminate the room indirectly.
So now we needed to find a milk glass (called opal in the 1930’s) diffuser. Chris lucked out and found one for $5.00 at a small antique store near Clinton, New Jersey.
But never use these diffusers for shades. I’ve seen them used for shades in period films, all I can say about that is . . . WRONG!!!!
Finding a period 1930’s lampshade is almost like seeing a unicorn or big foot. On the whole they just haven’t survived. Dark Drum shades were popular in the 1930’s, usually with contrasting stripes. Today it is easier and cheaper to get a solid color shade than have one custom-made with stripes. So a simple black drum shade was our choice, since it would only send the light up and down, not out.
So if you have an Art Deco lamp in need of a shade, remember diffusers are not shades. Try to be sensitive to the lamp’s time period. And simple is always better.