I love vintage lamp shades. I pick them up wherever I can find them reasonably priced. Barn sales, church rummage sales, thrift shops, flea markets, or garage sales.
I don’t like to pay a lot, especially if the lamp shades need “love”. I look primarily for solid color cloth covered shades in white or cream that are not torn or shredded. I prefer old linen, cotton, or silk shades. I will note if shades are of a newer vintage and polyester I tend to leave those for other people. I am not a fan of polyester or rayon lamp shades.
Sometimes these vintage lamp shades will have a water stain or two on them. If the fabric is silk, cotton, or linen you can either tea stain (which you can also do to old table linens as well, incidentally) or dye them to give them new life.
Tea staining means literally brewing tea bags in hot water, letting it cool slightly and either sponge paint the lamp shade with tea, or paint it on with an arts and crafts paint brush. Do not overly saturate the shade with tea liquids or it may fall apart.
I will sometimes tea stain a couple of times for a particular shade, but I let the shade dry in between tea applications. Use a plain old regular tea. I just use tea bags that are filled with black tea (like Tetley or Red Rose). Green tea doesn’t work for this.
You can also paint or sponge color on that you use to dye Easter eggs – yes, food coloring. Just prepare the food coloring in a bowl like you were going to dye eggs and again use a sponge or paintbrush to apply to the lamp shade.
Food coloring/ Easter egg dyes give a different look than traditional dye, giving off more of a “wash” like a water color effect. The shade in this post is one I did. I took this photo with a mobile phone so color isn’t quite what it is in person which is a pale blue / aqua wash. I further dressed up the shade with some bits of wired ribbon I had hanging around.
Anyway, just a fun and inexpensive way to get new life out of an old lamp shade. You can also use traditional fabric dye mixed in a bowl and painted on as well.
Important to note if you do this arts and crafts project, cover your work surface with something like a plastic shower curtain or plastic sheeting.
I will also look for shades that have a funky pattern or something if I have a specific use for them, like a smaller shade for a converted oil lamp. Those shades I look for in more pristine condition as they won’t be dyed or re-trimmed.
Once upon a time in a land now far, far away my father’s friend Bill showed up for a visit with a giant bottle of wine – a Jeroboam of some very fine Chianti Classico.
My father made the bottle into a lamp after the bottle was emptied at a dinner party. The lamp came to me, and the lampshade on it currently kind of went kaput. (Silk lampshades do that after a while.) So we just ordered the bottle a new shade! I love this lamp because it is very cool and also because it has some very happy childhood memories attached to it. Not that I was drinking the wine at that time but it was just because of all the times when we were growing up that we got together with my father’s friend and his family.
And when people ask how I come to put things in my house or say I have such tremendous decorating skills, honestly it isn’t the skill part as much as filling my home with things I love, that bring me pleasure, evoke happy memories. Stuff that I just like, want to look at, want to use.
To me that is where so many people go wrong when decorating their homes. They see a photo in a magazine, or see a trend. But they don’t interpret what they like on their own, more often that not they bring in some sort of decorator. Mind you I have no problems with a decorator providing you with the bones of a room if you are stuck, but face it you know yourself, so play an active role. Unless you like living in a Trendy Wendy or beige, beige world?
What I bring into my home for the most part most of the time did not cost me a lot. Long before Martha Stewart rolled up or Rachel Ashwell and her shabby chic self was popular, I was combing flea markets, thrift stores, consignment stores, garage sales and the like for things to define my living spaces. I needed to develop my own style, and I needed to be able to afford to do it. To this day I would rather pick something up second-hand and not necessarily officially antique than to buy new.
My style is eclectic and a mix of traditional, haute country and sometimes a little funky. But I buy things that please me. You won’t see country kitsch and Grand Ol’ Opry plaids, checks, and frills but some of what I like can be categorized as more country/rustic than mid-century modern (although I do like some of that here and there as an accent.)
My thrown together escaping one category of style is not so unusual, I see it with my friends. For example, my friend Stevie and her husband not too many years after they were married needed some storage pieces. Stevie thought outside the box and she bought of all things an old chicken coop. She restored it and adapted it to modern use and it is hands down to this day still one of my favorite pieces. Another favorite piece belonging to someone else is this dry sink that a friend of a friend has. Obviously rescued from a barn or a similar structure, it was cleaned up and put into this one woman’s living room. It is so awesome.
With the exception of four bent wood chairs from Bent Brothers in Gardner Massachusetts, which are now my kitchen chairs thanks to that Resellers consignment Gallery in Frazer, I don’t do much painted furniture. I like looking at wood and I am sick to death of going to flea markets and antiques and collectible markets and seeing everything coated in some shade of white or pastel.
Now my Bent Brothers chairs which have the brand logo burnt in the bottom of the chairs along with the paper tags still on the bottom won’t ever light the antique world on fire. They date back probably to the late 1940s maybe the 1950s, but they are crazy sturdy and well made…and appealing to the eye in their original paint and stenciling. I love them. And they cost next to nothing – which they should because Bent Brothers (which operated between 1867 and 2000 in Gardner MA) although they produced durable pieces of furniture, if you do the research they do not retain their value.
Another trend I am sick of is coating everything with blackboard or chalkboard paint. Lordy people, WHY??? Got a school marm disease or something???
Something else I love? Patchwork Quilts. I love old quilts. But I use them. So I buy them inexpensively – church sales, flea markets, barn picking, Ebay. They are a great way to add color to the room and there is nothing more homey than curling up under a ptachwork with a good book or a movie on a cold winter’s night.
My final word is I approach my art the same way as my furniture and accessories: I buy what I like and what makes me happy. I am not some deep pocketed collector with rotating gallery walls, I am just a regular gal. (Incidentally one of my favorite pieces of art was found put out for the trash when the Clothier House on Buck Lane in Haverford was being readied for demolition by a soulless developer. I had the piece preserved and reframed.)
The take away here is simple: enjoy where you live and remember your spaces are meant to be lived in. Buy what gives you pleasure, don’t necessarily buy in the category of “dress to impress.” Also remember cutsie doesn’t age well in decorating, either.
And remember, don’t be afraid to bargain shop and barn pick. You never know what you might find!
One of my most favorite things are vintage handmade quilts. Maybe it is part of the legacy of having had a Pennsylvania German grandmother, I don’t really know. I am not a quilter, but I admire it as a usable folk art form. I actually have a couple of friends who are quilters .
Some of these vintage quilts can be very expensive, and they come in all colors and patterns. Many tell a story, yes story quilts. Or memory quilts. I hear there are quilt shows, but have never been to one. Quilts are history in textiles.
I look for simple quilts. I find them at tag sales, church sales, flea markets and there are a lot on eBay if you know what you are doing.
A couple of quilts I have acquired have needed a little TLC and I have learned to patch them with scraps of ribbon, lace, and fabrics that meld with whatever the quilt has as afar as color and pattern. And you know what? For a loving hands at home bit of TLC, it works just fine!
Vintage quilts were made to be used, so seek them out. I will note that no vintage quilt ever goes on a bed without being cleaned first. I have never bought one that is dirty, truthfully, just something I think makes a common sense best practice.
If you know of places to find fun quilts, or shows that feature quilts, please feel free to post a comment!