Made in the shade: Add pazzazz to your lighting with lovely lampshades

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Being a few days before Christmas, I came up with all kinds of wonderful ideas to share with you.

I thought about talking wrapping ideas or tips on table decorating. I considered last-minute gift ideas or easy, make-at-home holiday cards.

But, being the person that I am, I was afraid more than one relative would read my column and the surprise of my gifts would be given away. I hate to be second-best in the presentation category, also, and an erudite reader just might show up at the same party with a better application of one of my ideas.

So, as I stewed in my Grinch-like holiday spirit, I figured a little mood lighting might improve my outlook. And, maybe brighten some other downed holiday spirits as well.

I'm not one for foo-foo, but here are four lampshade ideas for my many moods:

Wishing for younger days

The fun part about being a child was coloring. I used to love to draw on anything in sight. An easy way to jazz up a lampshade is to color it with a paint pen. With the ease of a marker you can color the whole shade, or stick to patterns.

I first draw lightly with a pencil the designs that I think would look good. For my project I went with geometric shapes in black. The dark blotches provide a good contrast to the white light.

Ready for a party

When you want to get a little fancy, dress up your lamp with a little tissue paper. This method works best for shades with more shape because you can work in quadrants. I started by tearing a rectangle of red tissue paper a little bit larger than the first panel of my lampshade. Then I poured a little glue on a paper plate and, with a paintbrush, slathered a bit on the lampshade panel. As I covered a few inches of the shade with glue I pressed the tissue paper in place starting at the top and smoothing my way down.

The key to this shade is to work in small sections. You don't want your glue to dry before you've had a chance to get the tissue paper in place. It's also difficult to move the tissue paper once it's hit the glue.

After I finished the first large panel I worked the rest of the way around in red, leaving the excess tissue paper around the edges of the glued panels. I then went around the lampshade a second time, covering the remaining panels with silver paper, and left the shade to dry overnight.

In the morning it was time to trim the excess paper. There are two methods to trimming: You can either tear close to the edges of your panels and hope for some consistency, or you can use a razor blade to make straight edges. I prefer the razor blade method but the tearing works just as well.

As a finishing touch, you can go back over all the panels with a top coat of glue. This seals the edges and gives the paper a nice shine.

Going retro

My house is full of 1950s-style furniture. I love the clean lines and sharp angles of the vintage look. And this next lampshade certainly helps me set the mood.

To be correct, this is actually three lampshades. But the idea can be applied to a single shade and still be classy.

The materials are the most important part of this project. To mimic my lampshade exactly you'll need: three lampshades (same size and shape), a pack of white yard-sale dots, three sheets of transparent watercolor paper, a pencil, scissors, wire snips, spray adhesive and some glue.

Start out by placing one of the lampshades on the watercolor paper. Trace the shade onto the paper, rolling the shade as you work your way around. (You should wind up with a "U" shape). Cut this shape out and fit it to your shade to make sure your measurements were accurate.

If you're all lined up, use the "U" to trace out two more on the remaining paper. Cut these out and place them to the side. Now get out your yard-sale dots and lampshades get to sticking. You can line the dots up in a pattern or go with the polka-dot look, whatever pleases you.

Once you've got the dots placed to your liking on each lampshade, spray a shade down with your adhesive and slowly work your "U" shape around the lamp until it slightly overlaps. Now you're ready to combine the shades.

In order for this to work you'll need to cut the metal out of your two lower shades. Snip as close as you can to the edge of the shade and bend any jagged edges in so that you don't cut yourself. Attach the bottom edge of the shade with the metal clasp still attached to the bottom of one of the clipped shades using craft glue. Once these two pieces have dried in place, glue the top edge of your remaining shade to the top edge of your other metal-less shade.

When all three shades are securely attached you can fit them on your bulb and see the view from the wonder years.

Feeling nostalgic

It's fun to get out a photo album and reminisce. How much easier and more fun would it be to see your life through the rose-colored hues of a lampshade?

All you need for this final shade are some old photo negatives, adhesive strips and a drum shade. (If you use a shade with more curve the negatives won't line up.)

Place an adhesive line (of the scrapbooking variety) on each end of a negative strip. Starting at the top seam of the lampshade, secure the negative strip into place. Repeat this process all the way around the shade, placing the negatives edge-to-edge to cover the entire shade.

If you get to a point where the gap is too small for an entire strip, cut your negatives to fit. When you've made it to the bottom of the shade you're only left with finding a good spot to show it off. Try using negatives of particular vacations or maybe the family pet to create a themed lamp. I assure you it will be a conversation piece and you'll be making use of an item that is mostly pitched or thrown in a box somewhere.

Now go light up the world. If you can't do it with holiday cheer, at least do it with a 75-watt bulb.

Vanessa Cook is a former Southeast Missourian copy editor who dabbles in decorating.

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