by Tara Diamond
I started getting Redbook Magazine again after not getting it for at least a year. I have piles and piles of magazines I never get to so I thought I’d dig in last night and I opened Redbook. I was a quarter of the way into it when I got to an article that made me want to bang my head up against my headboard. Really hard. I had to look at it for a good five minutes before I went on a tirade to my husband about how inaccurate it was and how it completely cheapened what real artisans do with lighting and lamps.
The article is titled “Make a Luxe-looking Lamp” and it is done by Emily Henderson, who is billed as an “HGTV Design Star”. Sorry, Emily, I have no idea who you are and I’ve never watched HGTV. We work in lighting design but funny enough, I am not into what other people do for home décor. I know what I like and am not interested in seeing the same thing over and over, which is what I feel seems to be the “design” of today. All I seem to see in passing are overly contemporary and clunky pieces. I went to her site, saw she won a reality design show and is now revered by her design peers. If this article is any indication of what she does, then I’m signing up for Design Star.
Just the term “luxe” as it pertains to this lamp is a fallacy. The shade alone is either paper or plastic and couldn’t cost more than five dollars. And it looks it. You can take a five hundred dollar lamp, put that shade on it and the whole thing looks like it cost five dollars. That shade looks good on NOTHING. I know decorators and designers love it for some reason, but a cheap shade is a cheap shade. Whether it’s on a Jonathan Adler or a HomeGoods special. There is a huge difference between bargain DIY and “luxe”. What she’s showing isn’t luxe in any sense of the word. It’s the antithesis of luxe. Make no mistake- I’m not saying something has to be uber-expensive to LOOK luxe. What I’m saying is this IS cheap and it LOOKS cheap. We tell our customers all the time that their lamp can come from the curb or from the most expensive boutique, but it’s the shade that makes the lamp. You can have a cheap or expensive base. Put a cheap shade on it and it looks like it came from the discount store. Put a better shade, a handmade fabric lampshade on it, and it looks like a million bucks.
Going further, she tells the reader that they are going to affix this shade to the lamp with a lamp-shade adaptor clip- the clip affixes to the bulb. She doesn’t give any dimensions of this lamp. I work with these clips daily. In layman’s terms, those clips are meant for VERY SMALL shades. Like the size of a chandelier shade, the average chandelier shade being 3x5x4.5. I’d say the largest shade a clip is really effective without too much tilting is a 6x12x9 and that is really pushing it. Maybe with a cheap, VERY light, paper or plastic shade, meaning there is no steel frame underneath like with a fabric shade, you could do a 12 inch drum. BUT, the clips are not a sturdy way to hold a lampshade on. They also only go so high. The clip she has possibly gives about an inch off the bulb. From the photo, where she has the lamp, on some kind of credenza, it looks really large. It’s not- I looked it up on West Elm. It’s only 10.5 inches. But if you go by the photo, the lamp looks enormous. It’s halfway up the painting and dwarfs the glass next to it. She doesn’t say that to be able to do this you’d need a miniscule vase. Going by the size the base seems in the photo, that size shade, on a clip like that, would cover halfway down the lamp! You need a harp set to keep it sturdy and to get it to be the right height!
My major issue is that she makes it seem like making a lamp is an arts & crafts project when there are people, like us, who make our livelihood creating quality lamps that have earned the right to use the word luxe as a description. Don’t call this luxe. Call it what it is- a DIY arts & crafts project. The average person reads this, comes in my store, and wants to buy a “cheap shade” she can “paint on”. (FYI- We don’t stock cheap shades for projects). OR, she comes in asking to buy that lampshade clip. We don’t sell parts like that because we’re not in the business of arts & crafts. Emily basically went into a lamp store, without thinking, to hurt their bottom line. She sent them into stores like mine, told them to buy the little clip instead of something in the store, to make her little project. The point of the article is to tell people not what a great idea it is to support a business but to figure out how to do it “luxe” but not really, on their own. But because Ms Henderson is an HGTV Design Star, this must all be legitimate. Take away that she’s insulting those of us who actually DO make luxe lighting, but she’s not even telling them how to do it correctly. The size of everything, from the vase to the shade is of paramount importance here. Yet, it’s what she left out. Without a harp set, when dealing with those clips it can take a bunch of different tries to get the right size shade. There is no such thing as a standard lampshade, a standard lampshade size, and no way to know the size without trying it on the lamp. If the shade is too long for the clip and covers the lamp there is very little you can do to raise the shade up without making it top heavy. Then it will tilt or fall over all together. The base she used is only 10.5 inches tall (per the West Elm website). That’s the size of a “boudoir” type lamp. That’s not the size of what someone would need for their living room or any space you’d need a larger lamp.
I love how she called it “French wired” to make it sound fancier. She says that means the cord comes out the top of the lamp. Well, do you see a cord in the photo? No way! But you WOULD in real life! Because life is not one dimensional. It’s annoying when it’s up there. You have to see it. I don’t know anyone who wants to look at wires. Most people spend their time trying to hide wires. When the wire comes out like that, there is nothing you can do to hide it save for tacking it to the back of the lamp somehow. Then it would really look like a DIY project.
Lastly, she gave her “tips” on lampshades which are just ridiculous and also incorrect. Just because a base is round does NOT mean you need a round shade. We make and sell shades in every shape and size. And truth be told, I rarely sell round shades. At least not plain and round. We do make shallow drums like the shape in the article but it’s definitely not an everyday thing. There are NO RULES when it comes to shape. I can take one lamp and put ten different shades on it and they’d all look great. It just comes down to personal preference, color, fabric, trim, shape and size.
So, Emily Henderson, I challenge you to bring your “luxe” lamp into my store and have a comparison contest as to what really looks luxe and what does not. Yes, people can DIY some stuff and it can be functional and looks great. But leave the lighting to the people who do it for a living.