Remember that time I was waxing all poetic about obelisks in decorating?
Well I happened upon some cool vintage obelisk lamps, and they immediately came home with me, in spite of their chipped and scratched finish. As you know, I'm a fan of the shape, so I figured I could do something with the messed up finish.
The lamps are brass with recessed panels that had been painted white. I kind of don't think the white finish was original because it was shoddily done, but either way it was old and funky and all bubbly and crackled in places.
Because of the slight recessed panels, I came up with the idea of "inlaying" the lamps with some material to cover the icky surface. My first thought was shagreen. Are you familiar with Shagreen?
It's basically the leather from a shark or a ray and you find it in antiquity and also today on very fancy furniture and pretty little boxes and accessories. Here's what Wikipedia has to say about why it became so highly prized:
Shagreen was first popularised in Europe by Jean-Claude Galluchat (d. 1774), a master leatherworker in the court of Louis XV of France. It quickly became a fashion amongst the French aristocracy, and migrated throughout Europe by the mid-18th century.
There you have it...ol' Louie was a trendsetter. History lesson of the day. These days shagreen is generally of the faux variety, which I much prefer anyhow from a humane perspective. So downtown to the fabric district I went to see what I could come up with. I brought home a variety of samples of textured faux leather, including a decent approximation of shagreen.
I actually preferred the ostrich (the upper left sample.) That crocodile skin was much too scary, and the lower samples were pretty but a bit on the subtle side. The faux ostrich texture seemed about right.
All I did was press a sheet of paper up against the lamp to crease it in the shape of my template, cut the faux leather to fit, and inlay it with glue.
The last step of my lamp makeover was to spray paint a pair of drum shades gold on the inside and brush them with watered-down black acrylic paint on the outside. (The gold spray paint trick only works on shades with a hard plastic inside surface. If it's fabric on the inside it won't work.)
And here's the end result!
I love the contrast of the black shades on the ivory lamps....and that bit of gold peeking out from the inside elevates the whole thing. It's all in the details, folks! I think it was Charles Eames who said "The details are not the details. The details make the design."