Saturday, January 30, 2010

Globe Lights 101

First of all let me say that I am NOT an expert on mid-century modern lighting. I'm just a frustrated homeowner that's trying to renovate/restore his home without breaking the budget on every project.
With that disclaimer in mind, let's talk Globe Lights. If you're a fan of mid-century modern design, you're probably a fan of globe lights. They were a popular option with many many architects and home builders, probably most famously with J. Eichler and the 1,000+ homes he built in California. Mr. Rummer stayed true to this design and used globe lights in most of his 400+ Eichler-styled Rummers in the greater Portland area. Our home had them originally, but a previous owner grew tired of them and tossed them in the rubbish bin.

As close as I can tell, most globe lights original to Rummers were 10" diameter globes with low profile dome shaped bases (or canopies... the part that mounts to the ceiling and covers up the wires) with either a heavy-duty cord or pipe connecting to the glass globe. Most were painted white, but some were black.

NOTE: I could be wrong about the diameter... I've seen some that are 8" and other that are 12" or even 16"... but proportionally, I've been happy with the 10" globes in our house.

Although they are not in-stock at Home Depot or Lowe's, for those of us looking for replacements, we have options. Some expensive, some cheap... but they are out there. Here are a few options I've found.

Rejuventation Sfera
These are relatively new to the Rejuvenation line. They currently offer 8" and 16" versions of the classic globe light. They look great, are available in white or brushed aluminum. All the products made at Rejuvenation are top notch quality, but we needed about nine for our house and at $140 each $1,260 seemed kinda high. And we wanted to go with 10-inchers anyway.

They have 8", 10", 12" and 14" options... but their descriptions aren't the best, I don't know about their quality or what the canopies look like and their 10" ones are of the cord-hung variety. And it looks like they only come in white. Their 10-inchers are $88 each... $792 for nine.

They have 16" globes hanging on cord, and some 10" globes that look pretty good... except their canopies look like upside down tea cups, they hang down too far, and every Ikea light fixture I've tried to install is weird.

Craigslist/antique stores
If you only need one or two globe lights, or aren't worried about how well they match (or don't match), this might be your best bet. Many are of the "Hung by cord woven through chain" variety, so you would need to be able to do a little rewiring. But who konws... maybe you'll get lucky and find someone like the previous owner of our home that's looking to rid his Rummer of 9-10 mint condition globe lights. Hey... it could happen.

Ebay/Eichler Forums
Much like Craigslist, it's luck of the draw here. Happy hunting!

Here's what we did
Ikea is close by, affordable, and it was no problem finding 9 that would match. So that's what we did. BUT in my view, there are problems with the Ikea Fado globe lights. Haley and I try to be problem solvers, so here's what we did to alter them so they looked closer to the originals.

1- Take 'em apart.
NOTE: There's a sliding stopper thingie with a tightening screw that's attached to the stock teacup-ish canopy. You'll need to detach it in order to use it with the new configuration. I used channel lock pliers and my awesome, herculean strength to tear it away. (It was really pretty easy. Here's a pic.)

2- Cut 3-inches off the pipe with a pipe cutter (brilliant name, huh?).

3- Buy new canopies. This can be tricky. I wound up going to the lighting department at Hippo Hardware in Portland, rummaging through a few boxes of old light fixture parts and found three that were exact matches, and two more that were close.

4- Mask off and paint everything. As I said earlier, many were white, some were black. We decided we liked black more.

5- Put everything together, connect the wires and the first thing y'know old Jed's a millionaire! (Beverly Hillbillies reference for our non-American-pop-culture educated friends.)


kimmy kupcakes said...

This is a great idea and a much cheaper option. I think it looks great and would never have been the wiser. Don't be surprised if Drew and I come knocking at your door asking for more info on how to do this for the house we are trying to buy.

Lesley said...

That is great! I found three at a local mid-mod vintage shop. Apparently, the owner pulled 100 of the globe lights out of a hotel. One of mine was slightly different than the others, but no one yet has been able to tell.

You should submit your lighting changes to People submit all of their Ikea hacks, which some are pretty cool.

They look great!

Anonymous said...

very useful read. I would love to follow you on twitter.

Tanner said...

Great idea! My husband and I have also done a few lighting projects. We finally found a so-so solution at home depot. Shortly after our "solution" I saw that West Elm is now selling a conversion kit for $15 (now on sale for $12)