Of Lighting Dangly And Respectable

As we already noted when buying the rest of the lights for the house, the direction that we were going to take was eluding us. Not only were we not seeing any fixtures that worked for us, but we did not even have a clear picture of what we wanted. Not an auspicious place to being the quest for something that was going to stand out pretty substantially in one of the more important rooms of our house (for what’s more important than food, one might ask? Well, there is that, but the bedroom already has its lights, so we’re good there).

Given that we were sorely lacking in inspiration, we decided that there was nothing for it but to go out and get some. Cartwright Avenue in Toronto is home to a spectacular number of lighting stores (not all of which are, to be clear, spectacular — but there are a very large number of them). Right around the corner from Of Things Past, it’s a pretty handy street to scope out if you want to understand the diversity of what is out there in terms of possible lighting fixtures.

And so, one early December day, Dianne and I set out to explore the landscape and find what inspiration we might. To be sure, there were many, many directions that we could have pursued. We quite early along found one fashioned from antlers, for example. Perfect for the modern hunter (and a sure sell south of the border, no doubt).

The NRA firmly defends your right to use this light fixture.

One store was clearly catering to those seeking to channel their inner Louis XIV, with every light in the place fashioned from crystal. Really, one hasn’t seen bling quite like this in, well… a very long time. And with vajazzling no longer trending, hopefully that is the way things shall remain.

This is what a ‘wardrobe malfunction’ looks like when done with lighting.

There were a couple of fixtures that started to frame a direction for us, however. We were wanting to stay within the traditions of the house, for starters. The dining room is part of the original farmhouse, and one of the most attractive rooms within it. There is beautiful, dark-wood wainscotting on all four walls, a built in china cabinet and a gorgeous plaster ceiling (somewhat marred by what was a pretty hideous chandelier). As the main room for entertaining, it needs to have a certain presence. For a chandelier, then, we wanted something that would stand out and provide good ambient light, but that wouldn’t overwhelm the room.

Alright. We’re getting somewhere, here. Not perfect, but better.

One of the early possibilities was a fixture comprised of ornate armatures finished in an antiqued bronze, with each arm topped by an opaque, antique-finished sconce. It didn’t stand out as an absolute winner, but it was the first piece that we had seen that was at least moving in the right direction.

Nice, but big. Overwhelmingly big. And yes, size matters.

The fixtures got larger and more imposing from there, although they continued to evolve style-wise in a relatively appropriate direction. One light in particular stood out at the very last store on the street as being promising. Perhaps a little too promising, however, as with 15 sconces and a span of more than 39″ it would have been pretty imposing even in a dining room on the scale we were working with.

Small. Far too small. Size still matters. But it apparently can get bigger.

We did find one other piece that would have been workable, even preferable, except that it was – at three sconces – far too small. And that’s when we finally asked the question: “Do these come in any other sizes?” As a matter of fact, they do. Many, many other sizes. You can get six-sconce, nine-sconce, twelve-sconce and an absolutely mammoth, 51″ tall and 49″ wide fifteen-sconce version of the same fixture. The latter would have completely overwhelmed not only the room, but the dining room table as well. But finally we had something that looked like it could work.

From here, our journey took us in a slightly different direction. The previous year, when we were outfitting the condo, I had spotted a store in downtown Toronto specializing in antique lighting fixtures. As we were outfitting a pretty modern condo, we didn’t even bother going in. With a 19th century farmhouse on our hands, however, the requirements were now much different. It was time to pay a call to Turn of the Century Lighting.

While some of the stores on Cartwright Ave had been essays in tacky, the experience of walking into Turn of the Century Lighting was overwhelming. Everywhere you looked, there were beautiful, antique (or at least antique-looking) lighting fixtures of every shape, size and application. In fact, the store specializes in stocking both actual antiques and also reproductions that they make on site. Not only were there viable candidates in the store, but they could quite literally build us a custom fixture to our specifications.

Beautiful, decorative features. Absolutely love the detail in the bowl.

There were several lighting fixtures that we were taken with. Many of these had nothing to do with what we were looking for, in fact, and was leading in to the (very expensive) territory of replacing already serviceable fixtures with newer (well, older) equally serviceable (but really, really gorgeous) fixtures. A slippery slope, that one. Reluctantly wrenching ourselves back to some semblance of sanity, we left with a rough quote of what a custom fixture might require and a need to do some serious pondering.

There are totally serviceable fixtures I want to get rid of so I can buy this light.

Ponder we did. Working to build a custom-spec lighting fixture was very tempting, but likely to completely blow the budget. Going with a larger version (but not the fifteen-sconce version!) of the chandelier we had liked was tempting, and much more cost effective. Particularly cost effective when I was able to source one on-line for less than $700, taxes and shipping included. Custom and period was nice, but at the price differential, not THAT nice.

Sconces? Don’t get me started on sconces. Our Visa card can’t afford sconces like this.

And so, at long last, we have a chandelier for the dining room. But I’d still love to find a home for some of the sconces we saw at Turn of the Century Lighting.

Sinks, and Faucets, and Lighting, oh my…

After yesterday’s shopping blitz of granite, flooring and tile, the focus of today was on plumbing and lighting. The finishing touches to build upon the fundamentals of the previous day, as it were. For these, we ventured a little further east (or, more to the point, not quite as far west) to Kitchener, Dianne’s old stomping grounds.

The first stop was at the plumbing shop, to pick both kitchen and bathroom fixtures. After yesterday’s total oversight in picking granite for the bathroom, we weren’t going to make the same mistake twice. We would be selecting bathroom options as well. In fact, this is where we started. Although for reasons that remain baffling to me, however, I neglected to take any pictures. But rest assured that we have managed to select some awesome choices.

The bathroom is going to have an old world, very traditional feel to it – hence the marble tile options that we began with yesterday. On the drive out to Kitchener, Dianne and I built on this idea – the concept is a traditional bathroom vanity, of the sort that might have started out life as a sideboard or cabinet. It could be a new vanity, or could even be a refinished antique. Top with a marble undercount sink, and paint a funky rich colour (a deep, antique blue, perhaps) and call it done. Which leads to some pretty traditional taps and faucets as well. Fortunately, Grohe makes a pretty decent line of traditional-looking faucets that will work pretty awesomely in both the sink and the bathtub. Extend those throughout, and we still need to find a vanity and an appropriate slab of granite, but the essentials are in place.

As far as the kitchen goes, decisions were equally straightforward. Dianne saw and immediately fell in love with a white, porcelain fireclay farmhouse sink. Despite looking at a number of other potential sinks, ranging from stainless steel to cast iron, she was not to be swayed. Add a traditional-looking faucet, and we pretty much had a kitchen finalized. And so, plumbing dispatched in relative short order, it was on to lighting.

Lights are, no doubt, going to be a different story. We have several fixtures to buy, in some instances for rooms that we haven’t done a lot of planning and design for. We need pendant lights for the kitchen, sconces for the bathroom, a new chandelier for the dining room and also a light for what will become my den (it used to be the formal parlour of the house, and has a horrid 1970’s style bedroom flying saucer light in it currently.

We started at Urban Lights in Kitchener, a cool little store in a strip mall on the east end of Victoria avenue. Much of their selection is fairly modern and contemporary, so there was an initial question of how much we were going to find for the house. For most of the house, we are looking for more traditional pieces – or at least pieces with a traditional feel.

We started with the pendant lights for the kitchen. Urban Lights has a line of low voltage pendants that come in a wide variety of colours and shapes, from Wilmette Lighting. They take the traditional idea of a low voltage bendy track and ramp it up several notches in terms of style and flexibility. We considered a variety of shapes and styles, but didn’t quite get the right colour or the right style, until Gene discovered an awesome Victorian-style pendant in a corner (called, coincidentally enough, a Mini Victorian Pendant). These will hang either side of the range hood over the island, providing task lighting while cooking.

For the kitchen – a nice, classy Victorian pendant

For the bathroom, we wanted something simple in a sconce, that would again provide a traditional feel that would accent the marble tile and chrome taps that we had already selected. While we looked at some more ornate sconces, including some in an antique finish, and others with much busier designs. We finally selected a plain, simple sconce in a chrome-like nickel finish that match wonderfully with the options we have already picked up.

For the bathroom – a simple, clean, bright sconce

My den was more of a challenge. My design spec, in all humorousness, was ‘dangly but manly’ (take that as you will). I wanted something chandelier-like and with some substance, but that wasn’t frou-frou. Urban Lights definitely had some options, including some Restoration Hardware-ish lights that wouldn’t look out of place in the lair of a super hero who spent way too much time watching Home & Garden TV. Truth be told, however, these were a little too imposing for what I was hoping to find.

Designed to appeal to those with a taste for the industrial steampunk look…

What I did find, though, was a beautiful hanging light in a bronze finish. It has beautiful, old-looking dimpled glass and a nice clean finish that, paired with an Edison bulb, looks spectacular. And not too out of place with the plans for the rest of the den.

The ultimate choice – manly and dangly, but respectable

One store later, and we have kitchen pendants, bath sconces and a manly-but-dangly light for the den. What still remains is the chandelier for the dining room. Nothing really stood out for us today, but we were dealing with a smaller collection, we haven’t really developed a clear picture of what we want, and we have time on our side. So that will be a project for a different day.

In two days, though, we have picked the majority of the pieces that we need – granite for the kitchen, flooring and tile throughout, lighting for most of the rooms and plumbing for all of the rooms. What remains is granite for the bathroom, an appropriately funky vanity and a chandelier for the dining room. Which simply means we have to go shopping again.