Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Labor Day Giveaway: What a Difference a Shade Makes

Are there any fans of A Christmas Story in the house? Don’t hate. You know you love it, even if they play the movie on TBS everyday from Thanksgiving until Christmas, and all day Christmas day. You’re probably wondering what this holiday tale of Ralphie and his quest for a Red Rider BB gun has to do with a Labor Day Giveaway? Well, to be honest, not a whole hell of a lot. However, I keep thinking about the scene when Ralphie’s father comes home to find his mysterious “major award” marked Fragile (must be Italian) on the front porch. After eagerly prying open the wooden shipping crate, he delicately removes the emerging, now infamous in American pop culture, leg lamp. The look on Mr. Parker’s face with a mix of pride, excitement, and eagerness to display the leg lamp and its radiant glow for all of the neighborhood to see is one that’s hard to forget. It’s also an expression I mimicked last night after receiving some great news from one of my favorite local Cville specialty shops. The best part? The new addition to the bungalow is not an illuminated thigh, wrapped in fishnet stockings, supporting a silk shade, trimmed in burlesque fringe. It’s way better.

First off, my office was open on Labor Day, so hooray for laboring on Labor Day. Needless to say, I probably wouldn’t have even remembered it being Labor Day if the NBC 29 News crew didn’t continue to drop phrases like “your Labor Day forecast” and “be sure to perfect your macaroni salad recipe for Labor Day.” Great, not only am I at work, but I’m being taunted by local news personalities. I guess it wouldn’t be the holidays if there wasn’t some form of obligation and someone didn’t get their feelings hurt. Happy Holidays. However, I digress.

While I was thumbing through some old messages on Facebook, I remembered the mentioning of a Labor Day Giveaway from the Shade Shop & Lighting Gallery in Charlottesville, a great, local establishment specializing in lamps, chandeliers, shades, and lighting design. Seriously, folks. If you love lamps and the art of lighting like I do, the Shade Shop would be the equivalent of a Porn Shop. Although, you won’t want to leave the Shade Shop with your purchase in an unmarked, brown paper bag. Anywho, a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to vote for a lamp that would be given away in a drawing to loyal, Shade Shop facebook fans for Labor Day. There were two lamps to choose from, both of which were beautiful and unique in very different ways. While I would have been honored to win either of these amazing Shade Shop lamps, one really spoke to me. The other lamp? Well, it reminded me of a time I was shopping with a dear friend. As you can imagine, being the gay friend, I’ve often found myself outside of many women’s dressing rooms, offering my “honest” opinion about debated cocktail attire, if one’s butt looks large in a pair of Rock & Republic jeans, or whether one is too old to pull off something designed by Mylie Cyrus (just in case any of you were wondering the answer to this question, unless you are Hannah Montana herself, the answer is Yes, you’re too old.) My friend emerged from the dressing room of a major department store in a black cocktail dress, seeking my unbiased, and honest opinion. My response? “It’s a pretty dress. It's just not your pretty dress. It’s somebody else’s pretty dress.” It’s a pretty lamp, it's just not my pretty lamp. It’s somebody else’s pretty lamp. So, I casted my vote for the lamp that “spoke to me” (and by “spoke to me,” I mean the lamp I selfishly thought would look really great in bedroom number 2 of the bungalow with its juxtaposition of masculine steel, soft curves, airy negative spaces, and large, textured, linen drum shade that goes on for days.)

Upon looking back into the contest, I discovered the lamp I voted for and secretly lusted after, had been chosen for the Labor Day Giveaway. To win this coveted metal lamp, retailing for $298.00, the next step was to post a photo of your favorite desk/task lamp on the Shade Shop’s facebook page, and hope that your submission would be drawn from the entries. After a Labor Day full of labor, I took a quick 2 minutes to post a picture of a white Jonathan Adler horse head lamp I have an interior design crush on and went about my evening. After going about my Tuesday and recovering from my exciting Labor Day (sarcasm noted), I was met with great excitement and surprise when I received a message ala Facebook saying I was the winner of the beautiful lamp from the Shade Shop! I was very eager to get it home, plug it in, and enjoy this functional piece of art, all of which I quickly did.

The Shade Shop & Lighting Gallery really is a Charlottesville treasure (and not just because they gave me a $298.00 lamp for Labor Day.) My family has been in the men’s haberdashery/department store business since 1915, so I’ve always grown up with an appreciation for the local businessman and hometown customer service. I really believe in trying to buy locally and support local businesses whenever possible. Unfortunately, I think the art of true customer service and pride in one’s product is becoming a lost art for many. However, the Shade Shop does more than preserve all of these principles. Hell, when I went to pick up my lamp, the ladies on staff practically cheered for me (and I most likely wasn’t going to be giving them any money, that’s customer service with a smile!) Not to mention, they carry an extensive collection of beautiful, unique lamps, shades, and lighting fixtures. They’re definitely worth a long look!

The meaning in the mayhem: Maybe a new lamp isn’t in the budget, and you aren’t in the market for a new showpiece to dangle above the dining room table, but you can still take advantage of more affordable fixes and upgrades. A new shade and finial can totally transform the look of your tired old lamp. Small, black, raw silk or paper shades can even transform a basic, builder’s grade brass chandelier. And let’s face it, shades get damaged and worn out over time, so why hang on to a cracked and stained lamp shade that survived your parent’s 1975 neighborhood fondue party and still adorns that avocado green lamp in the living room. Switch it up and switch it out! Just keep in mind the proportions of your lamp and your shade. Example: A larger drum shade can balance out a lamp with a wider body/base. See what a difference a shade makes?

Images lifted from The Shade Shop & Lighting Gallery

The beauty in the breakdown: Don’t be afraid to put your name in the design hat. We often think, who really wins these things and we don’t even bother to enter. Just ask Tiffany Gutshall of Charlottesville, who less than a year ago said “who wins these things?” as she entered to win a paid honeymoon to Fiji from a bridal magazine. Who wins these things? Tiffany Gutshall wins these things, and she and her groom Coleman have the photos of their honeymoon to Fiji to prove it. So put your name in the hat next time. What do you have to lose? Maybe 2 minutes of your life. What do you have to gain? A beautiful, unique lamp that might be outside of your everyday budget and one that you’ll enjoy for years.

So, thank you, Shade Shop for making my Labor Day a little less laborious, and for making bedroom number 2 a littler sexier and a little sleeker, and for making Cville, simply, a little brighter.


While this may not be the permanent "new home" or final resting place for the new Shade Shop lamp, I thought it was a great match for the soft grey walls and dark furniture of bedroom 2. The lamp is featured on an antique dresser my parents purchased for me as a child from an estate sale. The top of the dresser is covered in pages from a few, old, collapsing, wayward volumes of an encyclopedia I picked up from a thrift store in the "free! take me!" box. I chose pages that I thought would add to the masculine feel (as well as pages that had significance to my life, e.g. Thomas Jefferson, rugby, liquor laws, jazz, etc.) They're all protected under a piece of glass, custom-cut to fit the dresser top.

The lamp is coupled with a vintage mesh seltzer bottle (purchased for less than $15 from Circa of Charlottesville), an antique Georgetown Relay trophy (purchased for less than $30 from And George of Charlottesville), my favorite sunglasses, and a hexagonal lantern (purchased on sale for $9 from West Elm in Richmond-- to balance the weight of the lamp. What's in the lantern? My first pair of saddle shoes from childhood. Why? I'm not a huge candle guy, so sorry if you come visit and my house doesn't smell like vanilla or fields of lavender. I think lanterns provide a clean, modern alternative to display cases and the curio cabinets of yesteryear. I'd much rather see a clean, modern lantern full of a few treasured childhood keepsakes or travel mementos vs. a cherry corner cabinet full of China Dolls, Precious Moments Figurines, or Willow Tree Angels. Who's "Baby Got Back" on the wall? He's a reprint by one of my favorite photographers, Bruce Weber. I think this print is proof you can show a little skin without being revealing and bawdy. Well, I neva!

I like the consistency of grey and silver tones, and mix of heights and textures in this grouping. While it may seem like a lot of items on one table, the design of each piece lends to an open feeling (e.g. the open spaces in the lamp and being able to see the wall/print through the glass of the lantern.) Who says you can't pair a $298.00 lamp with some consigment/thrift store finds and hand-me-downs?


  1. This is great, Ed! As a new C'ville resident myself, I am glad to get recommendations to all the great places from an old friend. Plus, your writing is pretty hilarious, though I'm surprised there was nary an "I Love Lamp" Brick Tamblyn shout-out in this entry.

  2. ED!!!!
    OMG! Thanks so very much for the 'sposure!!! I'm going to be sure and have YOUR blog connected to OUR blog at http//

  3. hahaaha i just googled myself and noticed my shout out...thannks! how did i miss that before!