In which the author tells you how to run your life -- or at least how to make the most of the fun parts of it.

For instance, inside these pages you will learn how to weather a mortar attack in good spirits; how to avoid booking yourself on the Internet into a bed and breakfast full of twee quilts and dusty tchotkes; and how to plan a dinner party that will stun your guests with deliciousness and style and not destroy your will to live with the amount of work you have to do to pull it off.

These are things I know firsthand, and things people who know me often ask me about (though I usually just book them into bed and breakfasts myself -- identifying ruffled death traps is an acquired skill). I am almost always right about everything (food, style and travel-related, anyway, and often many other things) and if everyone would just do as I say, dinner would taste better, cupcakes would not be dry, your parties would be more fun (for you), and mortar attacks... well, they always suck. I can't do anything about them.

*except laundry. I can't manage my own laundry, much less yours.

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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

OK, I know I promised Special Face But I have a Half-Assed Craft to Share: Industrial Swing Arm Lamp




Ta Daa!

The Problem: My marvelous bed (handcrafted not by me of 4 industrial pallets from the 1920s with a canvas dropcloth canopy) is under the eaves of my roof. We like to read in bed. Affixing sconces to the limited headboard area not an option... you would smash into them at night. Bedside lamp is on my side and I usually close my book first, so then it would shine in my eyes.

The Solution: In Los Angeles a couple of years ago I absolutely fell in love with these Jean Prouve swing arm lamps. There is an excellent DIY tutorial online to make a reasonable facsimile but I am too lazy for it. It requires a blow torch and bendy tools and steel. Fergit it.

I like things easy, like Tonka Toys and Lincoln Logs.

I also like things cheap.
So I hied on over to Fragers Hardware, most fabulous hardware store in the US, and started piecing together copper pipes, elbow joints etc. Then a nice lady found me a lamp kit and I searched and searched and finally found a silver-tipped lightbulb -- necessary so as to avoid blinding.

Here's how you make it!


-One length of copper pipe. You can use the other kind but I think its heavier .. they call it white or electrical pipe. It's silver.

-One pipe cutter. It's like a little ring thing that works like a pasta machine, sort of. You afix it to the pipe where you want to cut it, then turn 1/4 turn, then clamp it down a little harder. Repeat all the way around the pipe a few times until the pipe is cut.

- 2 elbow joints in the appropriate width for your pipe (mine is 1/4 inch I think)

- a pendant lamp kit (no harp)

-2 c-shaped copper things that you screw down to hold the lamp to the wall.

-4 screws

- a drill

-a screwdriver

-a sliver-tipped lightbulb

- all your moxie because you are about to be a light-making bad ass.



1. Cut your pipe into 2 pieces. One will be the swing arm, one will be the "base." Measure how far you want the lamp to swing (3 feet? 4 feet?) and proceed thusly.

2. Thread your lamp cord through the base piece of pipe, letting the plug swing free like a little bird.

3. Affix one elbow joint to the top end of the base pipe. Pull the cord through.

4. Now screw the swing arm into the other end of the elbow joint. and feed the lamp cord into it. You'll have a floppy L shaped bit of pipe.

5. Continue feeding the lamp cord through the pipe. When it comes out the other end, put on another elbow joint and pull the cord through.

6. Follow the directions for threading your lamp socket. It's easy. But you'll need a screwdriver.

7. Now you'll have a finished lamp socket hanging out of your copper pipe. You're almost there!

8. Decide where you want the lamp to go on the wall. Put the lamp down. Hold up one of the C-shaped thingies on the wall where you want it to be and mark the spots where the screws will go.

9. Drill holes with a bit more narrow than your screw. Hold the lamp in place and place C shaped thingy over the holes. Now screw in srews with your screw driver. This works best if you've found a wall stud. If not, buy anchors for your screws and follwo the direction on the package. It will probably involve a hammer.

10. Repeat with second c-shaped thingy. Lamp should now be firmly affixed to wall. It will rotate on the elbow connected to the base (you'll want to make sure those have a snug fit).

11. Read in bed, and swing that bad lamp outta your way when its time to sleep.


lamp in action over bed.

How it attaches to the wall. See? C-shaped thingies.

Total Cost: $30.00

You're welcome.

(yay I'm back!)

(I got the copper to tarnish/go verdigris with a mix of salt and vinegar. didn't take but an hour or so to turn green)


  1. cool. and do we love canvas drop cloths or what...?

  2. we DOOOOOO! I have 2 covering my chesterfield for thesummer. velvet being a little too ... too for august.

  3. Okay.

    Wait. I need a canvas drop cloth for my velvet (davenport) sofa?