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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

a favorite detail: multiple outlets on one switch

 I love lamps.  Nothing makes a house feel cozier.  At last count I was at 39 in the house, not including chandeliers, sconces and picture lights!  For me, a dark house is a sad house...  hence my love of lamps.

When we renovated both the farmhouse and the barn I had the electrician wire multiple outlets to one wall switch -  one receptacle of each double electrical outlet around the room, from locations where I knew I wanted to place a lamp, was wired to one wall switch.  So now in the living room, bedrooms and barn room I can walk in and with one flip of a switch all the lamps in the room come on!    (don't forget that all lamps should be on dimmers- here!)  I have loved having this favorite detail in the house, and wanted to share it with you as I know many of you are renovating/building.

I also wanted to share a favorite lampshade with you, as when you love lamps you also love lampshades!  This large antique Chinese blue and white vase was made into a lamp for the barn room.  It is French wired- meaning the wiring runs down the back instead of through the lamp via a hole drilled in the bottom.  If you drill through the bottom of a porcelain piece you then have to use a base of some sort to sit the porcelain on so that you can angle the wire out through a side exit point to make the lamp sit flat instead of on the wire (in this case a wooden Chinese stand would be the traditional choice.)  I didn't want that traditional look on this lamp preferring a more casual feel, so the lamp was French wired and the vase sits directly on the soapstone topped antique worktable.

 This mica filigree drum lampshade is from Pottery Barn. 
I panicked when I went to PB to link this to the post to find that it said "no longer available", but after calling the store I was told that they have these mica shades in-store only.  They are the same shade, but without the leaf filigree detail.  I highly recommend them as the natural mica casts a beautiful light.  My shade is in "champagne", but it also comes in a darker "amber" color.


  1. what a great idea. I love the ambiance also and dimmers are a must. I also love candles and night lights. I guess I'm just crazy about soft lighting!

  2. Hi Joan,
    I loooove the picture,the colours are great !

  3. Wow! I love the shade, and I also love lampshades, most times spending more on the shade than the lamp...I am also happy to get a peak into the Barnroom...I love this vignette! GORGEOUS!!! I think blue and white is so refreshing!

  4. this post made me burst out laughing. my mother and i have both been accused of having too many lamps in our homes by many a friend and relative. glad to know it is not just us.

  5. OMG Joan, I thought I was the only lighting freak in the world, but now I bow to you my friend and have a request of you :)
    Last week I came across a pair of pretty amazing lamps and for the life of me I am at a complete loss as to what kind of lamp shades they require... I warn you, this is not an easy answer, I think I'm handing you a challenge which I'm sure you will ace! It's on a post from a few days ago titled, Crespi on the Brain. I would be forever grateful to you if you'd pop over and give it a go. I'm dying to see what you might suggest... I can send you more photos if you require.
    Your humble fan and follower,
    La Dolfina

  6. What a pretty and unique fixture. I like french wiring on a lot of glass lamps as well. It would look too off to see a wire running through the glass. That shade is gorgeous, good find!

  7. Brilliant.
    You know, now I read your blog for pleasure, but the truth is, it will eventually be for learning what to do in our new old house.
    This is such a good idea. Even now, in our home here in BA .. we go around the rooms, turning off lamps .. a single switch is brilliant.
    Now to find a buyer here, so we can be buyers there ...

  8. Love the mica shade against the blue and white of the vase. Another beautiful vignette!

  9. Very warm looking...Joan, is there a method for figuring out the appropriate size of a lampshade needed or is it all just what's pleasing to the eye? Thanks, Sara

  10. Hi Joan,
    That's a great idea. We have added outlets when we've remodeled but it never occurred to me to add switches for each plug. I have that same lampshade and love the soft light it offers. Great post.

  11. i'm going to start calling you the lamp lady. you are so good at putting them together. my house needs a joan makeover. i didn't have time to think of all these great wiring ideas when we renovated. i'm lucky i got everything on dimmers - aren't you proud of me?!

  12. This is too funny! Our house was built in 1968 and the genius electrician put all of the outlets in our living room (AND our porch) on one switch. Can't run the sweeper without turning on a living room light! Can't have a water fountain outside without turning on a living room light. Can't turn on Christmas lights outside without.... ad naseum. Glad this idea works for you. However this is a warning to others thinking about going one room switch. Be careful what you ask for!

  13. LOVELY Post:) I really like your blog you have twitter or FB??

    If you want some swedish decor inspiration, you can check out my blog:)
    Have a great week.

    LOVE Maria at

  14. I love the lamp, the shade, and all your amazing ginger jars! I would like to see a photo of the French wiring - I think I understand how it works, but it would be nice to see it in a post sometime...

    Lamps are a favorite accessory of mine as well.


  15. J...great know fanatic! Today is dark and thunderstormy around here...all my lamps on it...and the mica shade! k

  16. Thanks for the tips! Great idea to have all the lamps connected to the one switch.

  17. My custom made blue and white ginger jar lamps are now in my Sisters bedroom. Your images made me think of my sister first and the lovely vases warming her bedside second.... and how much I liked those lamps. Hmmm, I do love her... a lot!!
    Love your collection, especially that some pieces are out of the ordinary.

  18. I have a question regarding the dimmers. I found that since they raise the height of the bulb they are often a problem with the harp, hitting it. This is especially the case if I use the new "swirly" bulbs which seem taller than the old bulbs. Am I the only one?

  19. Do you have any good online sources for lamps? I was actually thinking of doing a post about how horrible lamps are today. I think about 98 percent of them are horrible, maybe even 99 percent.

  20. Yikes! 39 lamps!! Now you've got me thinking! I've only got about 12 . . . but I've been thinking of adding a few . . . LOL!!!

    Love the shade in the photo!

  21. So smart of you about the outlets! That's one of the real advantages of building for yourself.
    Best to you,
    Another lamp lover

  22. That little lamps socket dimmer is pretty cool. We spec wiring outlets like you describe as a matter of closures. It just plain make sense...


  23. @home before dark....

    I had the same problem and finally called an electrician. He was able to fix everything in less than 30 minutes.


  24. You made me just count my lamps; I thinkn I ahve 25 right now. BUT, when we "stage" the house to sell, I am sure some will have to go, but then some will be added cause 2 rooms are being made into bedrooms that we used for other TRAINS for one:):) I LOOOOOVE your lamp, that jar is spectacular. Love the vignette too with the different pots. XO, Pinky

  25. You are so right about the "glow" this lampshades provide, I have these, minus the metal detail, in the same color, and I love the light that comes from it. I can only imagine how the red one must look lit as well. Thanks for sharing.

  26. Sara- While there might be a formula for picking the right size of shade for a lamp, I am afraid I don't know it... it really comes down to what shape and size and material looks right for lamp. But, you've given me an idea to do a post showing a base with different lampshades and talking about the pros and cons!

    Karen- to be clear, I have half of three individual outlets around a room on one wall switch!

    Janet- I "am" proud of you;)

    home before dark- :O

    Maria- I do not, but I know I need to work on that!

    Revi- I will work to show that, good idea.

    Katherine- you are a "very" nice sister;)

    Nancy- I didn't know the swirls dimmed?! Yes, I do know the problem you mention and I sometimes will use a smaller applicance bulb/chandelier bulb when I run into that problem.

    Steve- Since we make all of our lamps from antiques/vintage pieces I do not... sorry.

  27. I'm beginning to think that we are soul sisters. After email chatting with you about conks and decorating with nature, I knew we liked the same things. Now I know that we have more in common, I love lamps too. While I only have a mere 22 in my home, I think I could catch up to you easily. I still look at vintage and antique store for lamps. I think this drives my husband crazy, when he sees me with a new one, he says, "where are you going to put that?" lol

  28. Joan I love all of your lamps especially the ones that you have shown that I believe you said Dan made. Could you please do a post on turning a favorite vase or candle stick into a lamp? I would love to know how to do this!

  29. Great job and that is a mega cool lampshade!

  30. Joan, to me you are the 'Queen of lighting', ever since I saw your lovely lamps in your kitchen. Would love to see you do a post on lamp bases and shades and how to choose the right size etc.


  31. Joan, your lampshade and lamps are so beautiful!!! for the past 20 years, in 2 different houses, I had the electrician specifically place outlets under every window and these were then wired to a wall switch. that way I could place christmas candlelabras in every window and control with just one switch in each room.This saved me so much time not having to plug and unplug the candles!! And we had average of 28 windows in each house. I just didn't think to do it for lamps!!

  32. That's a brilliant idea - I always forget that this can be done - but it's such an elegant (and practical) touch! Gorgeous lamp too! Paula x

  33. ...44 lamps...that sounds ridiculous...but i would not give up a single one...even as an itty bitty child i hated visiting people who had only overhead lights...i would dread the moment when the shadows would come in... they would turn on "the" made me feel sad...and so uncomfortable...strange...i haven't thought of that in years...

  34. Joan, Dan, and Ella: Love this post! Nothing says "welcome" like soft lighting. We have a special lamp, in our family room...Mike's great aunt's brass phone made into a lamp. You lift the ear piece and the light turns on. Cindy

  35. As a photographer friend told me once...."Light is everything!".....smiles

  36. Dear Joan, how can I possibly thank you for your spot on brilliant advice!
    I took one of the drum shades from my den into the living room and held it above the brass obelisk and low and behold... it looked A mazing!
    You are beyond good, you are insanely good. You are a lamp guru and must somehow turn it into a business!
    You have solved what I thought was a huge mystery about what the original shade was. It doesn't matter now because I absolutely love how the black drum shade makes these lamps literally sing. I thought they were nice before but your suggestion brings them over the top, plus they coordinate so well with the brass sconces and their small black shades perfectly.
    I want to give you the biggest hug!!! Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Gotta love blogland, easy to love you!!!
    (Any suggestions where I might find gold lined black drum shades online for a decent price?)

  37. La Dolfina- You are most welcome, I am so happy to haved helped! I do not have any source for anyone I have used recentl, but 20 years ago:) I had my very first black lampshades with gold liners "custom made" in Portland, Oregon at The Rainbow Lampshade shop. I still have them! They've been in business for 50+ years (don't be scared by the homepage of the website;) and I remember they had really good prices for custom shades, so I will throw their name in the hat as a possible source! It's difficult to find places (except wholesale of course) who make "custom shades". Good luck and I'm so exicted to see your fabuolous lamps all shaded up!! Here's the link:

  38. My home also has the multiple outlets on one switch and I love it. I also love your blog, it is my absolute favorite. Thanks for letting us peak into your home. Deb

  39. Great idea. When we built our home in VA years ago...I thought of all those details. it makes it hard to buy a home after that.

    Our neighbors had us over for drinks last night and they spend 6 months of the year in NH. She is president of the garden club somewhere up there...I will email you the name of the town. I told her all about your blog last night and am going to send her a link. Who know...maybe your paths will cross:)

    And I love that shade.

  40. New to commenting.....not new to your blog though!

    I just wanted to relay how beatiful your home is. Makes me want to start all over again. I just posted about my dining room redo and would love your input....if I may be so bold to ask. You put me to shame though! :\

  41. Hi Joan,

    I love your group of blue and white porcelain. The mica shade is the perfect touch.
    Have a great weekend!

  42. I'm going to pretend you shared this just for me! Wink! I'm keeping this tip tucked away for sure! I love lamps and will be adding to my collection in our Franklin farmhouse, because there's very little overhead lighting!


  43. Ok, I've wired a couple of lamps for myself over the years and left the cord coming out at the socket and when my friends asked why I said it was because it was too much work to drill a hole and I called the "Lazy wire technique" lol. And now I find it's actually got a real name and one I like...French wired!

    You rock Joan!

  44. Joan - I stumbled across your blog last week and literally couldn't stop reading. I read your blog from start to finish and like a good book was so sad when I finished :) I am a southern girl from Memphis and have thoroughly enjoyed your posts about the winter weather and life in New Hampshire. Thank you for your blog - I am looking forward to future posts!!


    P.S. Have you read Whistlin' Dixie in a Nor'Easter by Lisa Patton? I was constantly reminded of that book while reading your blog. It's a good one!

  45. hi Pam- Welcome to the blog! Can't believe you read the whole thing;) I have not heard of that book, but I love the title and will definitely check it out... thank you!

  46. hi Pam- Welcome to the blog! Can't believe you read the whole thing;) I have not heard of that book, but I love the title and will definitely check it out... thank you!

    1. I forgot to tell you how beautiful your house is!!

  47. I'm with you when it comes to lighting! As we near the end of our project, the electrician confessed that he's had people ask for dimmers...but no one ever ask for them to be "everywhere" like I did. Even in my laundry room and mudroom. Nothing worse than glaring light. Sometimes you need bright and sometimes you need dim.

    That shade is fantastic...making a note of it. And, I'm so happy to learn about French wiring. Makes so much sense!

    xoxo Elizabeth

  48. I can't have enough lamps either. In fact I'm addicted to lamps. Can't stand overhead lighting! Love your lamp with the mica shade. I'm going to PB today to see if there are any left. Great post! ~Delores

  49. If not too much of an inconvenince, I too would appreciate a photo to show French Wiring. (Thank you!)

    Regarding one switch, great tip! You are such a smarty. :) Know when we moved into this home 'switches' were a nightmare as the sequence of switch to lighting placement were in our opinion all backwards (not to mention the hot & cold plumbing fixtures). It didn't take us long to rectify both. -Brenda-


Welcome! Thank you for leaving a comment; you have no idea how much your comments inspire me to keep writing- I appreciate each and every one. Comments are moderated by me prior to publishing on the blog, so if you don't see your comment post immediately it will be posted as soon as I receive and read it. joan