Monday, January 13, 2014

I made an Ikea hack!

Have you heard of this thing?  Where you take an Ikea product that is not cool enough and you make it cooler?  So that you can be all groovy and DIY and too cool to want something from Ikea in your house unless you went nuts on it first and made it DIFFERENT?  Yeah, it's pretty silly.

Why is my version better?  Correct answer: it definitely isn't.  Partial credit: because I actually really liked the inherent Ikea product; I didn't need to re-brand or conceal it to make it OK.  It just needed one little element it didn't have to make it work better, and I supplied that element in what I, and only I, think is a fabulously brilliant way.  For this reason, it will be the least interesting Ikea hack ever.  Nothing dramatic is happening here.  In fact, you should stop reading now.  This is not remotely worth your time.  OK?  Good.

So I bought this from Ikea:

It's a $15 plug-in wall sconce in a brushed nickel sort of color.  Like all Ikea products, it's very modern, but like many Ikea products, it has the design elements of quite a traditional piece.  I decided that it might be a brilliant way to get us each bedside lights.  I'm not super-happy with the lamp situation we have going on presently.  Plus, our room has gray and white damask wallpaper, and pictures with silver frames, and I thought this would coordinate nicely.  Not taking up valuable night stand space (I never have enough) would be a bonus.  And because it's a plug-in, I wouldn't have to put a hole in the wall for wiring!  On the other hand, because it's a plug-in, there was going to be an Unattractive Cord Situation.

I kept it in the box for, oh, a month or two while I weighed the pros and cons (and forgot where I had put it).  I came up with a vague notion of what I could do to improve it, after I noticed some more expensive plug-in sconces that didn't have my light's drawback:


And I began to ponder.  Then, as my magical Christmas break was winding to a close, I put finishing the sconces on my to-do list.  The to-do list has check boxes next to the items.  I find check boxes intoxicating.  Therefore, over the list hovers a great, dark, impending cloud of doing.  Whether the sconces were actually a good idea for the room or not (a subject on which I am able to form no coherent opinion) was suddenly irrelevant.  They were going to get done.

It had occurred to me that at one point I had some of these plain-Jane cafe curtain rods from Target:


I was no longer using them to hold curtains (I believe I replaced them with something that could hold a bit more weight), but I was happy to discover that I had, in fact, kept them around, as being an inherently useful object that it would be wrong to throw out - just in case I came up with a use for it and suddenly didn't have it.  Thank goodness!  Because I had the brilliant idea that the tube part of the curtain rod could cover up the cord to my sconces (well, one sconce.  I figured if I liked the first one, I could buy another for the other side of the bed).  That is brilliant, right?

Anyway, first I had to get the cord through it.  But the plug was too large.  So first I took the back off of the sconce so I could free the wires from the fixture and thread the wire end through the rod.  Whereupon I discovered a problem.  Ikea used special wire nuts inside the fixture:


See how it's a bit pinchy in the middle?  Also, it's smaller than an ordinary wire nut.  Ordinary wire nuts look like this:


(Of course I have a bag of them on hand.  I need them.  For wires.)  For those not familiar with wire nuts - see the silver part on the inside?  It's threaded, so when you put the twisted-together ends of two different wires you're trying to join into the little cap and twist the cap, the wires are tightened together!  Isn't that clever?  I think it's seriously ingenious.

Anyway.  Ikeas wire nuts do not work like that.  It appears they're meant to be one-use sorts - they put the two wires in, then they crimped it really hard, the wires never come out again.  (Ordinary wire nuts are re-usable.)  This is sort of brilliant for inside a plug-in fixture, because then the wires can't actually come loose.  Generally, that would be a great safety feature.  In this case, it was a royal pain in the neck.  I tugged as hard as I could, and I could not get those wire nuts off.*  Eventually (slowly and painfully), it occurred to me that I could just cut the wires.  Then I could strip another half inch of wire and twist the newly bare sections together:


I elected to use electrical tape to secure my new connections, because (as mentioned) the Ikea wire nuts were super-small, and I thought the ones I had would take up too much room in the back-of-the-lamp area.  Of course, I re-connected the wires after feeding the newly-freed cord through the curtain rod:


Here is a close-up, since my lousy photography is totally unhelpful:



See?  How it has a curtain rod on it now?  And how I could never have fit the plug end through the curtain rod?  A partial victory.  The next part, of course, would be getting the rod to stay right up against the fixture once the fixture was hung up on the wall - rather than sliding down along the cord.  Where I had thus far proceeded with tidy, perhaps even mechanically sophisticated methods, I decided that for this part, I was willing to embrace the kludge.  First, I wrapped duct tape around the part of the cord that emerged from the rod when the rod was all the way against the fixture.  Then I hung the fixture.  Then I pushed the curtain rod all the way up, wrapped a twist-tie around right under the bottom edge (on top of my initial layer of duct tape), and then wrapped the twist-tie with more duct tape.  Like so:


I had actually measured so that the rod part would hang about down to the baseboard.  (If it hung further, the baseboard would push it away from the wall, and it would hang at an angle - no good.)  And now, the top looks like this:


Very successful, if I do say so myself.  In my humble opinion, it now looks like a much more high-end lamp.

As I say, I'm agnostic on whether it actually looks decent in the room.  I put it in the only location I could come up with, given that I had to work around the length of the curtain rod, the placement of my night stand, and the headboard, and make the pull-chain reachable, and have the light in a spot that wouldn't interfere with objects on the night stand.  And I'd still like to put them far enough apart that a future owner could use a queen bed frame on this wall (ours is an antique double modified for a queen mattress).  I intend to leave the sconces there if we move, because (a) they're not very expensive nor unique, (b) I imagine they would appeal to a lot of tastes, unlike some of my decor and (c) I had to put holes in the wallpaper to get them on the wall.  But I may have to fuss with that wall a bit before I like how the thing actually looks.  If I ever do.  That's a pretty lukewarm endorsement.  How about this: I totally think this would look awesome in your room, if you do a better job mapping out its placement than I did!

Sharing my little project at Susan's Metamorphosis Monday

* That is not appropriate.  You should be ashamed of yourself.

1 comment:

  1. Looks great! We need something like this, but I am too chicken to really make the commitment to sconces ;-) I love your hack- along with your entire house renovation so far :)

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