The GOLD Pages
{  Your Resource for the Best House & Garden Services  }

NEW THIS ISSUE: Lamp & Lampshade Makers and Repair

Finding good home services is no easy feat. Our search began with mothers, friends, teachers - even the patients and staff at our dentists’ offices. Once we managed to compile a list, we researched the services, pricing, company history, and unique selling propositions of the most highly recommended. We contacted the Better Business Bureau to make certain these firms came up clean, with no complaints lodged. Finally, we checked references and asked ourselves if indeed these were people we’d want to do business with. If the answer was yes, they appear in the listing that follows.

 
Alex Burmeister, A.B. Art & Interior
The Gathering. Showroom 55. 1515 Turtle Creek; 6314 Northwood Rd. 214-770-4822.

A smart retro look now comes in the form of old Blenko glass lamps redesigned by Alex Burmeister. Blenko is a West Virginia-based art glass company that has been making hand-blown vases, vessels, decanters, pitchers, bowls, water bottles, candleholders, and hurricane shades for more than 100 years. These are small-batch pieces in remarkable colors - seafoam, amber, ruby red, emerald green, cobalt blue, topaz, and more. The glass commonly contains tiny air bubbles, lines, or other marks left by the individual craftsman. Collectors of old Blenko tend to be purists who don’t want their vintage Blenko lamps messed with, but Alex feels it’s better to give them a second lease on life by updating them. (Blenko stopped making hand-blown glass lamps a number of years ago). Typically, Burmeister uses clear tubing for the wiring, removes any brass, puts in nickel-plated hardware from the neck up, and sets them on a Lucite base. Among her offerings: an orangish-red lamp in a traditional decanter shape, a large chartreuse lamp, and a grass-green lamp that was originally a decanter.

April Baker, A.F.W. Baker
P.O. Box 764. Hurst. 214-448-9167.

Fueled by a passion for fine art and equipped with a degree in visual communication, April Baker took a job in a lighting showroom in the Design District, working as a staff artist. She saw the growing need for "petite, hand-painted chandelier shades" and "thought it would be a good thing to add them to the mix of decorative items available in the District." Now Baker works out of a home studio in Hurst and showcases her wares exclusively at The Gathering. "I went into business for myself, so I can paint what I want to create - that’s the fun of it." The shades are made of parchment for its versatility - it takes all kinds of finishes, especially paint. We saw an adorable brass-based table lamp with dual red shield shades decorated with scenes of hunting dogs. Shield or half-shades are in demand now, Baker tells us, because they’re sophisticated and space-saving. Designers like to use them next to a console or on sconces, when they need to put lights right up against the wall. Also in vogue are plain mini-shades bordered with half-inch gold-leaf banding.

Charles Birdsong, Shades by Charles Birdsong
5319 Cedar Springs Rd. 214-521-4764.

Charles Birdsong was director of East & Orient for 13 years until the ’80s, when he witnessed the emergence of lighting architects and the concomitant introduction of low-voltage and halogen lights. "Houses were becoming bigger and bigger, and people were spending colossal amounts of money on ceiling lighting. But they soon discovered that from about 84 inches down, the lighting was not as flattering, warm, and nurturing as they expected." So Birdsong went into the business of lighting the room below the ceiling. "I pay attention to how the wiring goes in, the amount of light it gives, and how the shade filters and disperses light throughout the room." He covers the tops of shades with ventilator panels, not because it embellishes the shade but because he doesn’t like looking into bulb filaments; plus, the panels vent heat. Some of his more whimsical solutions: camouflaging track lighting in the ceiling of a 1939 bungalow in Maui with an antique surfboard; turning the shades upside down on 11 lanterns in the gallery of a show house; electrifying an antique chandelier and retrofitting it above the bobeche with crystal silk lilies opened like real flowers; making the candle arms of a chandelier into teacups and saucers that glow when turned on.

Elias Guerrero, John Gregory Studio
1201 Slocum St. 214-741-9859.

Elias Guerrero absorbed the techniques of designing and restoring lamps from French artisans he encountered on his trips to Paris. He joined John Gregory Studio some four years ago to restore antique chandeliers and sconces and to make custom chandeliers with a modern feel. Guerrero explains the process: "Customers come in with their grandmother’s chandelier and ask me to rewire it and make it more interesting." To do so, he graces it with rock, colored crystals, or Murano glass. He makes shades of oil parchment, paper, linen, or other fabric and re-plates them in nickel, silver, or gold. He polishes the fixture, changes out the bulbs, and replaces the sleeves with wax candle covers. What he doesn’t do is beading or trim on shades - clean lines are the studio’s hallmark. Guerrero says, "Most people are afraid of a big change, but once they see other peoples fixtures transformed, they realize that is the way to go." What kinds of lamps are hot? According to Guerrero, those made of abstract sculptural metal, acrylic, wood, or Murano glass.

Linda Swain, Cele Johnson Custom Lamp & Shades
1410 Dragon St. 214-651-1645.

Hard to believe, but this custom lamp and lampshade business with its impeccable reputation among designers is almost a half-century old. Linda Swain bought the business from founder Cele Johnson back in 1976, then 20 years ago bought the building that houses it. One of the perks of the business for Swain is going to a client’s home with a designer to work up ideas. Swain employs six shade makers; an artist who does silver and gold leafing and any type of finish; a man who rewires lamps, sconces, and chandeliers (all UL-rated); and a crafter of custom wood bases. En route to the workroom, we came upon a fabulous Fortuny bronze floor lamp with a fluted parchment shade, carnelian-beaded tassels, and an eccentric mini-light bulb on a cord that hangs down into the shade. We also saw a charming celadon parchment shade bedecked with a rose-colored lily of the valley. When asked, "What’s happening?" she told us, "Lamps from Europe; a lot of Murano glass; laminate shades with wide biases; and newly fashioned wood and acrylic bases."

Mei Yang, Yang’s Double Happiness Custom Lamps & Lampshades
1436 Slocum St. 214-747-8606.
Born in Cairo to a diplomat father, Mei Yang lived all over the Middle East and in Taiwan before settling in Dallas with husband Ali some 18 years ago. After they bought out wholesale importer Crandale, they started Double Happiness Lampshades. A self-described "Chinese vagabond," she has collaborated with many of Dallas leading designers to create custom lamps for a host of celebrities including a golf champion, an Olympic gold medalist, and a world leader. The firm’s primary customers are designers, but they will serve retail customers at retail prices. What you will see are hand-stitched shades made of silk, linen, or wonderful striped or checked fabrics. Some are shirred or pleated, others smocked and inset with tiny gold beads. Some are hand-decorated by resident artist Ebdal, who lines shades with translucent oil parchment to hide the bulbs, then marbleizes, gold leafs, or paints them. They do all kinds of electrical repair and even design their own trims by combining various colored cords.

Robert Rutherford, Rutherford’s
5647 W. Lovers Ln. 214-357-0888.
www.rutherfordsdesign.com.
Bronzed baby shoes. Coffee cups. Cowboy boots. Silver teapots. These are just some of the items Rutherford’s has made into lamps. "Lamps are so personal. Our focus is on having customers bring in their own little treasure, and we will make a lamp out of it," says owner Robert Rutherford. Alternatively, you can bring in an heirloom lamp and have it rewired and rejuvenated with a new shade. The shade may be covered in fabric left over from your sofa or draperies, and it might take two or three gimps to get the color combination just right. On hand are thousands of passementeries to choose among and a seamstress who will trim each one of the spines of the lampshade - inside and out. Some people like their shades simple; lovers of detail will add as many as seven or eight trims. Sometimes they take a bead and apply it, then put cording on top of the bead to tie in to the base. "The newer beads are subtle, charming little things that add beauty to the lamp," says Rutherford. Right now there are no fewer than 25 chandeliers on the floor - old and new. They will restore them, polish them, and add new crystals. Sometimes a customer will come in with an old one to sell and Rutherford’s will embellish it and put it on the floor. Another specialty: making a lampshade out of a christening dress - bead it, turn it upside down, and put it over the light fixture in a guest closet for a little hidden nostalgia.

Roger Contreras, The Gathering
1515 Turtle Creek Blvd. 214-766-4303.

When Roger Contreras’ brother-in-law told him "There’s a job down here at ’The Gathering,’" the self-taught wiring expert made a beeline for the Design District. For a dozen years he’s been electrifying table lamps, floor lamps, sconces, and chandeliers in the District and in private homes. Yes, he makes house calls. "All those wonderful lamps bought in Europe have to be rewired or they’d burn up when plugged into an American outlet," he tells us. He’ll take any kind of lamp and give it new life - replacing sockets, updating wiring, putting in American plugs. To make electrified candle sconces or chandeliers look real, Contreras uses hollowed-out real beeswax sleeves. (Available for sale in four-inch, six-inch, and custom sizes.) Low-wattage bulbs are used to imitate the soft glow of candlelight. Some examples of Contreras’ electric magic: a hand-blown crystal chandelier, a large antique bronze table lamp, and a highly embossed silver ecclesiastical candlestick.

Royal Touch Lamp & Fixture Service
210 Spanish Village. 15615 Coit Rd., Ste. 210. 972-386-9189.
What brothers Terry and Chris Kryger set up as a retail lamp store 25 years ago is now primarily a lamp-repair business. They redirected their focus after discovering that people are so attached to their old lamps, they’d rather repair, rewire, or update them than buy new ones. Why? Grandma’s lamps were usually made in America out of materials superior to those of newer lamps, which are often made in China. When they started out, the Krygers had a repair kit with little drawers housing little parts. Now they have an entire shop full of parts. What Royal Touch does and doesn’t do: They re-cover shades but don’t make shades from scratch; they repair and rewire, but don’t re-plate brass or do porcelain repair; they fix halogen lamps and all types of fluorescents; they carry some accent lamps and virtually any style of finial. One of their largest projects was to build and install "big, old-timey green metal shades" for the Heritage Farmstead’s outdoor lamps. They’re currently backlogged for six weeks, so they’ve cut out repairing chandeliers; they take longer to fix and take up too much space.