When P and I moved into our new place early this past summer, we couldn’t have been more thrilled; after a string of crummy apartments, a duplex my grandpa built for his mother and mother in law (i.e. my Chinese great grandmas) in the 1960s became available, and we jumped at the opportunity to live in one of the units. Our previous apartment was under 500 square feet, dark all day and had paper thin walls, meaning we heard everything our neighbors were up to around the clock, so saying goodbye to that place was easy. Moving into our duplex meant twice the space of our old apartment, including some miraculous finds in Portland’s competitive rental market like our very own laundry room (!) and cozy backyard.
The fact that my great grandma once lived here makes our new home feel all the more special. I feel connected to a member of my family I’ve only heard stories of, and as I cook in her kitchen and garden in her yard I like to imagine her life here. Of course, moving house also means encountering some surprises along the way. A few of those discoveries have been exciting and meaningful; for instance, while tilling the long-neglected soil of our new garden, I discovered a patch of mung beans that had re-seeded themselves and survived over three decades since my grandma raised Chinese herbs and vegetables in the garden. Discovering the flying carpenter ants shredding our wood beamed ceiling and the cat urine-soaked cabinets damaged by the previous tenant? Those were less thrilling surprises to say the least.
We also noticed upon moving in that the kitchen doesn’t have an overhead light source. We put some nails into a beam and strung a $10 IKEA cord set that we’d once used as a bedside light as a temporary measure, and intended to replace it as soon as all our boxes were unpacked. While the clunky white plastic and zig zag fabric of the cord set were fine in our very first apartment, it didn’t fit the look of this more grown up rental. After searching for a permanent solution though, we realized there wasn’t much we could do short of opening up the ceiling and embarking on electrical projects that are more homeowner than renter territory, and decided we’d be happy with the cord set if it were dressed up a little.
I’d wanted to incorporate some copper into the kitchen, thinking it would complement our honey-colored cabinets and white counters, but have resisted most of the copper utensils I’ve seen knowing that the paint will wear off eventually, and potentially get into our food. I don’t have those concerns with a copper pendant light, and having a small metallic accent warms up the look of the kitchen. Obviously, copper > white plastic in any situation! I thought about spraying the cord itself white, but ended up wrapping it in inexpensive off-white cord from the hardware store, which gives it a nicer texture and softer look than paint. The whole project took just a couple hours hands-on time and resulted in a lovely pendant light that’s a thrifty way to incorporate some trends into our home, while also fitting right into our vintage kitchen. Hit the “read more” button for the how to!
- Cord set (I used a Sekond cord set from IKEA)
- Copper spray paint (brass or silver would look great too!)
- Cotton cord
- Hot glue gun or superglue*
- *_You can use superglue for this project, but note that you will need to hold the cord to give the glue time to adhere, so it will take a little longer than using hot glue._
- Spray the base of the cord set with the metallic paint in a well-ventilated area and let dry according to the directions on the can. Turn over and spray the other side, then let dry.
- Glue the end of the cotton cord to keep it from fraying. Apply a dot of glue to the cord set and press the edge of the cotton cord onto it.
- Wrap the cotton cord snugly around the cord set, applying glue every 1-2 inches. Finish by cutting the cotton cord and gluing the end to prevent fraying.