life in a tiny apartment.

February 28, 2019
a paper and string lamp above a wooden table | reading my tea leaves

Tip #182: There’s not a before or an after, only an in-between.

For the most part, when we get peeks into the places that other people live, we’re given at least the impression of seeing a finished space. When we look at a beautiful gallery of so-and-so’s renovated East Village apartment or so-and-so’s Provincetown Cape, we’re seeing the styled end result of countless hours of choice and decision making and professional opinion—to say nothing of the heavy lifting and physical labor—wrapped into one well-appointed and beautifully lit package.

Despite knowing that the route from before to after is anything but straight, we’re so rarely given a look at the slow, lumbering, decidedly quirky in-between that it’s easy to believe that for someone else it might be.

Of course things take time, life gets in the way, budgets are tight, choices are many, there’s most often not a professional opinion to be had, just one or two sleep-deprived adults who can’t decide on what to make for dinner, let alone what kind of light they might want to hang over the table.

a paper and string lamp above a wooden table | reading my tea leaves

In case I haven’t revealed enough of my personal quirks over the past ten years, here’s one more: When I’m in the midst of a particularly self-indulgent design query, I like to mock things up. Sometimes I fiddle around with Photoshop, virtually cutting and pasting elements onto pictures of our apartment to see if I might want to make a change. Sometimes I go a decidedly more low-tech route. Right this minute, as you see, there’s a bit of cotton cord and a folded piece of paper pretending to be a hanging pendant above our table.

As I putter around online trying to find the perfect lamp to hang above the table, this cotton and paper version is hanging out instead. I like to ease into new things, to try things out before I take a big leap or make an investment. And in case it’s helpful for anyone else to remember that there’s a whole twisty road between before and after, I thought I’d show you what’s on mine: two tables pushed together to make one, some paper, some string, a bit of tape, and plenty of imagination.

For the curious:

The candlestick and flower frog are both by Notary Ceramics.

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  • Reply Kim February 28, 2019 at 3:02 pm

    Lovely! Your playful “lamp” reminds me of this pendant light by Tudo & Co:

    Good luck with your quest!

  • Reply SEM February 28, 2019 at 3:06 pm

    You know they have durable paper shades like that that you could add to a cord set and bulb. I think you may have designed the perfect solution!

  • Reply Ling February 28, 2019 at 3:44 pm

    I love this sentiment! Also love your mock up of a lamp 😀 I totally thought it was legit! Like the previous commenter, pretty sure you’ve landed on a good design 🙂

    • Reply kimmagee February 28, 2019 at 8:42 pm

      I was also fooled!

    • Reply Rachel February 28, 2019 at 10:00 pm

      Ha, same: I was going to bookmark the pendant to my wishlist! Perhaps this might foretell a future RMTL collab with a lighting designer! 😉

  • Reply Naomi Hawkins-Rowe February 28, 2019 at 8:40 pm

    Personally, I think what you’ve done is lovely. A beautiful piece of minimal art.

  • Reply Lauren February 28, 2019 at 9:32 pm

    Ha, I like your mock-up so much more than anything on your Pinterest board. Agree with the others that I thought it was a real fixture. Well done!

  • Reply Carmella March 1, 2019 at 1:17 am

    The pros mock up all the time

  • Reply Socially Responsible March 1, 2019 at 7:33 am

    I love the mock up lamp, it works so well with the rest of the space !

  • Reply Kelly March 1, 2019 at 10:29 am

    I’d just get a cord and bulb set and use your lovely folded paper, honestly. You can always swap in a new shade later as the mood strikes.

  • Reply Kelly Libby March 1, 2019 at 1:52 pm

    I’m in the twisty road of before and after in my LIFE. It’s a necessary reminder that there is a middle and yup, it’s twisty.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE March 1, 2019 at 2:12 pm

      ditto everyone!

  • Reply Carly March 2, 2019 at 5:06 pm

    This looks like a handmaid’s bonnet!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE March 2, 2019 at 8:04 pm
  • Reply angharad March 3, 2019 at 2:16 pm

    i thought that was an incredibly stylish lamp until i read your post!

  • Reply Julia March 4, 2019 at 12:52 pm

    So funny! I had no idea that wasn’t a real lamp!

  • Reply Maggie January 6, 2020 at 7:46 pm

    Looks like a quieter version of an Ingo Maurer Willydilly! Love the final solution too

  • Reply Jonna July 22, 2021 at 8:54 pm

    You are my spirit animal, apparently.
    Because I straight-up had people not-so-subtly looking like ostriches, while peeking under my mock up light fixture hanging over my dining table. I found a cool old woven basket that was the shape of a half sphere and I strung it up with some soft old rope to see if I liked having a light ( and what sort) in my eat-in-kitchen or if it was more visually distracting to be dangling there. I even had the rope light kit in the garage to properly wire it up, but the mock up just hung there for, oh… I dunno, until we repainted the house to sell it

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