Even as a small child, I knew that the waiting room of my dentist’s office was due for a makeover, what with the slouchy green leather sofa placed below an enormously out of scale woven Mickey Mouse tapestry, mounted upon glossy beige walls. The carpeting was a black and white flecked shag number, laden with the smell of fluoride and drenched in children’s tears, stapled over enough carpet pads to give the illusion of walking on a pillowtop mattress. It was the sort of place one could tell was designed to make children comfortable, which only served to put me more on edge. After all, this was a house of medicine, not Discovery Zone, and I longed for it to be treated as such.
We had this ritual at the dentist, wherein we were afforded the opportunity to choose our fate by selecting one of two distinct treatment options: “the easy way, or the hard way.” The easy way was simple enough to understand: once perched on the avocado-green pleather exam chair, we were to remain calm and accept whatever form of torture was bestowed upon us, hoping we’d emerge alive but armed with the knowledge that if our deaths did come to pass, we’d at least go with our honor and dignity intact and be remembered for our good-nature and obedience. The hard way was significantly more mysterious—what would happen if we chose not to comply? Would they spank us? Would they not give us a lollipop at the end? These are big questions when you’ve only lived for half a decade, so I took it upon myself to give it a try at least once.
I committed to the act with admirable devotion, maniacally screaming my way into the exam room, mustering all my strength to wriggle free of my captives. Once forced into an exam chair, I rocked back and forth angrily, unclenching my tightly-wound jaw only to emit a series of high-pitched, tortured wails. This, before a doctor or glimmering, vibrating tool had even approached me. Eventually, I heard somebody give the command: “strap him down.” Catalyzing a renewed wave of rage, I howled in agony and kicked a nurse before all of my limbs, thighs, and torso had been tied down with the aid of rough velcro restraints. And that, my friends, is when they administered the electric shocks.
In reality, no pulses of electricity were sent to my brain, but I do remember lying there and wishing I could call the whole thing off. I was still crying, but now they were tears of shame and defeat, produced in a longing to undo the damage that had been wrought upon my reputation and ego. I had been a fool, and I longed for the easy way once more.
I think “the hard way” is generally how I approach most home-related tasks. While it’s usually a sticker-shock-induced bout of “well, I could just make that!,” the resulting effect is hours of work I could have spent doing other things—like my dishes, for instance—had I just had the good sense to purchase something pre-made. This is how I’ve come to regard all DIY projects.
So when I decided I really wanted some cute wall-mounted accordion-style bedside lights to go over the new floating teak shelves, I didn’t even hop on my Google machine to try to find some. I knew they’d be pricey, or ugly, or both, and the chances of finding matching vintage ones that wouldn’t cost a month’s rent seemed slim. Besides, I already had a plan. Or, well, an inkling of a plan.
Say hello to the classic IKEA FRÄCK bathroom mirror. We’ve all seen them. We’ve probably all used them. We might even have one, or several. They’re only $4.99, but they’re well-made and super handy for small spaces or a beauty regimen that is more advanced than mine.
That’s a pretty cute light, am I right?
I know I just talked ad nauseam about the virtues of the “hard way,” but actually making these lights was really, really easy. You just need a few simple parts, about 15 minutes, and less than $20.
1. IKEA FRÄCK mirror, with the mirror part thrown away (it just screws on and off of that threaded part at the top)
2. Lamp socket, the kind with a hole on the side for the cord to escape.
3. Adapter Nut
5. Wire. Any lamp wire will work, but since I generally have a phobia of exposed wires and this is, by definition, exposed, I ordered some cute twisted red cloth wire from Sundial Wire. It’s only $1.40 per foot, the shipping was really fast, it’s cute and really nice quality. I’m tempted to order the 250-foot spool, you know, just because. I’ll use it eventually.
6. Tools: flathead screwdriver, wire strippers.
If you’ve never rewired a lamp, just know that it’s basically the easiest thing ever and there are about 8 trillion tutorials on the internet on how to do it. As I am not anything approaching an electrician, I won’t bore you with my retelling and lack of proper terminology. Still, step 1: wire that socket. Any good lighting supply store and most hardware stores should have a good selection of sockets, make sure you get the kind that has a hole for the cord to escape through that’s NOT the bottom hole, since that’s what holds it onto the accordion part. After it’s wired, put the socket back together.
This is the most important piece, and also the tiniest: the adapter nut. At least I think that’s what it’s called. This is the piece that adapts the threaded part on the IKEA accordion base to the bottom of the light socket, so they can screw together tightly. I got mine by bringing the accordion to a lamps store and the employee immediately finding the right piece, so I assume most lamp/lighting/hardware places should have them.
After the adapter nut is screwed on tight, gather the cord in your hand and screw on your light socket.
After the socket is in place, thread the cord through the back of the FRÄCK hardware, between the wall plate and the supporting rod. I made those terms up. I only draw special attention to this because you’ll want to decide which side you want your loose cord to hang on—since these are for bedsides, I wanted the cords to hang on the outside of the accordion, so the cord is threaded in opposite directions on the two lamps. All of this will make sense if you’re actually doing it. My ability to form legible sentences is failing me.
Then, just wire the plug. Again, this is SO EASY (even if you’ve never done it). A monkey could do it.
Once it’s all put together, hang it up and you’re done! I chose to top ours with 25W chrome-tipped bulbs. They aren’t terribly bright, which is how I like a bedside light. All moody n’ shiz.
When they’re not in use, it’s nice to be able to just push them back towards the wall, where they’re completely unobtrusive. Also, having something wall-mounted instead of a traditional tabletop lamp frees up space on the nightstands, which are only about 8 inches deep. More room for books or glasses or mugs or your crystal balls or… I don’t know your life.
I’m super-duper happy with the little lights. All the virtue of having done something “the hard way” (think of the times you get to impress people with “oh yeah, I made those in my free time”!) and none of the actual effort ordinarily inherent in that choice. Which is the best sort of DIY, if you ask me.