Shady Business

How to brighten up a dowdy room with one- (or maybe two-) of-a-kind lamps and shades



I was in a gloomy mood the other day, surfing the Internet and wishing winter would end, when I stumbled upon Shandell’s, a company in Millerton whose motto is “Things that make you smile.” It turns out that the “things” are mostly lamps and lampshades — not usually triggers for jocularity. But the lamps and shades at Shandell’s are often whimsical, even the dignified ones, and looking at pictures of them actually did make me smile. Not only that, it made me realize how boring my lamps and shades are.

The company’s upbeat owner, Susan Schneider, who launched Shandell’s in 1995, is a former antiques dealer with a fascination for anything old and a passion for recycling. She makes all the lamps and shades herself, with occasional assistance from a local welder and a woodworker. Schneider says she can turn just about anything into a lamp, and demonstrates it with samples running from traditional urns and ceramic jars to original ones made of deer antlers or remnants of ornamental iron and other things less imaginative types might consider rusty rubbish. (It takes a special eye.) I love the pair fashioned from old conveyor-belt chains, welded into a sinuous shape. For the shades, she uses handmade or marbled papers, vintage wallpaper, fabrics, old maps or prints. “Dictionary pages are my latest thing,” she notes. The finished products are nicely trimmed with grosgrain or velvet ribbon, or sometimes copper.

daffodil shadeeuro shade
cobblers map shade

A collection of shades crafted from vintage, hand-made papers or maps

One project involved converting a couple of big, 19th-century cream separators. Schneider added old car disk brakes for bases and made tall, cylindrical shades from tree-bark paper. The result (which you can see at her Web site) is rustically majestic lamps, just right for the barn building they illuminate.

There’s only one thing Schneider has said no to. “A couple came into the shop and the guy asked me if I could make a pair of speakers into lamps, because he wanted to put them at the end of the couch,” she recalls. “His wife was behind him, shaking her head at me, going ‘Please don’t say yes.’ So I told him I couldn’t do it. She’s become an amazing customer.”

Schneider also makes collage wastebaskets, pretty matchboxes, and tissue box covers (which we all need — don’t get me started on “designer” tissues). And she’ll do custom work, as well. “It’s a ton of fun,” she says. Her shop-cum-studio, where she also does repairs, is in a restored gas station.