Mid Century Modern Shelving with Art glass
These rolled steel shelves were moved from our previous location and display our vintage Blenko Mid Century Modern Art Glass collection.

Welcome to the third article in SacMod makeover, an ongoing series about renovating our Sacramento Carter Sparks designed, Streng Bros built home. This month the SacMod makeover tackles lighting solutions.

A SacMod Makeover Lighting Wishlist: Skylights and More Skylights

Although architect Carter Sparks was a fan of incorporating skylights into his designs, most famously with his domed skylights over interior atriums, our Sparks designed home does not have skylights with the exception of one exterior skylight over the front walkway.

Previous homeowners likely put this skylight when they converted the original carport into a garage. The garage conversion created a very long, dark hallway that leads to the front door. As we mentioned in our first article, the front door was also inlaid with stained glass adding to the darkness of the interior. Removing the stained glass was our first project, and it helped bring quite a bit of light into the entryway.

The dark interior of the house is only somewhat tempered by the clerestory windows and exterior sliding doors — some of which were also stained dark brown and lattice work added to break up any light that might come in through the sliding doors. Definitely not period specific!

These dark sliding doors with a nod to craftsman style were in our house when we bought it.

In addition to one day replacing the exterior sliding doors, we plan to add skylights in several of the rooms. We plan to add skylights in the family room/kitchen, an office/guest room as well as additional exterior skylights along the front entryway.

We might even add a skylight in the master bedroom so we can observe the wild turkeys who gather on our roof in the wee hours. Or maybe just to have a good view of the stars.

Since skylights are not in the budget right now, we began our search for ways to lighten up the house.

SacMod Makeover Lighting Finds

As mentioned in a previous post, fans of Mid Century Modern furnishings know that West Elm has a good selection of mid century finds, usually at reasonable prices. We filled in some very dark corners of the house with several lamps from West Elm and they co-exist nicely with our existing Nelson floor lamps.

A tip when buying from West Elm —  sign up for their Keys Rewards Loyalty Program to earn early access to sales and 3% back on purchases not only at West Elm, but also at their other brands including Williams Sonoma and Pottery Barn.

4 Mid Century Modern Floor Lamps
Mid century floor lamps from left to right: West Elm Tripod Lamp, West Elm Arch Lamp, Vintage Japanese-Style Lamp and Vintage Danish Lamp.

But our real finds were the vintage lamps from Scout Living, a Mid Century Modern vintage shop located in the midtown neighborhood of Sacramento. We were very happy to be able to support a local business as well.

Two of the lamps echo the Frank Lloyd Wright and Asian influences in Carter Sparks homes as well as the Gunnar Lindh light fixture designs frequently favored by Carter Sparks in his custom designed homes. And the third is just cute.

Mid Century Desk Lamp
A Mid Century Modern desk lamp works great with this West Elm vanity.

A tip when buying from vintage shops: Try to stop by as much as possible to check for new arrivals. We try to stop by Scout Living every couple of weeks to snag finds at affordable prices. Buying vintage doesn’t always mean expensive.

Restoring Period Authenticity in the Entryway

For the entryway we couldn’t wait to get rid of the light fixture that looked like a medieval torture device. We wanted to replace it with a globe pendant light, which was most likely the original fixture when the home was built.

We weren’t quite sure of the size we should order, though. So we strolled our neighborhood with a measuring tape, comparing all the different sized globes. Our neighbors indulged our trespassing with good humor, and we settled on the 14-inch size which we ordered from Practical Props. Practical Props is quickly becoming our go-to for affordable and good looking lighting in our SacMod makeover process. We had previously ordered our exterior lights, guest room and a light for the office from them.

We installed it ourselves. When we ran into a few snags, we were pleasantly surprised that when we called Practical Props a human actually answered our call and set us on the right path.

Globe Light Fixture omg Mid Century Modern House Entry
This Mid Century Modern globe light restores our entryway to its original look. Inset is a photo of the Brutalist Light Fixture that came with the house.

Let there be light indeed.

A DIY Story

Finally this month, we focused on a project that cost us only $50 but made a big design impact. It also was one that caused the most arguments (so far).

And it was only a bookcase. But not just any bookcase — this is a steel bookcase that weighs about 300 pounds and holds our (mostly) vintage Blenko glass collection.

It was designed by artist David Whippen of Shopfloor Design for our San Francisco loft, and it was never meant to be moved once installed. It attached to the ceiling and the floor and took three people eight hours to install. But the buyer of our loft wanted it out. So, with great effort it was de-installed and stored. We decided to repurpose it and install it in our new home.

The ceilings in our loft were 15 feet high versus eight feet in this house. The shelves attach to poles, and each side has two poles. But with a lower ceiling, each side only needed one pole. We had new anchors cast and painted to match (the $50). We laid the poles on the floor and painstakingly attached each shelf. But when it came time to anchor it to the ceiling and floor, it was just too heavy for us. And due to Covid, we didn’t feel comfortable asking a neighbor to come over to help us out. So we gave up.

We wondered if a listing on Craigslist would garner much interest for such a very site specific piece. We started looking for a bookcase to purchase, but we were put off by the cost.

After a few weeks we were ready to try again. This time we tried a different tactic. We placed all the shelves at the bottom, pushed the piece up, anchored it to the floor and ceiling. Then, slowly but surely, we moved each 60-pound shelf up a few inches at a time. We anchored the shelves on anything we could find.

It worked. And we are still married.

The repurposed bookshelf fits nicely in our Streng Bros. home.

Check out our previous articles about our SacMod makeover here and here.

Of course, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest for more Mid Century Modern inspiration!