14 February, 2008

Tweaking the Nipple Light and a Bit of Chicago Architectural History

I don't know if it's an industry standard term, but I first heard these blah and boring lights referred to as nipple lights by a contractor five or six years ago; the name stuck, and I've called them nipple lights ever since. They're absolutely awful, and we have one in our front entry stairwell, although its days are numbered.

The Box House stairwell is dimly lit. Despite the fact that the front door has a small glass window--complete with bullet hole, I noticed the other day--and a larger window on the second level, there is not a whole heck of a lot of natural light.

In front of the doorway to each unit is an incredibly fun and funky vintage light fixture, which I'm going to deem as 1920s or 1930s Spanish Revival. They're the very first things I fell in love with when stepping inside The Box House. The lights and the original gray-and-red tile in the entry had me at hello. Unfortunately, the lights don't cast much actual light.

The light in front of the door on the second-floor unit.

A somewhat better view of the lights; this is in front of the door of the first floor unit.

Our entryway tile. The chiminea we picked up in Antigua, Guatemala, and somehow carried him all the way back to Chicago without breaking. The Indian head comes from the original facade of the Merchandise Mart in downtown Chicago. There were once fifty six terra cotta American Indian chiefs that circled the center tower of the Mart; they were three and a half feet wide and seven feet tall. Unfortunately, they were all removed and, according to the Merchandise Mart history page, destroyed in 1961 to put up clean-looking and modern concrete plates. We found "Chief" at an estate sale; the woman's father had been involved in the demolition of the terra cotta facade, and managed to save this piece.

Chief's original home.

The P.O.s must have felt the same way we did, that there wasn't enough light, because next to the beautiful lamp on the lower level is this brightly glowing nipple light. It does give off more light than the Spanish Revival fixtures, but it also detracts from the overall vintage character of the entryway. We found a matching one in the basement, still in its box, which leads me to believe it was purchased and installed recently. I don't know yet if it was to replace another fixture or if new wire was strung through to install it; we'll know when we take it out. Is it me, or does it just look awkward? Or maybe I have a bias against nipple lights to start with?

New and old.

I agree with the P.O.s that the stairwell does need more light. Although replacing the nipple light is hardly a priority, I found one I liked at Lighting Universe. Its twisty iron look complements the fixtures already in place, and look--it's completely flat without any weird nipple-ly things clinging to it. With a mere six-inch profile, Ted won't hit it as he goes upstairs. I ordered it today and it should be on its way!


Rae said...

Until I read this post, I was starting to think I'm the only person in the world who calls them 'nipple lights'!

Anonymous said...

The first time I heard them referred to as anything anatomical was about five years ago from one of my college professors. She called them "boob" lights!

Amalie said...

I recently did a nipple lights post too!

I'm sorry, but I turn into a 14 year old boy every time I come face to face with one of those. They're the most giggle-inducing lights I've ever seen, and for some reason, they are almost the only thing in an affordable price range that exists in the big box store.


Joanne said...

Anonymous--I hadn't heard "boob" light before, but it's so obvious, isn't it? *Snicker*

Amalie--I went to your nipple-lights post; it's actually a nice light, and you're right, not too nipply.

Raven--I've gotten more and more people to call 'em that. Maybe we'll start seeing manufacturers actually advertise them as such?

Anonymous said...

Have you tried putting a "whiter" bulb in the fixtures that don't put out enough light? I'm always amazed at how much brighter it seems when I use the GE Reveal light bulbs rather than a Soft White - even though the wattage is the same. And check the fixture for an indication of maximum wattage - you might be able to use higher wattage bulbs. That might give you enough light without having to have 2 fixtures side by side. Of course that means having to patch the ceiling when you remove the nipple light. Maybe creating more work for you isn't such a great suggestion....forget I said anything!

I hope you are able to donate the nipples to someone that will appreciate them - maybe a family with preteen boys?

The replacement you found is lovely - if we weren't moving soon I might be tempted to replace some of our ugly ones with some from that line.


Joanne said...

Cheryl--I tried putting in those environmental bulbs, the kind that give off the equivalent of 100w but only use 13w. They're definitely brighter, but because our stairway curves its way to the top, making four turns to the left along the way, neither of the old fixtures light the middle portion, no matter how bright the bulbs are. It's very gloomy, and the treads themselves are narrow on one side throughout the turns, so the staircase definitely needs a third light.

I'll probably re-use the nipple lights in the basement when we re-do some of those rooms. I don't care for aesthetics as much down there. :-)

Joanne said...

Whoo-hoo! Just Googled Nipple Light today and this post is at the top of the results!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post. I was trying to explain to a coworker what these lights looked like.

These lights aren't horrible, it is just that they were in EVERY flipped house that I looked at a few years ago. Cut every corner and be as cheap as possible, buy the nipple lights in the three pack! Ugh.

Joanne said...

Arghh. You just reminded me that I have yet to change out this light. The one I bought last February didn't really work in the space, so I've been staring at this nipple light for the last six months.

Anonymous said...

Ugh. My father-in-law always refers to them as nipple lights and it drives me nuts. I want to slap him every time he says it. Ok well maybe I jut want to slap him anyway.

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