inexpensive upgrades

If you’ve ever lived in an apartment you know what kind of accessories come with the territory.  Ugly blinds, questionable carpet, and outdated light fixtures are par for the course.  We can generally find ways to minimize the prominence of those liabilities, but some things just have to change.  Let’s start in the bathroom.
Here is the showerhead that was here when we moved in:
Notice it’s not in the shower–it was one of the first inheritances we rejected!  A quick trip to Walmart yielded this significant improvement, which cost us around $20:
Every day I stand tall under this new showerhead I’m grateful that we removed the original.  It attached right where the base of the new one’s slanted arm begins, so you can see how much height the new one adds.  Bliss for normally-sized people.  (No offense to petite people.)
But we didn’t stop there.  Here’s the thermostat bequeathed to us:
Would you like to guess how efficient it was?  You get five points if you answered, “Not very.”  This was a bit more difficult to replace.  We took time to research updated options, reading Consumer Reports and scouring online retailers for the best price.  Eventually we settled on one available at Sam’s Club for around $60:
I’ll be honest: it’s a little hard to use, but its features are worth the set-up.  We can program it to keep the apartment uncomfortably warm or cool during the day until within an hour of our arriving home.  It also has a vacation setting we use when we won’t be home for a day or more.  We feel good about the fact that we’re not paying for the luxury of warmed or cooled air that we’re not around to enjoy.
Okay, ready for one more?  The light over our dining area left a bit to be desired in my eyes.  Granted, it’s far from the tackiest light fixture I’ve ever seen, but it was so small, so high, and so reminiscent of a shape found in nature that I wanted to replace it with something else.
The question was, what?  I looked in magazines and decorating books for an answer and decided I’d like to find a drum shade.  Pretty soon I did.  It was attached to a horrible lamp at Salvation Army.  The wooden base was dark, deeply carved, and dust-laden.  Even a thorough clean-up wouldn’t have redeemed this beast.  All the same, I liked the shade and thought it worth the $3 they were asking, even if a hideous base was part of the deal.
Then inspiration struck.  Standing at checkout, I realized there was a chance that Salvation Army could sell a shadeless lamp.  So I asked if I could pay the $3, take only the shade, and “re-donate” the base.  The lady made a funny face at me but agreed that yes, if I really didn’t want the working electrical part they could still turn a profit on it.  So I trotted out happily with this lovely textured piece:
One problem: once I had it hung from the ceiling, I couldn’t think of a way to cover the open bottom, which provided an unbecoming view of bare bulbs if anyone happened to look straight up.  Then my friend Beth pointed me to the home-improvement blog Young House Love.  Lo and behold they had done a similar project, the difference being that they achieved efficiency where I had imposed complications on myself.  See their post here.  See how unnecessarily difficult I made things here:
That’s right; I screwed cup hooks into the ceiling and painstakingly knotted four pieces of string to hang exactly the same distance from the ceiling.  John & Sherry Petersik, on the other hand, thought smarter not harder.  Their shade has two crosspieces, but if it had been like mine they’d have just hung it the other way, with the crosspiece closer to the ceiling.  Then they used the old fixture’s finial to hold the new shade in place.  They finished things off with a fabric cover to hide the unsightly bulbs.  I’m inspired.  Next on my list: improve my improvement!
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