After a decade of diligently saving, I’m ready to graduate to PhD-Level Personal Finance. I have investing in companies down pat. I don’t blink twice when the stock market dips. I’ve even broken the rules by buying individual stocks and not regretting it.
Fueled by my home upgrade project, this summer I’ve found myself browsing for other areas to invest in, like design collectibles. And when I say ‘invest,’ I don’t mean that in the literal sense, but in the ‘things that cost a lot of money’ camp.
In June I started hunting for a lamp I really fell for. In July I sent a fateful message to an eBay seller. A month later and my first “acquisition” is in the books.
Welcome home, Caprani Lamp!
The Danish Mads Caprani Lamp
In the past few months, furniture and home inspiration websites have dominated my Internet search history.
Because I can’t even remember how I first came across this lamp.
But when you flip past pages and pages of high-quality, sought-after furniture, you sit up when pieces stand out to you. The iconic Noguchi coffee table is beautiful, but not a must-have to me. Same thing with the Saarinen womb chair.
The Mads Caprani lamp was a thumb stopper. I’d seen plenty of mid-century wood floor lamps with linen lampshades, but none like this. The curved wooden spine, for one. The hanging pleated lampshade, shaped like little paper cocktail umbrellas. It was delicate and organic, but balanced by the cast iron horseshoe base. The lamp was made in the 60s or 70s, but somehow didn’t look dated. And I could see it still looking fresh decades down the line.
Reader, I had to have it.
But other people wanted it, too. After mentions on NY Mag and on Sight Unseen, the Caprani lamp has surged in popularity, quickly added to the lust list of design-minded folks.
And when you’re buying things that aren’t produced anymore, there are only so many pieces to go around. You’ve got to wait for one to pop up online. Then hope you get lucky and snap it up before someone else does.
Let me paint the scene for you for what I realized when I first searched #capranilamp on Instagram and read the comments:
There was a small group of dedicated design enthusiasts perched on a roof like assassins, all scoping the same target.
Everybody’s watching the hashtag on Instagram.
Everybody’s added it to their eBay watchlist.
Everybody’s refreshing Etsy every day.
Everyone’s got the Google alert in place.
Every time the lamp would pop up, it sold within a day, more often within an hour.
How I Knew It Was for Real
Despite the odds, I kept manually checking the sites every day. There were other pieces I was interested in, but I noticed I stopped looking for them. That was a sign for me. Sure, I’ve put plenty of items on my Pinterest wishlist, but that’s hardly a test for a well-loved purchase I won’t regret.
If I look at my past behavior, the success of an expensive purchase depends on the time and effort I’m willing to put into buying it.
Fortune Favors the Bold
For this lamp, there was effort. A fair amount of it.
Sometimes if you want to make things happen, you have to break away from the crowd. This applies to money habits, job searches, business ventures…and lamps. If I wanted to get the lamp at a price I liked, I had to do something different from the other Design Enthusiast Assassins.
After all, when you do things that other people are not willing to do, there’s no competition.
Everybody was bidding up the price of the lamp on eBay, but I saw one listing that no one was touching.
Starting bid was $750. Much more reasonable than other prices I saw. The lampshade was the cream color I wanted.
All original parts.
In good condition.
But it was for local pickup only. And I lived thousands of miles away.
So I thought, OK, fine. Let me just try something.
The lamp was located in a small town in the midwest. The chance of the seller finding a local buyer was slim.
Even though the seller said they won’t ship, I could spend a minute asking them to try. Worst-case scenario is I wasted a minute of my life and I get shot down. Best-case scenario is I get the lamp! At the price I want! The possible upside was huge.
So I sent this:
Once I got this response, I knew it was game over 🙂
After a week went by, I dutifully followed up, and the seller agreed to ship the lamp to me.
But only if I told them step-by-step what to do.
Ah, the small detail I had glossed over: I had no clue how to ship an oddly-shaped lamp or how much that would cost. But if other people have figured that out, then couldn’t I do the same?
At first I felt incredibly stupid, because for the life of me, I couldn’t find a box online that would fit. So I e-mailed other sellers who had sold and shipped the lamp and got valuable tips I would have never figured out on my own.
And because I put in the time to do the research, the estimated shipping pricing worked out just as I had planned, and the lamp arrived in perfect shape.
The lamp tends to be more commonplace in Denmark. So people without a well-heeled Danish grandma have to pay a premium.
I paid a little over $900, including shipping and NY sales tax (oops, forgot about that). The prices I was seeing from vintage resellers ranged from $1,100 to $1,400, which didn’t include shipping or sales tax.
While time I invested in getting the lamp is time I’m never gonna get back, I think it was worth it. The byproduct of all the problem solving is that I learned a new-to-me skill. It’s not riveting, but I could write a whole article about UPS shipping if I want to. And the seller thanked me for helping them gain the confidence to ship larger items.
Where the Money Came From
So, $900 for a lamp wasn’t a line item in the budget. And it’s not like I bought nothing else that month.
But months earlier I had been setting aside $30 a week via Qapital for a pair of Chanel slingbacks. I was going to make that purchase while I was in Europe. When I boarded the plane, I had $750 in the account, ready to go. But shopping ended up not being a priority on the trip, so the purchase didn’t happen.
That meant I could use the $750 for the lamp instead. Which made my credit card bill a lot more manageable the next month. I paid the statement balance in full, and I didn’t have to sacrifice my automated savings goals to do it.
Saving money to spending can seem silly and counterproductive, but it gives me a lot of freedom to make unstructured purchases, guilt-free.
Other Statement Lamps
*Some affiliate links below*
No point in linking to this particular lamp, because it sells out immediately, but here are a few other options I like that are available now, and still make a statement:
- Hay Matin pleated table lamp – Love the green and lavender colors, in particular
- Urban Outfitters Marlie floor lamp – Similar shape, minimalist style, but much less expensive
- CB2 Snake table lamp – A unique style that’s sure to be a conversation starter
- CB2 Big Dipper lamp – The classic arched lamp that adds drama
- Etsy monochrome pink pleated lamp – Super cute, and a great way to add a pop of color to a neutral room
Have you ever fallen in love with an object? How did you know it was meant to be? Any home items you’ve got your eye on?
Feature Image: The Luxe Strategist