Back in the day, my wife and I bought a 120-year-old Victorian house because, well, we were stupid. It was after buying that house that I first learned what the word “patina” meant.
It was a beautiful Queen Anne Victorian, complete with a large, wraparound front/side porch, a turret, curved glass windows around the turret, and several stunning stained glass windows. Years earlier, this majestic home had been broken up into three apartment units and the guy who last purchased it was in the middle of converting it back to a single-family home when he ran out of money. So he put it on the market.
My wife always loved the classic look of Victorian homes, and when she saw that one was for sale, she had to have it. I knew it was going to be a money pit, but you know — “happy wife, happy life.” We got a great deal on it because of the seller’s financial difficulties.
Unfortunately, in restoring the house back to a single-family home, the owner decided to do it on the cheap. He installed basic Home Depot light fixtures throughout, painted all of the magnificent original woodwork, and essentially remove all of the house’s Victorian character and charm.
Long story short, it took us two years and almost double what we originally paid for the house to restore it to the beautiful Queen Anne Victorian it had been in it’s heyday, both inside and out.
So, back to patina. My wife wanted to replace all of the cheap Home Depot light fixtures the previous owner has installed with “Victorian era” lights. We didn’t have the budget to purchase new, Victorian reproduction lights, so I spent a lot of time on eBay looking for electrified Victorian light fixtures.
I actually found quite a few for sale. Most of the eBay listings described the light fixtures as having “original patina.” I asked my wife if she knew what that meant and, always the teacher, she explained to me that patina is a thin, usually green layer that forms on copper and bronze when exposed to the air for a long time. “All you need to do it polish them a little before you hang them.”
But I learned what the word “patina” actually meant after opening a few of the boxes in which these “original patina” light fixtures were shipped. It means “covered with dirt, grease, and grime and shipped in a box that often contains mouse or rat droppings and dead bugs.”
The good news, though, is that I taught myself how to completely rewire non-working, electrified Victorian era light fixtures.