If Emily Lanterman, the gregarious wife of Dr. Roy Lanterman, could see the condition of the lampshades in the historic Lanterman House ballroom, she would blush a color deeper than the roses that adorn its ceiling.
The 95-year-old shades are badly faded, and the fabric so brittle that bits of silk fleck off upon touch.
"They're kind of a hazard because they are so dry … and they sit right on light bulbs, and we would just rather they not go up in flames," said Melissa Patton, executive director of the museum.
The Lanterman House Foundation Board of Directors hopes to replace the 36 lampshades, which are arranged in pairs on 18 wall sconces throughout the room, by December with donations from community members. New shades will cost $100 each, Patton said.
In 1915, when Emily and Roy Lanterman built the Encinas Drive home they called "El Retiro," each room was decorated by Emily around a specific motif. For example, the dining room has a grape motif with grapes on the light fixtures and chandelier shades, as well as a purple rug.
The ballroom, Patton said, was designed around a climbing rose motif. The walls and ceiling are ornamented with roses, and the swags and the lampshades were originally a pale salmon pink.
"They contributed to the ambience of the entire room," Patton said of the shades. "Everything was designed to work together, the color schemes and the decorative work."
Restorers spent years trying to find suitable replacements. They could not recreate the shades exactly, however, because the original fabric, silk, is highly flammable, Patton said. Two companies created models with polyester materials, but the outcome was subpar.
"They looked terrible; they didn't look anything at all the same," Patton said.
Eventually they connected with Dorothy Gersh, who runs the Cypress-based company Hats for Lamps. She created a sample shade using nonflammable silk. The pink, pleated ruffle shade with a cream-colored lining was a near-perfect match to the ones the Lantermans installed when the house was new.
Now the museum foundation is asking for help to cover the $3,600 bill. Work on the shades, which will be done entirely by hand, is scheduled to begin in September, Patton said. And once completed, the foundation will host a lampshade party where contributors will ceremoniously replace the old lampshade with the new.
"We like to leave in every room a piece of it unrestored, but we don't want to do it in an area where it actually detracts from your sense of the entire room," Patton said. "And those lampshades most definitely detract from the room."
To make a donation, contact Patton at (818) 790-1421.