I have loved incorporating vintage and new light fixtures at our house.
If you’re new to the blog, about 18 months ago we bought a fixer upper that was a late model mid-century. Too late for the super cool mid-century styling we all think of. In fact, this house mostly lacked any interesting character. It was a blank slate for me! Yay, that’s what I love the best! I had plans to turn it into a Colonial Revival with a little farmhouse mixed in. We started the whole renovation in September, 2017 and ‘mostly’ finished it 9 month later. There are still many projects to do and finish, but for the most part it’s done. (You can read everything I’ve written about this Mid-Century to Colonial Revival renovation here)
As I was planning each room, all the way back at the beginning of the renovation, I started looking for and buying light fixtures as I found the perfect ones.
I’m ridiculously picky about what I want to see in a light fixture. I get bored super fast with the same old light fixtures we see everywhere in the stores and online. Trust me, I looked everywhere, and I just didn’t like very many new fixtures. For like one second I’d see a new one and think, “Oh, that’s nice, maybe I could do that for such and such room.” But then I’d see it on another site, and another… before long I pretty much hated it. I’d start to notice the cheap attempts of character the details of the light fixture had.
“Cheap and fake!” I’d be thinking. Which is kind silly if you think about it, so many vintage light fixtures have their own style of attempting character as well, and they’re mostly cheap and fake too, yet my nostalgic mind interprets those attempts as charming, not cheap.
Don’t get me wrong. There is a time and place for new fixtures. I have many in this house now too! All those recessed LED can lights…
Boring! and perfectly boring for this application… some places needed good lighting, but I just wanted the light fixture to blend away. These do just that: LED can light new construction housing and the matching trim needed for can light brand new and they are great! They serve a very important function and they disappear visually, not demanding to be seen. Because they are LED they don’t heat up like like the old can lights would, and LED’s use such little electricity compared to standard bulbs…. plus, they won’t burn out and need to be changed frequently like standard bulbs. So many advantages for these ‘boring’ lights!
As we were renovating the main floor of our house, I didn’t want a decorative fixture to supply all the lighting needs. Instead I only selected the decorative fixtures where I wanted to pull the eye for a focal point, the rest of the lighting was with innocuous fixtures, to serve the needs but not be noticed. Take for example the hallway… it needed light but I didn’t want decorative fixtures on the ceiling there to compete with the hall library and 2 lights there. (here is the link to read how we turned a hall closet into a library)
If I would have used decorative ceiling fixtures on the hall ceiling, it would have made that area just feel busy and taken away from the main focal points of light fixtures that I wanted to emphasize. In each room, I considered the lighting needs and how to make that function the best by using both understated fixtures, like recessed cans that blend into the background and combining that with the more decorative focal point fixtures.
For almost every ‘focal point’ light, I chose to use vintage fixtures.
New light fixtures are easier to use than vintage fixtures. You don’t need to worry about re-wiring new fixtures, they have new standard installation hardware, they even usually come with all the necessary mounting hardware… All that said, you just can’t beat the unique qualities of a vintage light fixture! In our house I did mostly use vintage light fixtures, but there are a few new fixtures that I felt passed my finicky test for some reason. They are even focal point lights and still looked good enough, (even in all their ‘new-ness’) for me to use.
Here is the how and I why I did what I did for incorporating vintage and new light fixtures in our house. I’ll include links, (some affiliate) for as many fixtures or searches for interesting vintage ones for you below the pictures.
The main fixture you first notice when you come in the front door is the large dining room fixture:
This one was a really important fixture to me, because it is so central visually, and I was trying to create a Colonial Revival style to the space. I cannot tell you how many hours I spent online and in stores looking for the right one for here. I was just coming up empty, then totally happened upon this one. It is a vintage fixture I found here.
Sometimes it is a little work, and luck, and good friendship to get vintage light fixtures purchased and installed.
For this one, the gal selling it was about 3 or 4 hours south from my house, BUT… she just happened to be driving right through our town on her way to a cabin on a lake north of us. BUT… when she was going to be going through town, I would be out of town on the east coast. But… I had a good friend agree to meet her on my front porch and do the exchange and bring it into my house for me while I was gone. WHEW! That was a close one, I’m so ever grateful for my friend’s willingness to lend a hand and how that all worked out in the end! Not to mention the patience and willingness to figure out the mounting issues my electrician ran into trying to hang this one.
I love the brass lantern style lights and the American Eagle detail on the top. It’s so unique. I’ve never seen a light fixture like it, and I guarantee it’s not available online in every store.
As soon as I say how much I love the vintage light, I have to bring you back to the kitchen and show you the island light fixture.
It is brand spanking new. There was just something about how it looked that I really liked and even though I’ve seen it around a bit, I haven’t tired of it… I still like it.
Here is where you can still find it for sale: Vintage Style, but brand NEW Pulley Light
Here is where you can find these amazing half chrome light bulbs. They were a game changer for this fixture for me! I have had severe migraines for almost 40 years now. Light is one of the quickest triggers to a migraine for me… just one ray of light in my eye can quickly lead to a debilitating headache. The first regular light bulbs I put in the island pulley light were horrible! They were right at eye level and felt to be piercing my head. Once I changed the light bulbs to these half chrome lights the issue was completely gone. Because the bottom of the bulb is chrome, the light shines up and reflects more gently off the inside of the shade than it would if it were pointing straight out.
Speaking of kitchen lighting,
I love and highly recommend this exact LED under cabinet lighting.
They’re not much to look at, and they’re not meant to be. They do offer great lighting though! These under cabinet lights are LED, are linkable, are dimmable (comes in many different lengths to fit your cabinet) and makes a world of difference for lighting in the kitchen. The fixtures are thin so they are hidden when mounted up under the bottom of the upper cabinets.
So see, I’m not a fool with only using vintage light fixtures. I want the actual function of the lighting needs to be fantastic too! Sometimes new is the best way to go for certain applications.
Looking from the kitchen, towards the dining room and fireplace, you can see 3 light fixtures, 2 are vintage, one is new, they compliment each other, but don’t feel ‘matchy-smatchy’.
The pair of toleware vintage sconces flanking each side of the fireplace are so unique:
I had these at our last house and just stuck candles in the place where the light bulbs are supposed to go because they needed to be re-wired. (You can see them in this post about the breakfast room) At this house though, I for sure wanted to use them, with working electric, above the fireplace. I designed and planned the new wooden chase around them! (you can see that Fireplace renovation here)
Once I figured out how to re-wire them, (yes, I consulted with my electrician) they were easy to mount on the wall… just a big ole nail holds them in place!
These vintage sconces are not to really add light into the room… instead they give off ‘ambiance’ to the room. To play up that ambiance, I found these, 3 watt, Flicker candelabra base light bulbs. In the night, they really look like little candle flames flickering.
Also visible from the dining area is the living room. I really had to look at a lot of different choices, before I knew what I wanted to see in the living room. I don’t like things that feel like they are all a matched set… I’ve seen builder-grade houses that have just that, a little different version of the same light in every room. Perfect for some people… a nightmare for me! Instead, I want my lights to compliment each other, but be unique individuals. It’s a fun challenging balance to find the point where both the material, ie: brass, iron, wood and shape don’t feel redundant but also the fixtures don’t compete with each other, but instead compliment each other.
The living room ceiling is vaulted, so we had height to be able to have a chandelier. (that’s the name for a light fixture that hangs from the ceiling and isn’t hugging it) I got it in my head that I wanted to see a wood fixture and started searching for vintage carved wood fixtures. There are actually a few out there. This is the one I decided upon:
I love it! I love that it’s neutral, and unique, hand carved, and vintage. For the shades, (it didn’t come with any) I selected some that again are neutral and would go with the main color scheme of the house, while complimenting the fixture itself.
This wooden fixture had it’s share of bangs and dents… An arm was cracked and had been re-glued, the candelabra covers had little scratches on it, etc. That is part of buying a vintage fixture I figure. That ‘distressing’ is what adds the believable, (because it’s real) character of age.
In the front entry, a separated room from the great room yet visible to it, I needed a light that wouldn’t get bonked by the door when it opened… or my son’s head! At 6’5, that’s a consideration… (I put in a light fixture in a hallway once when he was a teenager that did that to him. It was a cute little chandelier I installed, not realizing how low it hung for his head. He usually remembered to duck his head when he passed under it, but every now and then he forgot… OUCH! Now I think about it ahead of time 🙂 )
The front entry actually stayed with just the pig-tail light bulb for quite a while as I searched and watched Ebay for new listings of vintage fixtures that would be the right look and right size. Every flush-mounted fixture I looked at just didn’t resonate right with me though. Not that the chandeliers felt right either. So many were a bit too fussy feeling for this little humble entry. It needed to go with the Colonial Revival style and work with the vintage country farm themed toile wallpaper I hung in the entry.
When I spied this fixture with a barn painted on the glass shade, I was thrilled to see it was just long enough without being too long. It was petite and had just a fun juxtaposition of a touch of Victorian fussiness with a simple hand painted country barn.
The seller had re-wired and ‘married’ a few pieces together to create this fixture, but it worked out perfect for our entry space!
In the office, which is a room off one end of the living room, and the side of the kitchen, (somewhat visible from both rooms) we have a vaulted ceiling again, so a longer fixture would work.
This large vintage (campaign style?) fixture works well in the office:
The vintage brass is wonderfully tarnished with age. The style is very unique, I haven’t seen too many this chandelier, (have you?) I like that it’s handsome, and not at all fussy… I’m not a fan of anything too fussy in an office.
Then in the back of the house I used new fixtures…
For the mudroom, flanking the bench sides and in the stairwell wall going to the lower level I opted for this casual barn style wall sconce:
I felt that for these areas of the back of the house it would look uniform, in a good way, to repeat the same light fixtures. Simple, vintage looking, farmhouse style… just a subtle statement as they light the space. To try to achieve all the space’s light needs with only 1 style of fixture is nearly impossible, so there are also recessed LED can lights in the mudroom as well.
The bedrooms and bathrooms lighting will be in a different post sometime, but same story there… I mixed both vintage and new light fixtures to accomplish the function and look for each space. (you can read about the kid’s bedroom vintage ceiling light here)
I hope this post helps you feel confidence and have fun ‘treasure hunting’ for vintage fixtures to create unique lighting at your place too!
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This post can also be found at the following other sites: Skip to My Lou, Refresh Restyle, Between Naps on the Porch, My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia, Confessions of a Plate Addict, Yesterday on Tuesday, A Stroll Thru Life