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How to Upgrade a 1990s Light Fixture for under $100

Hollywood lights, am I right?! While I’m sure they must’ve seemed like a great idea for nearly every home in the 90s, now they’re just dated and blah. Have you seen the hundreds of cool light fixture designs out now?! OF COURSE I wanted to change out our bathroom’s Hollywood lights for something new and cool.

…Have you seen how much light fixtures cost?! In order to get the amount of light we needed in our bathroom, we were looking at a 6-8 light bulb situation. Those ain’t cheap! And if I wanted to change to 2 separate lights instead of 1 long light, that would mean rewiring – I had no desire to rewire our lights myself or go through the hassle/expense of finding an electrician.

So, I quickly realized that I wanted to soften this blow to my bathroom budget by coming up with a DIY solution. In a general sense, the original light fixture worked ok with my bathroom remodel design. The amount of light we got from it was good. The position of the light fixture was good.

But how could I make these Hollywood lights less outdated and blah?

BEFORE. Old, rusted, outdated.

In our former house, the builder had paid a lot of attention (and probably $$) to the trendiness of the light fixtures. One in particular that I’d loved had metal cages around the light bulbs that made cool geometric chapels. Could I DIY something similar?

Enter Amazon. I spent quite a bit of time searching for just what I wanted, but I finally found these awesome pendant light cages that can bend and flex to create different shapes. That would give me the ability to adjust the cages and get them just right around the round bulbs. It would also give me options to change up the look from time to time if I wanted. Plus, I could spray paint them the same color as the light fixture base, and that would add some coherence to my bathroom since I planned to spray paint some other wall fixtures as well.

NOTE: The most important thing to consider is the size of the pendant cage’s end where it connects to the socket. It had to be wide enough to allow the socket to fit through but not so big that the covering collar would fit through too.

In one of my smarter moves, I bought one cage first to test this out. And it looked pretty cool!

Test cage 👍

Once that reassured me of my plan, I ordered the other 7 cages and ran to Lowe’s for a can of copper spray paint. (I’m doing mixed metals in this bathroom with chrome and copper, so I used this same copper spray paint on those other wall fixtures I mentioned. One can went a long way!)

Supplies:

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Step 1: Turn off the power! I am not an electrician, and I wasn’t about to risk electrocuting myself for a light fixture project. Flipping the power off to our bathroom was easy and the safest option.

Step 2: Protect the surroundings and sockets with painters tape. Since there was no point taking the light fixture base off the wall, I started by simply removing the light bulbs and then protecting the wall surrounding the base by putting up wide painters tape. (I also planned to repaint the walls, so spray painting the base in place wasn’t a huge deal. If you’re not repainting/remodeling, BE SURE to cover everything well!)

It’s also important to protect the wiring in the sockets. I wrapped each socket in the tape and tucked it slightly inside the socket, then put a small piece over the opening to be completely sure the interior was safe.

Taped and ready!

Step 3. Spray paint the light fixture base. To be honest, there are probably a lot of cool ways you could revamp the base. But I was already doing something kinda crazy on the walls (see that post here), and I didn’t want to overdo it on this wall. I suspected the copper would stand out enough on its own, so the spray paint method worked for me.

The important thing with spray paint is to go slow and at an even pace, and don’t overdo it or the paint will leave drips. Other than that, it’s pretty easy!

Base painted.

NOTE: As you can see from the picture above, I’d obviously finished my walls between the time I spray painted the base and when I finally got around to finishing the light. 🤦‍♀️ I do what I can when I can around here, but you could easily do this whole light fixture project in an afternoon!

Step 4: Spray paint the cages and socket collars. I always try to spray paint in our garage so I can have adequate ventilation. For the collars, I set up a cardboard box tipped on its side and lined the collars up before spraying them. Since no one will ever see the bottoms where they go against the base, I set that side down and then spray painted all around. Easy enough.

For the cages, I adjusted each cage into the shape I wanted in order to be sure the right parts would all be exposed for painting. Then I set them out on the garage floor and spray painted each cage, careful to hit them with paint from every angle.

Cages and collars (and more) painted!

About paint choices… I also did my other fixtures at this time with the same paint to be sure all would match. But, depending on your color scheme, you could leave the cages natural – they look nice that way too. Or you could paint them any color!

In any case, the spray paint stuck to the metal really well, so I only needed one coat.

Step 5: Attach the cages and collars. Once everything was dry, I took it all back into my bathroom. I’d removed the tape from the fixture base by now (yes, days ago by this point), but if you’re doing this all in a day, now would be the time to do that.

Starting with a cage, I made sure it was in the shape I wanted, then I slid it over the socket and held it in place against the back base. Holding the cage there, I took a collar and carefully pushed it back over the socket. Once it was all the way on, it pinned the back end of the cage nicely against the fixture base. I still had a little wiggle room to position the cage just right as I attached the next cage, and the next, and the next.

Attaching the cages and collars.

The whole assembly took me only 8 minutes! (I know because I videos myself doing it 😜)

That was it! I’m happy with how this relatively inexpensive upgrade turned out. The copper looks really cool and ties in with the other fixtures I’ve altered. I might someday change the kind of bulbs I put it (I put appropriately sized Edison bulbs in our revamped powder room’s Hollywood lights), but for now this works for me!

AFTER. Light fixture upgrade!

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