What A Difference A Bulb Makes

by Josh on August 6, 2006 · 4 comments

in Uncategorized

Most of the original light fixtures in our house have been replaced over the years. Unfortunately this includes the living room and dining room ceiling fixtures and at least seven wall sconces. Ironically, three of the remaining original fixtures are simple bare-bulb ceiling fixtures, not the finer quality lamps that would have hung in the living room or dining room.

The fixtures themselves need to be stripped of paint and should probably be rewired, but one of the best improvements to these simple fixtures is to fit them with a more appropriate bulb. As pathetic as it may sound, however, even finding the right lightbulb can be a challenge for yours truly. Here’s my journey to bare-bulb nirvana:

conventional bulb

The photo above shows a typical 1920’s bungalow bare-bulb fixture with a modern bulb. When we bought the house, these fixtures had small lamp shades (the kind that grab the bulb itself) attached upside down. They looked pretty weird and concealed the neat floral design of the metal surrounding the socket. Without the shade, the bulb by itself doesn’t look right either.

Ferrowatt bulb

The first bulb upgrade I tried was a ferrowatt bulb shown in the photo above, made with mouth-blown glass and assembled in a factory in England that has never stopped production from when bulbs like this were brand new. I got the bulb and it’s story from a cool antique dealer I met while visiting family in Rochester, MN. Unfortunately, this old style bulb didn’t survive the trip back to Minneapolis and burned out immediately when I tried it in a socket.

Orange bulb

The ferrowatt bulb also happened to be ridiculously expensive, so I sought a more reasonably-priced alternative. At an antique lighting shop in town I spotted some round-globed, hand-painted bulbs. They had two colors: gold and orange. The gold color didn’t look much different than a normal frosted bulb, so I bought an orange one. As you can see in the photo above, the orange bulb proved to be too different when installed, creating an effect I like to call “heatlamp in the hallway.”

gold bulb

So back to the light shop I went to buy the gold version of the hand-painted ball bulb. Finally I found something with the right look at a reasonable price. My only complaint now is that the bulbs were only available as 60W, and I would prefer to use 40W. The folks at the light shop indicated that they could special order lower wattage bulbs for me. I’m planning to order a few of them to have a small stash of “perfect” bulbs for my few original light fixtures.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Greg August 6, 2006 at 12:17 pm

Two houses down from me is a 1928 Dutch Colonial. The current owners bought the place last year from the original owners family who recently passed away. They showed me around and the house had all the original fixtures including more than a half dozen wall sconces. The new owner said, “These things have to go. Why would anyone put a light fixture at eye-level”. I tried to convince him that with the right light bulb they would work. I’m still not sure how successful I was.


Josh August 6, 2006 at 5:12 pm

People love sconces in a bathroom where the eye-level light flatters the face, but I guess they don’t want that same benefit in their bedroom or den…

I hope your neighbor “saw the light,” Greg.


Candice January 14, 2010 at 3:17 pm

Yeah..same here, I love scones or the yellow light bulb. It seemingly flatter face features. With those kind of light, anyone can look beautiful. Indeed, different kinds of bulb makes a difference.


John January 23, 2010 at 12:46 pm

Looks like you made a definite upgrade. I love the molding around the original fixtures. The room has so much more character with them exposed rather than hidden under some weird clip on lamp shade.


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