Entry Light Restored

by Josh on March 26, 2008 · 12 comments

in antiques,Projects

Does completing two projects qualify as a streak? I’ve just finished my second session of stripping and restoring the old hardware from around the house, and I’m on a roll.

First I cleaned some window hardware a few weeks ago. Now in the last few days I decided to tackle one of my most hated house parts: the front entry light. Yes, I really hated this light. It was caked in off-white paint that looked cheap and terrible, and with its fake tassel, I didn’t think it was much of a stylistic match for the house. But it is one of just a few original fixtures left in the house. If this light has survived the purges that did away with the other original fixtures, I figure it has earned its place.

Entry light collage

After removal and disassembly, I treated the parts to a nice long bath in boiling water and baking soda. Then I scrubbed out any paint bits with a cut-off detail brush, and polished the brass with fine steel wool. Bright brass would really stand out in my bungalow, so I used antiquing solution to darken the base and canopy to a deep brown, but I left some of the details bright to provide a bit of contrast. When I was satisfied with the finish, everything got wiped with 3-in-1 oil.

I’m still not convinced a fake tassel belongs on a bungalow light fixture, but the refinished fixture is now handsome enough to return to its post welcoming guests at the front door.

As an aside, when I removed the light, I could see holes around the electrical box from multiple lamp installations. I still think this fixture is original to the house both because of its age, and because I can make all the multiple hole sets in the ceiling line up with this lamp by rotating it to a few different positions. I’m left to conclude that while I am the first person to restore the lamp, I’m not the first to temporarily remove it.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

gimbler March 26, 2008 at 8:33 pm

What a difference! I think it’s a lovely fixture – even if the tassel isn’t quite appropriate. The original fixtures in our house didn’t fit the style of the house either, and were butt-ugly to boot. Isn’t it weird for an original fixture to not suit the house?

I’ve got all ours stored in a box in the basement just in case we sell the house someday and the next owners are into “Butt-Ugly Original Light Fixtures”.

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Chris March 27, 2008 at 9:35 am

Cool fixture. Our bungalow has many original fixtures with a Victorian flare. Heck, our sideboard has both ionic columns and Prairie Style art glass. My guess has always been that this stuff made more sense in the period when you had wallpaper, rugs, furnishings, etc. that formed an ecclectic whole. I doubt there were many purely Mission styled homes of this stature back then. I appreciate that you kept the light – I am a big fan of keeping as much of this stuff intact and in place as possible. Even if I don’t think it really “goes”.

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Josh March 27, 2008 at 12:59 pm

@gimbler – Thanks for the nice words about the light. A previous owner left me a few old lights in the basement like what you are doing. I haven’t yet gotten around to trying to figure out where they belong.

@Chris – I’ve known that houses like mine were finished with much more stylistic variety than what often appears on glossy bungalow magazine pages. Like you, I’m trying to keep original details intact, and I find my style choices most difficult when trying to restore missing details. In those cases, I’m often torn between following my own taste and guessing what the original might have been like.

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Sandy March 28, 2008 at 8:32 am

Good job on the light fixture. Looks nice (even the tassel).

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Dulcie March 28, 2008 at 11:51 pm

Wow! What a difference… I was really curious as to what a fake tassel was before I could see the photo and then… ah yes! That is indeed a fake tassel! It looks a thousand times better now that it isn’t coated with paint and it is good 1920s character, in my opinion. I wish that we had even ONE original light fixture but I’m pretty sure that we don’t.
Your light fixture is the kind that would probably benefit aesthetically from one of those pricey Edison-style light bulbs that Rejuvenation sells. But probably not worth the $$ or the energy that they waste. Oh well!

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Josh March 29, 2008 at 8:30 am

You’re right about the bulb, for sure, Dulcie. It’s sporting a globed CFL right now and it looks bad and warms up more slowly than I would like. I tried an Edison-style ferrowatt bulb once and the darn thing burned out the first time I threw the switch. Maybe it’s time I gave Mr. Edison a second chance.

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Anne Alt March 30, 2008 at 7:49 pm

Congrats! The repainted version is much more interesting than the white.

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Josh March 31, 2008 at 9:27 am

Thanks, Anne.

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Jennifer April 1, 2008 at 12:59 pm

What a transformation! It looks so much more interesting and cool now.

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Stephanie April 11, 2008 at 11:46 am

Wow! It’s hard to believe that is the same light! You did an amazing job with it. 🙂

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