Restyling a vintage schoolhouse light

by Jessie K on May 15, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHello? Hello? Anyone still there? Ha. Apologies for the radio silence. I’ve been super busy but wanted to share my latest small home improvement project — I finally updated the light fixture in the breakfast nook.

My biggest decor pet peeve is exposed light bulbs. I find nothing worse than looking up — particularly while eating — and staring into a bare bulb. It’s the worst. It gives me a headache. Yet this trend is so pervasive, you can’t get away from it. (“Trend” is a slight overstatement…it’s more like an enduring why-why-why?)

Behold the light fixture in the breakfast nook when we first moved in.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere’s a shot of the room.  I plan to change everything about this space but I have to start small for now so as not to get overwhelmed. Changing the light fixture is one of the easiest ways to update a room while setting the tone stylistically for the rest of the space; it’s a great starting point.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere’s its sister light fixture over the sink…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd its second cousin triplet fixture in the kitchen.  Those bulbs might be environmentally friendly, but, man, are they uglae to look at.

I knew I wanted a fixture where I wouldn’t have to look at the bulbs. I had my eye on schoolhouse lights, something like this or this, but I wanted to keep my costs as low as possible.  One day while browsing the local antique mall, I came across a vintage schoolhouse pendant about a foot in diameter. It was $65 so I scooped it up (in typical me fashion, I never took a “before” shot.)

I brought it home, showed it to Jake, he loved it, but it needed a bit of work. The chain and “lid” — the metal piece that screws onto the actual light — were a different color from the base thingie that sticks in the ceiling (I don’t know what this is called).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe hung it up as is and looked at it awhile. Jake thought no one might notice the different colors, but the first thing my friend Mary said when she saw it was, “Are you going to keep the metal parts different colors?” So I knew I had to fix that. I decided to spray paint the whole thing gold.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFirst, I roughed up the metal with a bit of 150 grit sandpaper which apparently gives the spray paint something to hold onto. It was only after I had been inhaling metallic dust that I learned even these modern pieces can and do contain lead! So I think I’d basically been inhaling lead fumes for a good amount of time. Thankfiully, I was outside in the sunshine while doing this so hopefully some of my brain cells are still intact….and I’ve felt fine so…..fingers crossed?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen I primed both pieces with Rust-oleum primer spray paint in gray.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI gave each a couple of coats, then hit them with three coats each (including the chain) of Valspar metallic spray paint in gold.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Then we hung it back up. I love it! It’s simple, clean and won’t go out of style. The gold isn’t too shiny, which I’m happy about. I’m going for a utilitarian feel in the kitchen so I don’t want anything to feel too loud or trendy. Pieces have to work and endure.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANow what to do about that wall color. And that door. I also have stories about those chairs and round table (both still works in progress) but I’ll save those for future posts.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

sarah May 15, 2014 at 3:59 pm


a nice cool blue, or light green..for the walls, and get a french window door..many little windows

deb May 16, 2014 at 7:01 am


great job on the light–can’t go wrong with a ‘classic’!

Brenda May 16, 2014 at 7:09 am


I feel the same about exposed light bulbs and while those new swirl bulbs may be energy efficient, they are so ugly. Love the choice you made for the light fixture!

sarina May 16, 2014 at 11:02 am


Wainscoting would be nice in there.. the stronger yellow color wouldn’t look so bad if it were balanced with more crisp white.

ducksandbooks May 16, 2014 at 5:26 pm


I think I have those chairs’ cousins, from Buffalo, NY circa 1948.

Stephanie May 16, 2014 at 7:11 pm


Exposed light bulbs are a pet peeve of mine too, why on earth have they become a fashion statement?!? Ugly flush-mounted overhead lighting also drive me batty, like all of the 90’s era boob-lights that are always in my rental places. I might have a lighting fixation.

Jessie K May 19, 2014 at 2:14 pm


I definitely have a lighting fixation!

Susan May 17, 2014 at 4:12 pm


Love the light! Good job and a blue grey would look great in that space.

Patty May 17, 2014 at 4:59 pm


$65? What a deal you got. Very wise purchase.

I bought mine from Schoolhouse and love it. Good exercise holding the fixture when changing the bulb!

Jessie K May 19, 2014 at 2:15 pm


Thank you! I thought so!

Janelle May 28, 2014 at 10:55 pm


I’ve been curious about what you’re going to do (or have done) about the lack of heat in the master bedroom. Any solutions yet?

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