by Candice Whitlow
Have your own vintage fixtures that need to be refinished? Grab your supplies and get started!
When my husband and I began the search for our first house, we knew we wanted something old with a lot of charm to go with it. We looked at several homes, all of them pre-1950’s, but we just weren’t finding what we were looking for. Some were full of potential, but would cost a fortune to restore. Since we aren’t millionaires, those houses had to be crossed off of our list. Others we looked at in our price range had been stripped of all of the old house charm we were looking for. We ended up crossing those off of our list, too.
We did end up finding our perfect old house, in a 1920’s cottage. While it seemed like a simple house on the outside, one unique feature hiding inside that was not in any of the other houses we toured—original light fixtures! When we walked in the front door we were greeted by an adorable archway, flocked by original wall sconces on each side. I felt like we had won the old house lottery! I mean, come on, original light fixtures?! Who wouldn’t fall in love?! The only issue was that someone had painted them over the years, but I knew there was beauty to be found underneath, so I set out to refinish them.
The first challenge I faced was figuring out their original color. So my first task was to start stripping off the layers of paint to see if I could catch a glimpse of what they looked like originally. Once I reached the last layer I started to see flecks of copper and gold, so I decided those would be the colors I would use when I repainted them.
Once the lights were stripped, my next task would be finding the perfect paint. Upon inspection of some of the other fixtures in the house that were still in their original state, I noticed brush strokes in the paint. Many people like to just use spray paint in situations like this, but the finish never has an antiqued feel to it. These lights would need to be hand painted to give them the original flair they were lacking, so instead of hitting the spray paint section, I headed to the craft section. I ended up picking antique copper and antique gold colors in an enamel (side note—you will want to always use an enamel or your paint won’t stick) I also picked up some craft brushes to paint the fine details.
Once they were back on the wall, they looked fabulous! I had transformed these drab, underwhelming lights in deco darlings. Now they catch the eye of everyone who comes to our house, and many don’t realize they had to be refinished. I strongly believe that you can make the biggest impact with the smallest details in an old house, and I think these sconces prove that belief to be true.
AUTHOR CANDICE WHITLOW
As CIRCA’s resident old house restoration expert, Candi has lived her whole life in fixer-uppers. Her love for old houses stems from growing up in Doniphan MO, where there is an old house on every corner and the roots of her family tree run deep. She currently manages her father’s company, BARCO Construction and Design. Candi is on the board of the Doniphan Neighborhood Assistance Program and has worked closely with the City of Doniphan Historic Preservation Commission, documenting the city’s historic downtown buildings. She devotes most of her spare time to restoring her 1920s cottage-style bungalow that she shares with her husband Jake and their two dogs Rowdy and Mac.