Replacing An Old Bathroom Light

We don’t talk much about our hall bathroom. In fact, in 17 months of living here, it’s been the subject of just two posts (knocking down a towel bar and fixing the toilet). And since we later used almost the same color as the inspiration room in our guest bedroom, we’re no longer planning to use that color in here, so we’re kind of back to square one. But we finally made a little lighting progress, as today’s title suggests.

There was nothing especially offensive about the existing fixture – nor anything especially exciting about it. It felt sort of builder basic to us. And kind of “backstage make-up room” to us thanks to the long line of bulbs (long vanity + long mirror + long fixture = lots of long things). So we always told ourselves if we saw something that we liked better (maybe with more height and less width, without looking too pidly and delicate over such a large vanity and mirror) we’d upgrade and then donate the original – since we’re sure someone else might love it more than we do.

We randomly checked out a few home improvement stores over the past year and a half, but nothing really got our figurative motors running. That moment finally came about a month ago while Sherry was on Joss & Main and saw this:

We obviously liked the dark bronze finish and also liked its sort of industrial / outdoor feel. It was mildly reminiscent of both our guest bathroom light (an outdoor fixture we installed inside for that industrial feeling) and our front porch light (which came with the house).

And at $60 (down 40 bucks from the original $100 price) it was less expensive than a lot of the alternatives we hadn’t liked as much at the home improvement store. So we pulled the trigger.

The breaking news is that we finally got around to putting this baby in (first it sat on the counter for a few weeks, taunting us). Thanks to the position of our mirror, I had the pleasure of photographing myself a lot in the process. And thanks to the bathtub being in my way, I also got to play the role of the tripod a few times. Apparently my head isn’t very level…

You guys have probably seen me remove a light before, but if not – after turning off the power to the whole house (our fuse box isn’t labeled carefully enough for us to trust it blindly) I carefully removed all of the glass shades and bulbs (I’m a smidge accident prone around those things) and unscrewed the fixture from the wall.

That revealed this big metal plate that was secured to the wall… along with lots of nasty dust (hence my expression).

When I unscrewed the plate I was left with this imprint of what once was: some unpainted areas, a bit of rust, more dust, and some old paint drips.

After Sherry broke out a lead paint test stick (we got a pack of them from Home Depot about a year ago and they’re still coming in handy) we were relieved to get a negative result so I broke out my cheery little palm sander to smooth out those ridges left by the previous paint job so that our re-paint job will have a better chance of looking seamless. But re-painting’s a future task since we still have to settle on a color for this room (but you know we’ll keep you posted!).

With the old fixture successfully down, we brought in the new guy. Here’s what he looked like out of the box.

I screwed in the mounting bar (a simple task that took longer than usual because the included screws didn’t fit my junction box so we had to run to the hardware store to get different ones).

Then I attached the wires and screwed the new fixture in place. Pretend that giant unpainted spot isn’t there.

Once the metal shades were affixed and the bulbs were back in place, we had our new and improved light ready to go. My head-tripoding skills also appear to have improved.

We’re charmed by the extra bit of character this light brings to the otherwise still-ignored bathroom. Thankfully, the two 100 watt bulbs are more than enough to illuminate our small bathroom, and we’re excited about how the dark color of the fixture balances some of the dark accent tile around the room. We also like that it looks sort of old (like our house and many of the other industrial lights we’ve brought in). We have big plans for framing out the mirror, painting the walls, painting the vanity, getting new vanity hardware, doing something to the window, hanging some art, etc. So although it’s not looking too amazing right now, we’re inching towards something that might look cool someday. We hope. Haha.

We like how our new fixture better fills the space above the mirror (thanks to more height, which balances the ceiling-height shower curtain on the other side of the room). And we’re actually really happy with the quality of this light. It looks a lot more expensive than 60 beans, just because it’s not flimsy and the dark color is really matte and authentic looking if that makes sense. The little distressed areas don’t feel too country for our tastes, but they make it feel less mass produced and more “oh this old thing, we actually inherited it from Uncle Merlin and it has some great story to tell” – even thought that’s totally not the case.

And we already dropped the old light off at our Habitat For Humanity ReStore, so the switcheroo is officially complete. Hopefully we’ll have another update post with a paint color sometime soon-ish. And that giant mirror will look a heckova lot more legit once it’s framed out. But at the rate these hall bathroom posts have been appearing so far (along with posts about the guest bathroom, the playroom, and the sunroom – which are our other virtually untouched spaces thus far), I probably shouldn’t make any promises. We’ll get there someday!

What have you guys been hanging in the bathroom? Art? Lighting? Mirrors? Any favorite bathroom paint colors to share? Do you get nervous ordering a light you haven’t seen in person? We must admit we were a little sweaty when we clicked “buy” but we’re glad we took a chance.


  1. emily says

    Do you have any plans to have an electrician come in and get your fuse box labeled correctly? My rental apartment is the same way, but I know my landlord wouldn’t spring for that repair. It seems like it would make anything involving electrical work that much easier…

    • says

      I would get so annoyed turning it on and off personally. Every time the power flickers it takes me days to change all the clocks back! Also don’t alarm systems usually reset or not work in such times? My dad just had an electrician come redo their fuse boxes – an old house had crazy stuff going on there, he had to just get a second box.

    • says

      We have little power outages in our old neighborhood all the time, so we must just be used to it! Haha. The only clocks we have to reset is the stove and microwave (takes 30 second, maybe?). The rest are wall clocks or things like the cable box/computers, which do it automatically). Our alarm also has a backup system, so if the power is cut off (by us or a sneaky robber) it still runs!


    • Lindsey says

      Does labeling a fuse box really require an electrician? We have always just had one person at the fuse box flipping switches and another person stationed in the house with all the lights/radios/TVs blaring to figure out what turned off with which switch. Takes about 30 minutes to an hour to label the whole fuse box. (Tip: use the clock on the stove or turn on the light inside to tell that one).

    • says

      That can totally work! Just be careful about oddly wired things that make no sense (ex: our dishwasher runs on a fuse from our basement and everything else in the kitchen runs from a fuse in our laudry room, so if we had switched off the laundry room fuse box and assumed it was connected to all kitchen things and then tried to install a new dishwasher we would have gotten hurt!


  2. says

    Looks great, especially with the dark trim tiles! Are you thinking of gutting this bathroom one day like you did in your first house, or just working with what you have?

  3. says

    It looks great! I think breaking up all those long pieces was a good idea! We painted our bathrooms white when we moved in (our 1/2 bath has same white tile with black trim and the other bathroom is green with black trim) – someday we’ll get to a full remodel. I definitely like to see and touch things before buying so I can understand that anxiety!

  4. Ann L. says

    This post makes me wish I had an Uncle Merlin. In my mind he’d have a long white beard and spectacles…very Dumbledore-esque.

    Oh yeah, and great light fixture too. ;)

  5. says

    Oh Uncle Merlin, he always had the best stuff. Love the light, makes a big difference, can’t wait to see what color you paint the room!

  6. Jen says

    At first I was skeptical but it looks great. Just wondering, why are you using 100 Watt bulbs instead of energy savers? You often talk about trying to be environmental and wallet friendly and 100 Watt bulbs make me cringe.

    • says

      It’s all about balance for us. We use CFLs and even some LEDs in all of our closed fixtures, (and compost, drive one car, have a rain barrel, use cloth diapers, etc), but for the few bulbs in our house that are totally visible, we tend to prefer something a little softer (CFLs would add a whole bunch of “modern squiggle” to this fixture, so it wouldn’t align with the old look at all). But we hear they’re making stealthier LEDs and CFLs that look more and more like regular round bulbs, so we can’t wait to check them out!


    • Jen says

      I hope you didn’t take offense to my question, I don’t want to criticise your behavior, it just stood out to me based on your past philosohies. Thanks for the feedback.

  7. says

    I’ve hated the lights in our main bathroom from day 1. First there is the 1987 track lighting and then there is the 4 foot medicine cabinet. I could never put my finger on the reason for my overwhelming disdain…it’s the backstage makeup room! That’s it. Now I know. Thanks for putting a name on it :) LOVE the new light…wonder if it would fit in our half bathroom….

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