15 November 2011

DIY: ceiling fan update

Our house, a builder-basic in the ‘burbs, was built in 1990. And when I bought this house years later, this was the dining room light that came with it.

Note how gleeful I was five years ago, despite the awfully out-of-date light fixture (and not-my-taste window treatments). That light fixture was shiny brass, with frilly globes and a swirly shape that was last in style twenty years ago. Even back when I was just happy to have a house, let alone have any desire to fix it up, I wanted a new dining room chandelier.

So aside from painting a room a very misguided orange, replacing that light with a stunningly on-sale satin-nickel chandy (forty bucks!) was my FIRST home improvement project I did. Or rather, my stepdad did. While I held the ladder.

So that was fantastic! It was a far better decision than the orange office, at least. And the curtains are a nice bonus update, yes?

Except the new dining room chandy made the 1990-style frilly, brassy ceiling fans in the adjacent living room and bedroom look all the worse.

Now, I know ceiling fans get a bad rap in the home design world in general, and this one in particular is terrible. But I never, ever let design get in the way of function. We like having a ceiling fan in our living room and bedroom, and so they stay put. But those frilly globes and shiny brass? Yikes. Not a fan.

(hahaha see what I did there)

Some people would cover up the whole shebang with a drum shade, as seen on Thrifty Décor Chick and many, many others. But, personally, I think a drum shade on a fan is as atrocious-looking as a fandelier, and I wouldn’t have it. To each their own.

So instead I bought new globes from CSN (now apparently called Wayfair) at a far better price than the $9 EACH the big-box home improvement stores wanted. For $33 total (that’s including tax and shipping) I was able to update all the globes on the ceiling fans in our bedroom and living room!

Loved it! It seems like a small change, but it made an incredible difference. I may have sat and stared at our ceiling lights with a big grin plastered on my face. Who knew a subtle improvement could modernize the space so well?!

Except... the shiny brass was bugging me in the living room. The bedroom could stay gold (I actually have a lot of gold accessories going on in there, including vintage antique gold nightstands), but the satin nickel chandy in the living room, the oil-rubbed bronze chandy in the entryway, and the shiny gold fan together was mixed-metal overload.


This is a project I completed last fall, so I don’t have the step-by-step for you. But see those two little brass screws that I unfortunately forgot to spraypaint (but never, ever notice)? Well, if you take those out, you can basically separate the light kit from the rest of the fan. And though it’s good to call electricians, blah di blah, it’s stunningly easy to do it yourself. As a matter of fact, this was the first light-wiring project I ever did, and it was straightforward.

Before you touch anything, KILL THE POWER at the fuse box. Then take those screws out, remove the bottom part of the fixture, and twist off the caps that protect the wires. If your home has updated wiring, it should be as simple as black-to-black, white-to-white.

Then tape off anything that shouldn’t get painted (all the electrical doodads and where the lightbulbs screw in, plus the pull if you wish) and give it two light coats of spraypaint. I used two coats of satin nickel (obvs) as well as a satin clearcoat, which makes it look less spray-painted and more it-came-that-way. Then re-attach everything and enjoy your new-ish fixture!

It’s incredibly straightforward, but if you need extra help, YHL recently spraypainted a chandy and wrote a play-by-play. My best tip, especially now that the days are getting shorter, is to make sure you start early – you have to let paint dry twice AND hook it back up before you run out of daylight, or you’ll find yourself trying to re-wire your light by flashlight!

The final result still tickles me, even with the blond wood pull that I’ve still been too lazy to fix:

Scroll up for the before photo and compare - isn’t that wonderful?! Especially given that a basic ceiling fan light kit starts at $30, and this cost me $16.50 (I had the two spraypaints on hand)!

I firmly believe that it’s subconscious cues that set the tone for a room. Unless they’re ostentatiously awful, outdated light fixtures aren’t something you directly notice when walking through a house, but they can sort of lower your opinion without really knowing why. Whereas new fixtures don’t stand out on their own, but instead give the whole room a more polished feeling.

So don’t give up on your ceiling fans - just see if you can polish up your fixtures for cheap! Even if your fan blades are looking like they belong in the previous century, Katie at Bower Power can help you out with the Polyshades I’ve featured here before. And as for us, I’m happy that when our house goes on the market next spring, this is one thing that won’t bug a potential buyer!


Anonymous said...

This is great very helpful. I planned on spending $100.00 + on a new fan when I can just update the one I have! I am a college student and on a budget, this saved me $$, thanks!

Sarah said...

So glad to help!