How to Revamp Ugly Light Fixtures for $5

There were a lot of things in this house that I thought would wind up in the garbage because they were so dirty/funky/etc. Like every single door in the house. I thought, “that’s gonna have to go eventually”. But since I was already painting damn near every room in the house, I washed them, slapped on some primer and paint, and I’ll be damned if they didn’t look almost brand new. At the very least, not in need of replacement. (This is where we cheer because that means more money for FABRIC!!!  Mwahahahah.)

Anyway, I was surprised how awesome your standard items -i.e. walls, trim, doors- looked with a fresh coat of paint. What I hadn’t considered was painting some of the house’s hardware. In my lightswitch revamp post, I mentioned painting a light fixture.

Enter the bathroom light fixture:


Now, there wasn’t anything really wrong with it. It looked fairly new and worked. BUT there were a lot of things I didn’t like about it.

1. The brushed nickel tone doesn’t match the oil rubbed bronze hardware on our new vanity. I’m not a psycho about matching, in fact I’m kind of a mismatcher by nature, but the combination just looked icky.

2. The entire fixture as a whole looked pretty cheap to me. And it probably was/is.

3. The shades were clear. It wasn’t particularly bad with the incandescent bulbs, but I knew compact fluorescents would be blinding with those clear shades.

My initial thought was (like everything else) that I’d replace it eventually.

And then I saw someone raving about the oil rubbed bronze Rust-Oleum Metallics paint. It was like it was meant to be!

I was a little dubious about a metallic spray paint. It just sounded like something that would look like crap. But I figured if I was going to replace the fixture anyway, which was probably going to cost me at least $50, a $5 can of paint wouldn’t be such a bad investment for an experiment. So I bought the paint. And while I was grabbing the bronze paint, I noticed they had glass frosting paint, and I thought, “Why not try to fix the shades, too?” They had soft white and sea glass and since the room is already an aqua color, I couldn’t resist the sea glass.

So here we are, $8 and maybe an hour or so of painting later (not all at once of course, that includes time between coats).


Here’s a close up. You can see the bronze color a little better with the light hitting it, and you can see the speckles on the shades. The clear shades were bubble glass, and the bubbles give the frosted shades a speckled look that I think looks pretty cool.

Like a whole new fixture!

The verdict: I just saved myself $50! There’s no way anyone will see this fixture and think it’s been painted.

One of the things I really like about the bronze paint is that it almost looks black in low light, and it has a low sheen. (That second picture makes it look a lot shinier than it is.) The low sheen is a good thing in my opinion, because “real” oil rubbed bronze colored fixtures are not shiny.

So the moral of the story is, before you junk it, paint it.

6 thoughts on “How to Revamp Ugly Light Fixtures for $5

  1. That looks great! I have the same finish on my current builder-grade fixtures but was considering replacing all of them with bronze. Now I’m pumped ab possibly saving hundreds and getting my paint on! Will you go into more detail about the steps you took? Did you have to sand, prime, etc? Which brands did you use? I’d really appreciate any pointers! Thanks!

    1. Hi Crystal!
      I did not sand or prime. All I did was wipe the fixture and shades down to get any dust off, and then I used painter’s tape to tape off the part of the fixture where the bulbs screw in so I wouldn’t paint any of the important electrical bits.

      Do several light coats. There are instructions on the can about how much time between coats. The metallic paint in particular claimed to have a very fast dry time (30 minutes or something crazy fast like that), but I would give it 24 hours after the final coat, as even with a little extra time, it was just slightly tacky and that made re-installing the fixture awkward because I was worrying about fingerprints. It does recommend a clear top coat on the can, so maybe that would help, and would certainly make it more durable. I was too antsy to wait for that.

      It’s holding up well- but then they’ve only been this way for about a week, so I can’t really say whether or not I regret not priming and top coating. Better safe than sorry though, especially if you’re doing more than one. If I need to repaint or replace this one down the road, it’s just the one. If I had a whole house of fixtures I was painting, I’d try to do it “right”. Haha.

      If you’re going to use the frosted glass spray, you won’t need to sand and prime the glass, obviously. 😀
      However, if you want to prime the metal of the fixture, I would get a primer specifically made for metal. There should be automotive primer with the spray paint and that would probably be the most durable.

      The paints I used were:
      For the fixture: Rust-Oleum Designer Metallics Spray, Oil Rubbed Bronze

      For the shades: Rust-Oleum Specialty Spray, Frosted Glass, Sea Glass

      They are much cheaper at the hardware store than on Amazon, but I wanted to show the exact paints I bought.

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