5 Ways to Deal with Ugly Bathroom Light Fixtures

Working for Apartment Therapy, our friends often ask us for decorating advice. Apart from paint color questions, the most common question we hear is What should I do about my ugly bathroom light fixture? The answer depends on a few factors: 1) what you want to change about the fixture, 2) your level of handiness, and 3) how much you want to spend.If your lighting just needs a makeover, rather than a complete overhaul, we suggest the cheaper (and easier) fix of trying a new shade or spraypainting the fixture. If you really hate the fixture, you might want to replace it completely, either on your own or with help from an electrician. For those who rent or - for other reasons - can't replace a fixture, we have a few tips for working around the problem.

  1. Change the Shade: This is one of the simplest and least expensive ways to update an old light fixture, and it can completely change the look of a bathroom. Hardware and lighting stores sell bathroom shades and kits, and they can help you match a new shade to your old fixture. For tips on replacing shades on your own, click here.
  2. Spraypaint the Old Fixture: Cheap, brassy fixtures are a common problem in old apartment bathrooms. When the finish (not the style) of the fixture bothers you, spraypaint is an easy fix. Turn off the power circuit (this step is important!), remove the fixture from the wall or ceiling with a screwdriver, spray it with primer and a couple coats of color, then reinstall. For tips on removing and reinstalling the fixture, see this post.
  3. Replace the Light Fixture Yourself: If you're handy and your project involves a one-to-one replacement, you may want to consider swtiching out a ceiling fixture or pendant on your own. (For a good overview of what constitutes a DIYable electrical project, see this article from This Old House.) The most important step is to turn off the power supply from your home's circuit panel before you do anything. For other steps, click here.
  4. Hire an Electrician to Replace a Fixture: For anything more complicated than a one-to-one fixture replacement, you'll want to hire an electrician. Some electricians charge per circuit box, while others charge an hourly labor fee. Prices vary regionally, so call a few different electricians to get a sense of standard rates in your area. Apartment Therapy lists several recommendations here. If you're undertaking a full-scale renovation, This Old House provides a more comprehensive guide to hiring an electrician.
  5. Work with What You've Got: Sometimes the best way to handle an outdated bathroom is to embrace it. Find accessories (like towel bars or other bathroom hardware) that match the finish of your fixture, and take cues from the pre-existing color scheme when decorating the space.


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How to Replace Ugly Rental Ceiling Shades
How to Swap Out a Pendant Light
Skip the Remodel: Embracing the Retro Bathroom


Photo: Gregory Han

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