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  • Julie @ Home On The Hill

Updating brass lights with paint

Lighting fixtures can cost a small fortune, so sometimes it pays to give old existing lights you have a makeover or look for bargains to upgrade.

If you want to know my favourite go to 'lighting resurrection' spray paint and get some instructions on how to DIY upgrade your own brass lights to farmhouse fixer upper style, then this post is for you!

I had two beautiful lantern pendant lights I had purchased over 20 years ago that we brought with us from house to house that I still loved, but the brass finish had started to look spotty in places and just didn't fit the style I wanted in our new farmhouse. More about those at the end of this post.

I also found 2 large round lantern style brass lights online at a bargain price of only $50, that although located 4 hours away I managed to collect whilst passing through on my way back from holidays in Sydney. These lights were just perfect for our farmhouse and with a budget to stick to, they were even more attractive at that price!

TREASURE HUNTERS TIP: When I know I'm going to be travelling further afield, I make sure the week before to check out the online sales sites in the areas I'll be passing through for bargains. It gives me a much wider range of items to choose from that what is normally available in my smaller rural community.

That trip we collected the lights on was amazing - we picked up two of the most gorgeous bow fronted dressers with lovely patterning in the wood that didn't need a single thing done to them for only $300 from Sydney city, then a brass bed for the guest room that my lovely friend Penny gave us, as well as numerous other small bits and pieces we had collected on the way.


First and very importantly you must prep the light to take the paint. Don't skimp on this step or your hard work could result in peeling paint - not so pretty!

I start by giving the light a good dust off with a small brush, making sure to get the bristles into the little nooks and crannies * of the light fixture (always looking for an excuse to use that vintage phrase - it's so cute).

(This light actually came with many small beveled glass panels that slotted in to the sides, I removed this for safe keeping and in the end decided to leave them off the lights as I liked the bare look, but can add them back at any time if I change my mind.)

I then use a kitchen scourer - one of the non metallic gentle green ones to rub every part of the brass to rough it up slightly to give it texture for the paint to adhere to. You don't want to scratch the brass, just dull it back a little, especially if it has a lacquer clear coating still on it.

Lastly, I wipe the now rubbed over brass with some prepwash cleaning solvent to remove any left over dust and grease that may be present.

I sat the light between 2 old milk crates to do the prep since the arms that hold the light bulbs hang lower than the rest of the light and the crates can hold the sides letting the arms site between them, so the light is straight and stable to work on.

Prepping the light for paint

Next step is to tape up the actual parts where the light bulbs fit and the electrical cord as you don't want to paint these parts.

I then suspended the light using some wire to a pole I sat between a gate and a fence - make sure the pole is secure as you don't want your freshly painted light to come crashing down. You could also suspend it from a pergola or any other place that suits you, but be sure it's a place where the over spray from the painting won't cause problems.

The top bell part of the lights that cover the attachment to the ceiling (see top photo) were painted white when we got these lights, the previous owners must have at some stage painted the ceiling and just painted right over them! I had to remove all that paint with thinners and a scourer as it had big thick brush marks all over it which would have shown up after repainting.

I had an additional job with these lights - we noticed after we got them home that they didn't have any 'candle covers', the part that hides the bit below the light bulb which is rather ugly. Apparently they were lost at some stage so we needed to find replacements, not as easy as you would think! They don't seem to sell these at lighting stores so we needed to find some tube or pipe to fit - only problem was we had a very limited scope size wise. Let me explain - the tube had to be large enough internally to fit over the light bulb holder, but small enough externally to still fit inside the cups at the base of the holders - a tolerance of only 2mm!

Close up of the missing candle covers area - the ugly bits!

We searched through every sort of tube or pipe we could think of at the hardware - electrical conduit, metal pipe for wardrobe hangers and so on but nothing would fit. Then back home one day after trying all sorts of tube and pipe, my husband thought - maybe the agricultural pipe we use to carry water to farm troughs could work? Worth a try as we had that sitting about anyway - bingo! It fit! It was there right under our noses the whole time - we just didn't think far enough outside of the square.

Here is the tube pieces cut to size after hubby firstly placed a length of the ag pipe over a broom handle and placed it in the sun for a day to straighten it out, as the ag pipe comes in rolls so the pipe tends to have a slight curve to it that wouldn't look so good on the lights, and neither would the green stripes!

I scuffed up the plastic of the pipe with a scourer as well so the paint would stick and wiped them down with prepwash.

Also in this picture is my favourite not quite black - Rustoleum's Oil Rubbed Bronze - love this stuff! It has a very slight metallic darkest brown/black colour that works really well for the farmhouse style.

I sprayed the light from all angles and the candle covers with two coats of the ORB paint, letting them dry about 20 minutes between coats.

Then I let the whole lot dry for 24 hours before removing the tape.

That's it, all done!

You only need to have them hung and then sit back and enjoy what a little time and effort can achieve.

The lights are now hanging in our lounge room - at a total cost of under $100!

I mentioned at the start of this post that I also had 2 lovely lantern lights I bought with me from our previous homes. These lights have glass panels that can't be removed as each panel is edged in brass then soldered together to form the light.

This required a different technique for taping up the light. In this case I taped very carefully around the very edge of each glass panel on the outside of the light where it met the brass edge, then covered the rest of the glass panel with newspaper taped on. I cut out newspaper to shape to fit the side panels and also the curved top panels.

This left just the old brass edging exposed.

I removed the central arm of the light which held the light bulbs as far as I could to below the light body and taped up the part where the light bulbs went and the electrical cord.

Inside the light it was not brass, but the grey soldering, so didn't need painting, it was just the glass that needed protecting as I sprayed the hanging arm part. So I used a small plastic bag with a hole cut in to pass it over the hanging arm and then taped it to the top of the inside of the glass using rolled over on themselves bits of tape, to make them like double sided tape.

I then folded the bottom of the bag up to fit fully inside the light and taped around he edge at the bottom making sure to leave the bottom bit of brass edging showing so I could paint it as well.

I suspended the light in the same way as the other lights but high enough for me to spray up inside the light to paint the hanging arm portion.

I didn't take any photos of this light being worked on sorry, but here is one of them hanging in the entry way - the other one goes in the family room on a long chain as we have a vaulted ceiling in there.

* Nook and Cranny - This metaphoric idiom pairs nook, which has meant “an out-of-the-way corner” since the mid-1300s, with cranny, which has meant “a crack or crevice” since about 1440.

Nook and cranny, according to -

1 Comment

Jul 02, 2021

This blog was moved to a new platform on 2nd July 2021 & this is a record of comments for this post prior to that time.

Penny commented on "Updating brass lights with paint"

Sep 26, 2018

You and Peter are very ingenious in the way you find a solution for the challenges in restoring these treasures. Your home is looking individual and beautiful and posts are great to read.

Home On The Hill commented on "Updating brass lights with paint"

Sep 26, 2018

Thanks Penny - glad you are enjoying the journey with us!

Debra@CommonGround commented on "Updating brass lights with paint"

May 18, 2021

Hi Julie, this is such a great post to upcycle lighting fixtures. I did…

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