How To Update Your 90s Era Lighting For A Fresh New Look

Easy Fixes for Your 90s Home

Are you in a 90s-era home surrounded by endless oak and Tuscan-style fixtures? If so, it can be tough to know where to start to update it all. But before you take a sledgehammer to anything, look to your lighting. Changing the aesthetic of a room can be more simple than you might think.

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Today, we’re giving you our top tips for high-impact lighting solutions. And trust us, you’ll want to put at the top of your remodel list. A few simple tweaks will have you well on your way to the house of your dreams.

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Swap Out Your Globes

Can you salvage an oversized dining room chandelier with a quick swap out of globes? How about a flush mount fixture? It’s possible! As long as your fixture doesn’t have the quintessential ornate scrollwork that screams “I’m from 1995,” it can have a brand new life with a simple and inexpensive update. Just be sure to go towards more of a modern aesthetic to balance out any 90s-style remnants. Avoid scalloped, ornate, or tulip-style globes. Keep it streamlined and simple – rounded globes or straight styles are your best bets. 

90s-style traditional chandelier with ornate scrollwork in oil-rubbed bronze and frosted open glass globes. / Source
90s-style traditional chandelier with ornate scrollwork in oil-rubbed bronze and frosted open glass globes. / Source
A contemporary-style chandelier with brushed nickel finish and clear, streamlined, globes. / Source
A contemporary-style chandelier with brushed nickel finish and clear, streamlined, globes. / Source

Swap Out Your Bulbs

For bulbs, LED is going to be the best bang for your buck. They’re so much more energy efficient and you don’t need to replace them as often. However, when making your selections, pay attention to the Kelvin in particular – that’s the measurement that’ll determine the warmth or coolness of the light (a lower Kelvin number means the light is warmer, a higher number means it’s more blue and cool). In general, you want brighter light in more high-activity areas, and softer light in the cozier areas of the home; bathrooms are best in the 2700-3000 Kelvin range (a bit cooler) while living rooms, dining rooms, and bedrooms are best in the 2000-3000 Kelvin range (gives off a soft white glow). The right illumination is sure to set the correct mood and put those too-yellow lights of earlier eras to rest.

Exposed Edison bulbs and clear modern globes make these kitchen island pendants simultaneously stand out and blend in perfectly with the rest of the room. (Interior Design: Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)
Exposed Edison bulbs and clear modern globes make these kitchen island pendants simultaneously stand out and blend in perfectly with the rest of the room. (Interior Design: Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)
Rather than using traditional globe styles, these bathroom pendants incorporated wire globes for a vintage industrial vibe. (Interior Design by Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)
Rather than using traditional globe styles, these bathroom pendants incorporated wire globes for a vintage industrial vibe. (Interior Design by Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)

Update Your 90s Lighting Metal Finishes

Another great option for updating your lighting is to go the DIY route and upgrade your metal finishes. 90s-era lighting typically used heavy doses of oil-rubbed bronze and shiny brass tones, and while that can still be gorgeous today, when it’s paired with a 90s-style silhouette, it’s a bit off and outdated. A few coats of, say, a fresh matte black paint, will add a contemporary edge to your light fixture’s style. A brushed brass finish is another great option to modernize the all-around look. Now, this does take a bit of work, and you definitely need to get the right paint and application down pat to pull it off, but it can work and totally revamp a light when done right.  

Matte black light fixture finishes make these vanity lights feel fresh and contemporary. (Interior Design by Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)
Matte black light fixture finishes make these vanity lights feel fresh and contemporary. (Interior Design by Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)
A bright chrome finish instantly makes a bathroom feel updated and vibrant, ditching any 90s-style aesthetic in the process. (Interior Design by Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)
A bright chrome finish instantly makes a bathroom feel updated and vibrant, ditching any 90s-style aesthetic in the process. (Interior Design by Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)

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Replace Your Fixtures

If new globes or an updated finish just isn’t going to do the trick, a straightforward replacement will no doubt solve the problem. And while you’ll likely need to hire an electrician to swap out your fixtures, it’s a fairly inexpensive task when compared to major rewiring since you won’t need to move any fixture locations. Wondering how to choose the best fixtures for your space? Our go-to piece of advice is to keep it simple and rely on your style goals during your search. When in doubt, swing to simple styles with clean lines and less detail, and always choose a fixture that fits the scale of the room.

A modern brushed brass LED chandelier adds warmth and a geometric pizzazz to this home’s dining room space. (Interior Design by Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)
A modern brushed brass LED chandelier adds warmth and a geometric pizzazz to this home’s dining room space. (Interior Design by Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)
This kitchen remodel comes to life thanks to a pairing of a unique farmhouse style rustic wood pendant design over the kitchen table and brushed nickel pendant lights over the kitchen island. (Interior Design by Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)
This kitchen remodel comes to life thanks to a pairing of a unique farmhouse style rustic wood pendant design over the kitchen table and brushed nickel pendant lights over the kitchen island. (Interior Design by Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)

RELATED: Interior Design Styles Beyond “Modern Farmhouse”

Go Big and Re-route

Of course, you can’t solve all lighting issues with a quick DIY or standard replacement. Sometimes, 90s homes are riddled with strange lighting placements like recessed can lighting that doesn’t quite illuminate a space properly. In those cases, the best solution may be to go big and invest in a reroute job. Lighting is, after all, one of the most important elements in a space. So while this option is definitely a more costly decision, there’s no doubt that when the work is done, you’ll be glad you made it a priority. 

This new basement prioritized the needs of the space; stylish contemporary sconces were placed on either side of the TV for a soft and ambient visual accent in the room. (Interior Design by Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)
This new basement prioritized the needs of the space; stylish contemporary sconces were placed on either side of the TV for a soft and ambient visual accent in the room. (Interior Design by Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)
This newly-designed coffee nook was created out of the previous corner walk-in pantry. So, we used this opportunity to add a beautiful and timeless flush mount chandelier to light the new and improved kitchen space. (Interior Design: Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)
This newly-designed coffee nook was created out of the previous corner walk-in pantry. So, we used this opportunity to add a beautiful and timeless flush mount chandelier to light the new and improved kitchen space. (Interior Design: Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)

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The bottom line is that when lighting is good, it’s really good, and that’s a total game changer. Sure, there are likely still major improvements to make to bring your 90s-era home totally up to date (laminate countertops, anyone??), but trust us when we say that lighting is essential. It might seem small compared to the larger revamps on your list, but it makes a world of difference and can, well, help you see the light.

RELATED: How to Create and Open Concept Kitchen in a 90s Era Home

By Megan Johansson, Contributor to Carla Bast Design

6 Responses

  1. Lighting is one of the key things that date a design (70’s/80’s hollywood bulb bathroom lights we’re looking at you!) and swapping out lighting is one of the easiest fixes!

  2. What an informative post with so many great tips for How To Update 90’s Era Lighting! And the images of your own work, showing how you did this effectively, Carla, are so pretty.

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