How To Update Old Light Fixtures the Easy Way 2024

Change Your 1990s and Early 2000s Lighting

Like many of my clients in older homes, you’re surrounded by endless oak, beige, and…old light fixtures. It can be tough to know where to start. Look to your lighting fixtures. Changing the aesthetic of a space can as simple as updating and old fixture. Read on for my top tips on how to update old light fixtures to modernize your entire room.

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In this blog post, I’m giving you my top tips for high-impact lighting updates, new fixture not required! A few simple tweaks will have you well on your way to a modern new look.

RELATED: 10 Kitchen Lighting Ideas for Low Ceilings

Swap Out Your Glass Globes

First thing, can you salvage an old chandelier with a quick change of the glass shades? How about a flush mount fixture? It’s possible! It can have a brand-new life with this fast and affordable way to update old light fixtures. Just be sure to go towards more of a modern aesthetic to balance out any 90s-style details. 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 gold open glass globes.


Modern Contemporary-style streamlined, globes. Source

Swap Out Your Light Bulbs to Update Old Light Fixtures

Replace those old incandescent bulbs to update old light fixtures! 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. Kelvin is the measurement that determines 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 tone.


In general, you want brighter light in more high-activity areas, and softer light in the cozier areas of the home. Bathroom fixtures are best in the 2700-3000 Kelvin range (a bit cooler). Living rooms, dining rooms, and bedrooms are best in the 2000-3000 Kelvin range. This gives off a soft white glow) and the right ambient lighting. The right illumination is sure to set the correct mood and put those too-yellow lights of earlier eras to rest.

three glass pendants over a large kitchen island
Exposed Edison bulbs and clear modern globes creates a modern vibe for these kitchen island pendants. (Interior Design: Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)
Modern Farmhouse Bathroom with Brick Accent Wall and wire pendants
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 Metal Finishes

Another great option for updating your old light fixtures is to go the DIY route. If it is in good condition, upgrade your metal finishes by spray painting them. It’s my favorite light fixture hack to avoid purchasing new lighting. A fresh coat of paint on an old light fixture is a very rewarding DIY project! It goes a long way in achieving an updated look! A few coats of spray paint in a fresh matte black, will add a contemporary edge to your light fixture. A soft gold finish is another great option to achieve the brass light fixture look of today. Home improvement stores like Home Depot and Lowes are good places to find all you need.


How to Update Old Light Fixtures with Spray Paint – Simple Step by Step Instructions

  1. First, be sure to turn off electricity at the circuit breaker panel before removing the fixture.
  2. Take down the fixture carefully at the junction box disconnecting any electrical wires and the grounding wire. Pay close attention to what goes where, you have to reconnect them later!
  3. Using some fine sandpaper or steel wool, add a light abrasion to the surface for optimal adhesion.
  4. Next up, lay your fixture down on a flat surface on newspaper or cardboard in a well-ventilated area.
  5. Prime and apply your fist coat of spray paint. Work in layers from a distance of about eight inches or so. You do a light coats of paint so the paint can dry faster in between layers and will not drip.
  6. After your first coat, let it dry according to the paint can instruction. Turn as needed adding a second coat. Let dry thoroughly.
  7. Reinstall the fixture at the electrical box (junction box) using wire connectors to connect the back to their previous locations.
  8. Test the power by turning it on at the breaker box and turning on the light switch.
  9. Install the decorative mounting plate on the mounting bracket.

Now, stand back and admire your handy work!

Transforming an outdated item into something fresh, modern and new – there’s nothing better. Now, you could just buy a whole new light fixture and miss out on all the fun. But, why do that when it’s so easy to spray paint a metal light fixture?

Matte black light fixture finishes make these vanity lights feel fresh and contemporary. (Interior Design by Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)
Luxury Traditional Master Bathroom marble vanity top 3 lights, grey arabesque tile, off white cabinets
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)

RELATED: 9 Modern Kitchen Design Ideas with Honey Oak Cabinets

Replace Your Old Light Fixtures

If new globes or an updated finish just isn’t going to do the trick, a straightforward replacement will be the best thing to do. And while you may 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.

The brushed brass LED chandelier over the dining room table adds a contemporary touch to the space, both making a statement and seamlessly blending in with the decor. (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)
Kitchen Island with a farmhouse sink.
This kitchen remodel comes to life thanks to a pairing of a unique farmhouse style rustic wood pendant 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”

Add New Lights and Re-route

Of course, you can’t solve all lighting issues with a quick DIY or standard replacement. Sometimes, older homes are with inadequate light placement like recessed lights that don’t quite illuminate a space. In those cases, the best solution may invest in relocating or adding the proper light fixtures. Lighting is, after all, one of the most important elements in a space. Often the extra cost is worth it in the long run. So, while this option is definitely more costly, there’s no doubt that when the work is done and you have the perfect light fixture, you’ll be glad you made it a priority. 

The lounge space in this new basement finish surrounds a combined TV/fireplace feature wall (with a two-sided fireplace) and rustic wood beams give movement and warmth to the ceiling, making the space feel open and airy – the ideal welcoming space for guests.
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 accent in the room. (Interior Design by Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)

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

The new corner coffee and wine nook opened up the previously-closed off pantry space, providing essential daily function and a more spacious entrance to the dining room. In addition, we were able to keep the header in place in a visually appealing way by creating a soffit detail to hide it and make it appear as an intentional architectural element. Furthermore, the mechanical chase was strategically hidden by the slight bump out in the corner of the coffee nook between both cabinets.
This newly designed coffee nook was created out of the previous corner walk-in pantry. I used this opportunity to add a timeless flush mount chandelier to light the new and improved kitchen space. (Interior Design: Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)

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RELATED: What Flooring Goes with Oak Cabinets?

I hope my post has helped you today to learn how to update old light fixtures!

The bottom line is that when lighting is good, it’s really good, and that’s a total game changer. It might seem like a small thing compared to the larger revamps on your to-do list, but it makes a world of difference and can, well, help you see the light.


Hi, I’m Carla


I’m glad you’re here! You are in the right place if you are feeling overwhelmed at the thought of embarking on a remodeling or interior design project. Living with an outdated home and don’t know where to start? I’ve helped families like yours update their home and create spaces that reflect what’s important to them for over 25 years.

I’ve been honored to be featured in:

Real Homes

The Spruce

Apartment Therapy / Cubby

Twin Cities Luxury + Fashion

MSP Magazine

Minneapolis Star Tribune


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7 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.

  3. Reading this article and seeing all of the different offerings that lighting fixtures can have was quite helpful. I can bet that this is going to help us out a lot if we can get dimmable lights that can help with the ambiance of specific rooms. I’ll go and ask for some help from an electrical service that can assist us with installing new models like these.

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