Twelve easy ceiling light swaps for under $100
Aside from too-small rugs (which I covered here), my biggest design pet peeve is bad overhead lighting. You know the kind. Landlords and bad hotels LOVE them. Typically they make changing a light bulb impossible, trap dead flies from tenants past, and look more at home in an 80's office building than your house.
If any of these look familiar, know you're not alone. It hurt my soul to upload these photos or give a single click to their sellers:
I would love to know why an upside-down boob and a massive florescent panel became standard lighting design in America. I assume landlords keep installing them because they're $20 from Lowes, but they hurt my soul.
But here's the good news! Changing one of the hideous light fixtures above to something affordable and beautiful is an incredibly easy swap to make, especially if you're a renter. There is truly no excuse for living with the eyesores above.
Here are 12 great lighting options that are all under $100 and easily available online. (If they're slightly over $100 it's because they're from a retailer that regularly runs sales). Click on the photo for the source:
1. Ikea Sinnerlig Pendant, $59.99 // 2. Amazon Brass Sputnik Pendant, $99.99 // 3. Ikea Ranarp Pendant, $29.99 // 4. Amazon Schoolhouse Flushmount Light, $49.99 // 5. West Elm Fabric Shade Flushmount Drum, $79 // 6. World Market Small Capiz Lotus Pendant, $69.99 // 7. West Elm Sculptural Glass Pebble Flushmount, $129 // 8. Amazon Brass Modern Chandelier, $89.99 // 9. CB2 Drum Flush Mount Lamp, $69.95 // 10. Amazon Black Sputnik Light, $99.99 // 11. Amazon Black Modern Ball Light, $119 // 12. Amazon Brass Light, $98.89
Any of these would be a massive improvement over the eyesores at the top. Amazon, Ikea, World Market, CB2 and West Elm are my favorite sources for really affordable, basic lights. The Ikea Sinnerlig light, which I have in my bedroom, is a fantastic look for such a low price:
My Personal Favorite
But you guys, my personal pick is less than $20 (not a typo), even considering all the more beautiful, expensive options above.
I love a white paper ball light, which I've written about before. I think it's a gorgeous, classic option that looks at home with both modern and more traditional furniture. Here are a couple photos, all via SfGirlByBay, that show how beautiful they are:
It's so easy to execute -- you just need a ceiling cord, paper lantern shade, and lightbulb.
The ceiling cord kit is from Amazon, and I used the $4.99 Ikea REGOLIT shade below. But this one from Amazon would work too if you don't want to brave Ikea (scale down to a 16" if your room isn't huge or with high ceilings).
Obviously, I'm also a huge fan of vintage lighting. I found a brass sputnik chandelier on eBay that lived in my bedroom for several years, and I think a vintage crystal chandelier could look really cool contrasted with modern design.
Be sure to check eBay, Craigslist (especially good for old crystal chandeliers), and your local thrift store for options. Here are a few from Chairish, one of my favorite sources, that caught my eye:
Where To Splurge
If I was going to splurge on lighting, I wouldn't spend a ton on a style I could get anywhere, like a sputnik lamp or a fabric drum shade. Although, there's something to be said for paying for quality materials made in America, like the classic beauties from Schoolhouse Electric.
If I was going to spend a lot I'd look for a real statement piece that serves as a piece of art as much as a light. Twist my arm, why don't you? Here's what I'd pick:
1. Anthropologie Rhododendron Light, $1,038 // 2. ABC Carpet Patrick Townsend String Light, $480 // 3. Anthropologie Halo Chandelier, $398 // 4. YLighting David Trubridge Coral Pendant, $348 // 5. ABC Carpet Kartell Bloom Pendant, $415 // 6. Lex Mod Ceiling Fixture Black, $199 // 7. Crate and Barrel Clive Large Brass Chandelier, $499 // 8. Rejuvenation Butte Pendant Matte Cobalt 22 inch, $449
How to Install
Once you've ordered your light, it's time to swap out your old fixture. If you own your place, congratulations, you can pitch the old fixtures (or ideally recycle or donate them) with abandon.
If you're a renter like me, it depends on your landlord. If your landlord is on the stricter side, my advice is simply to not ask them if you can change the lights. In my mind, changing a light fixture is like changing a lightbulb -- easy to switch back when you leave. Just keep the old fixture in a closet or basement so you have it when you're ready to move out.
Alternatively, if you buy inexpensive Ikea or Amazon lighting that you wouldn't want to take with you when you leave, check with your landlord and get rid of the existing fixtures. I think most won't mind if you make tasteful swaps.
For the actual install, there are a million YouTube tutorials on how to change a light, like this hilarious one from Home Depot where everyone is wearing super serious safety goggles:
But to be perfectly honest I haven't attempted this myself. I have a go-to handyman who charges $100 an hour, and in one hour he can change out 4-5 ceiling lights, which is way less time than it would take me. One of these days I'll face my fears of getting electrocuted since I know it's extremely easy, but until then I'm happy to outsource this to Mike. (If you're in SF I highly recommend him -- his info is here.) Just search Yelp for a local handyman and it's a very simple job.
No Light? No Problem
What if you don't have an existing hardwired light but you want to hang a light from the ceiling anyway? My kitchen has the exact problem -- there's no existing ceiling light over my kitchen table, but it was dying for a pendant hanging over the table.
Here's where a plug-in light comes in. You can purchase a plug-in light cord from a variety of places like West Elm or Amazon, and then look for a pendant shade that fits. I put a vintage barn light on an Ikea cord, and the fit isn't perfect, but I love the look and it's fine. You just need an outlet that's reasonably close.
If you go this route, I advise buying the cord and shade from the same place, like Ikea or West Elm, since they're more likely to fit together. Just install one or two hooks in the ceiling to loop the cord over and let the light hang. You might need to create an extra loop in the cord for it to hang nicely. You can also search any site for plug-in chandeliers and they'll work too.
It's a certain look, for sure, but I'm a big fan. Here are some examples of plug-in lights that look great:
Got a question I didn't answer, or looking for a particular style you can't find? Leave a comment below or tag me on Instagram.
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