Last week, I told you all about my plans to incorporate Modern Schoolhouse Style into the decor of our 1920s Bungalow. This week, I’m showing you how I made an easy upgrade to a cheap light fixture to make it look like an expensive vintage reproduction. Plus, I’m doing a round-up with 60 of my favorite budget schoolhouse lights for decorating your own home!
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BUT FIRST, WHAT IS MODERN SCHOOLHOUSE?
I get this question a lot on Instagram since I revealed that my design plan for our California Bungalow is to incorporate more Schoolhouse Design Style into the decor of this home. The term is used rather loosely across the Interior Design community, as it’s technically not a real home style. Rather, Schoolhouse Style actually comes from the use of Schoolhouse Style lighting: electrical light fixtures that were widely used throughout the United States in public school buildings between the 1920s and 1950s.
As explained in this article from This Old House, Schoolhouse light fixtures are known for their milky glass bulb covers. Originally, electric fixtures donned a bare bulb that created a glare. This made for challenges in the classroom, as teachers and students were often blinded by the light. To remedy that problem, lighting designers developed an opaque glass cover that would allow light to penetrate but would soften the light and alleviate the glare issues.
You’ll often see these fixtures in bright finishes or with striped patterns on the globes. This was a common way to add visual interest to the fixtures while maintaining the light defusing properties. The most common DIY associated with Schoolhouse lighting is adding a stripe to the milk glass globe, as seen in this tutorial from Jackie at School of Decorating.
BEYOND THE MILK GLASS SHADE
In its inception, schoolhouse style was mainly used to refer to light fixtures that featured the white glass globe over a light bulb. Over the years, the term Schoolhouse Lighting has evolved to incorporate other styles of light fixtures. In fact, now you’ll find that a quick Google search for Schoolhouse pendants and sconces will reveal a wealth of options that come in glass, metal, and enamelware finishes.
These fixtures lean more industrial - and even a little farmhouse - than traditional schoolhouse but in the design world, they all fall under the same decor style.
The color options have evolved as well. For most schoolhouse fixtures, you’ll find that raw metal, stainless steel, and iron (or black) is a base. However, now you can even find schoolhouse chandeliers that also incorporate other finishes you might use throughout your home, such as antique brass and polished nickel.
HOW TO MIX SCHOOLHOUSE LIGHTING WITH MODERN DECOR
Because these light fixtures often feature cute pops of color, they’re a common favorite among people who are decorating kid’s bedrooms and playrooms. For instance, this kid’s room by Erin Wheeler of Sunny Circle Studio rocks a charming traditional schoolhouse pendant alongside schoolhouse room decor.
See the national parks advertising poster and buffalo plaid throw blanket? Punched with bold primary color accents and warm, worn wood, this space just screams Traditional Schoolhouse style.
Meanwhile, designer Whitney McGregor’s kid’s room, featured in Southern Living, boasts cozy, traditional cottage decor. Even with a Queen Elizabeth-style bed, the schoolhouse factory pendant looks right at home!
So it’s clear that schoolhouse lighting can work in harmony with traditional home decor, but what about a more modern home? How would you use schoolhouse style in a contemporary setting?
Schoolhouse lighting is fairly neutral - it features clean lines, limited adornment, and an industrial vibe. Sp of course it looks great with modern decor as well!
Just take a look at these Schoolhouse factory pendants in the Rockridge Casita, a modern Airbnb in Oakland, CA:
The bottom line: Schoolhouse Light Fixtures are fun. They are nostalgic. They aren’t made for stuffy quarters but can serve a beautiful juxtaposition against a hyper-traditional home.
Two remaining examples? Just look at this kitchen and child’s bedroom designed by Susana of Chango + Co.
Both rooms feature schoolhouse industrial light fixtures yet neither room looks particularly schoolhouse in design. The decorating possibilities with this style of lighting are truly endless!
AFFORDABLE SCHOOLHOUSE LIGHTING
In a moment, I’m going to show you how I turned a standard $25 metal factory flush mount into an enamelware light on a budget.
But if I’m being honest, the DIY upgrade wasn’t necessary. All of the light fixtures I’ve rounded up below look like more expensive fixtures than they are. Many of these pendants and chandeliers are on my list of items to buy when we’re ready to upgrade the remaining lights in our California Bungalow.
You can see all the sources I’m planning to use for our remodel via my Pinterest Board: 1924 Source List. While you’re there, make sure to follow me so you can see new inspiration and products as I add them.
SCHOOLHOUSE PENDANTS + FLUSHMOUNTS
click images to shop directly through retailer - affiliate links included
SCHOOLHOUSE PENDANTS + FLUSHMOUNTS
click images to shop directly through retailer - affiliate links included
As I’ve been slowly decorating our California Bungalow, I’ve made a few little upgrades that have all contributed to a more industrial cottage decorating plan.
First, I built this Schoolhouse Style Wooden Broom. Then I upgraded the entryway storage in our home by creating a small mudroom in the corner of our dining room featuring this Schoolhouse Style Wall Hook Rack. But what I failed to show you on the blog is the biggest upgrade we’d made in this home. I replaced the dining room light within a few weeks after we closed on this house. Here’s what the space looked like before we moved in.
If you look beyond the moving boxes, you can see that the original light fixture in this room was very small. It actually didn’t even illuminate the room. At night, I could barely see to wipe down the table.
To refresh your memory, our dining room is actually the original designated Living Room, based on traditional bungalow floorpans. I explain why I chose to move it around in this post: Our 1924 California Bungalow: Full Home Tour
So the very first design decision I made for this home was to purchase and install a new light. That new light has an industrial modern vibe which lends itself to 1920s period decor and schoolhouse style.
That photo was taken as a sneak peek of our new home and sent only to my email newsletter subscribers to show off our new pendant light. Want on the list to see exclusive sneak peeks and get extra content every week? You can sign up here.
This modern industrial cage light, in olive green, sets the tone for the remainder of our home’s style. Part cottage, part industrial, part modern.
Those styles all gather together and morph into what designers now call “Schoolhouse Modern Style”. For this reason, when I decided to update the ceiling fixture in our small hallway (for the same reason - it barely shines any light), I knew I wanted a vintage schoolhouse look.
Immediately, I fell in love with this original vintage factory pendant I found on 1stdibs. But the price tag was a steep $300. That’s more than I really wanted to spend on the lighting for that tiny space. Also, I’m planning to incorporate this Hygge & West wallpaper into the ceiling of the hallway, so I was worried the grey would just get lost against it.
That’s when inspiration struck and the idea for my $30 Enamelware Factory Pendant DIY was born!
DIY FACTORY LIGHT REPLICA
cardboard surface for painting
metal farmhouse style light fixture
high gloss lacquer spray
STEP ONE - remove the shade from the bulb housing.
STEP TWO - tape just above lower rim of shade + around bulb socket to protect surface from paint.
STEP THREE - paint rim of shade and bulb housing with craft paint. allow to dry. repeat with additional coats, if necessary.
STEP FOUR - remove painter's tape and spray with clear lacquer.
Once all the paint and lacquer was dry, I allowed it to sit for 24 hours in order to harden. Then I installed it in our bungalow’s hallway and I love it!
Since we’re taking our time with this renovation, we haven’t even updated the paint in here yet. But already, the hallway feels fresh and modern!
Here’s what the hallway looked like before -
You can see how that teeny tiny light was doing absolutely nothing for us. But now, it’s bright!
I still want to add wallpaper above the beadboard and update all the door hardware (in keeping with the home’s historic integrity, don’t worry). Oh! And I also need to decide what color I want to paint the trim and walls throughout the house.
But all those decisions and tasks can be left for another day because right now, I’m basking in the glory of my beautiful, new industrial lighting, including these two fixtures I ordered and installed in our dining room!
Since the dining room leads directly into our hallway - which is the central hub of the rest of the home - consistency in design choices is key to making this home feel collected and maintain flow.
While the 3 light fixtures I’ve added so far aren’t identical, they are all tied together with common finishes and styles.
If you’re planning to make your own Industrial Light Fixture, I’ve added an easy printable instruction sheet that you can keep with you as you work to the bottom of this page.
SCHOOLHOUSE DECOR INSPIRATION
Ready to add some industrial vintage vibes to your home? Check out these posts to get you started.
SHOP MY SCHOOLHOUSE STYLE BUNGALOW
love this style? I do too! here are the decor items I bought to achieve the look.
DIY HOME PROJECTS THAT ARE TRENDING RIGHT NOW
quick and affordable DIY projects you don’t want to miss
YOUR HOME DECORATING DILEMMAS SOLVED
Commenting on this post is disabled so I can focus on our upcoming projects + client designs but that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to hear from you. Send me your questions and comments on Instagram by either commenting on my latest post or sending me a direct message. I really love to chat it out!
DIY Factory Style Vintage Enamelware Light Fixture
by Teri Moore | www.tmoorehome.com
- skill level: EASY
- step one: remove the shade from the bulb housing.
- step two: tape just above lower rim of shade + around bulb socket to protect surface from paint.
- step three: paint rim of shade and bulb housing with craft paint.
- step four remove painter's tape and spray with clear lacquer.