Reviving Our Vintage Sconces in 5 Steps

A long, long time ago, we picked up a pair of sconces from a pop-up warehouse sale. We set them aside, even noting in this blog post of yore that they’ll eventually make their way into our bedroom – just a pipe dream in 2014! (As if anyone needed further proof that these renovations don’t happen overnight.) But! The day has come, and these guys have come a long way from this:

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MATERIALS + TOOLS USED
2 x wire and plug sets
2 x dimmable light sockets
Spray paint + tape for masking
Metal polish (we use Eagle One Nevr Dull)
Wire cutter + stripper
Phillips head screwdriver
Electrical tape
Anchors

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STEP ONE. We wanted to rewire these guys with pretty cloth cord, so we started by snipping off the current one and removing it – and the socket – completely.

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STEP TWO. There were a few finishes happening under the hood of these sconces. In addition to a mirrored underside, it had also been painted white somewhere down the line. I scraped off as much flaking paint as I could with a putty knife (and a gentle hand), and I used super fine steel wool to rid the white paint where it had crossed over onto the original metal.

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STEP THREE. I carefully taped off everything but the inside, protecting the rod with aluminum foil (worked like a charm!). We opted for a matte black finish, which I applied with two even coats of spray paint.

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STEP FOUR. Once the paint had dried, I removed the tape and foil, and Scott polished up the outside using Eagle One Nevr Dull. We are almost positive that these sconces are brass plated, so by no means did we expect them to look like a gleaming beacon of gorgeous gold goodness. Once finished, they looked nice and clean, but they were still pocked with visible areas of wear. They’re vintage; it’s part of the charm!

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STEP FIVE. Finally, we ran new wiring using using this same method we did on our guest bedroom pendant. We debated choosing a colorful cord, but in the end, simplicity won out! We’ve been using Snakehead Vintage DIY lighting supplies for years, and the wire + plug sets make the job a snap. We replaced the socket, too, upgrading to this dimmable versionTip: Electrical tape prevents the cloth cord from fraying.

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Much better!

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Because the sconces have a straight bottom that lines up a little too well with the sockets, we picked up these super slim (dimmable!) LED bulbs, which don’t show at all. (When we initially screwed in a regular round bulb, we were able to see the curvature of the bulb itself.) The smooth turning dial on our sockets dim and brighten our bulbs just so – a small luxury.

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We love how the light shines straight down, creating the perfect reading-in-bed environment. Scott goes to bed pretty early, and with my light on and dimmed, his half of the bed stays fairly dark.

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The curvature of the sconces is a not-so-subtle nod to our round headboard, which was a happy accident! This side of the room is shaping out nicely, but we’re debating on whether or not to hang anything above the bed. While we love our headboard for its unique shape, it has us a little stumped, too. A peppering of art and photographs is always nice, but should we go for one large framed piece? Or, maybe, nothing at all!

What do you hang above your bed?

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  • Arielle - April 6, 2016 - 7:19 AM

    These turned out so well! I’m always buying vintage brass and afraid to clean them with anything more than soap and water but I may have to try Eagle One. I LOVE your wall color and headboard. Such a great room!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - April 6, 2016 - 9:52 AM

      Other good polishes to try are Brasso or Barkeeper’s Friend. Sometimes you have to try a few different ones to find the best for the metal you’re working with!ReplyCancel

  • Sarah Matthews - April 6, 2016 - 7:36 AM

    Love this! Our one cat loves to destroy lampshades while trying to alert us to the fact that his last meal was 8 hours ago and he will expire if we don’t feed him RIGHT NOW so sconces are a necessity! Love the super slim bulb too!ReplyCancel

  • Antonella - April 6, 2016 - 8:12 AM

    Your bedroom renovation is amazing and eerily similar to the direction I want mine to go!
    Your lamps are stunning and I’m looking for something similar to no avail (apparently in Italy this kind of vintage is either non existent or goes for $$$$). Do you find that the black inside of the lamps doesn’t affect the lighting for your reading? I’m really curious…

    all the best from MilanReplyCancel

    • Kim - April 6, 2016 - 9:51 AM

      Hello to Milan from Chicago! The black doesn’t bother us at all, in fact, we think it’s really perfect for low light bedroom reading! And we got really lucky with these sconces. I think because they aren’t solid brass, we were able to get them for a steal.ReplyCancel

  • Laura @ Rather Square - April 6, 2016 - 8:59 AM

    Really pretty! Does the matte black interior keep the light pretty dim?ReplyCancel

    • Kim - April 6, 2016 - 9:10 AM

      It doesn’t seem to change the brightness one way or another, although I’m sure it soaks up the reflection that would have been there had we left the mirror finish. For the bedroom, it’s perfect. :)ReplyCancel

  • jannike - April 6, 2016 - 9:12 AM

    love the “new” sconces, the curve goes so perfectly with your headboard. I would go for a row of smaller pictures above the bed, starting and ending above the sconces.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - April 6, 2016 - 9:50 AM

      That could be cool. It would make for nice repetition! I guess this would also depend on what we put on the other side of the room so we don’t have too many things on the walls. Thank you for the suggestion!ReplyCancel

  • Kari - April 6, 2016 - 9:21 AM

    I love this! The room is shaping up so nicely, I can’t wait to see more! As for above the headboard, I say let it go bare. Those beautiful triple half circles point upward without being sharp and balance each other perfectly. A square object (or many) would stop the visual line. It’s hard to know what a room truly looks like through cropped photos, but to me, that wall looks perfect as is.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - April 6, 2016 - 9:44 AM

      We do like the breathing room above the bed, but we keep feeling torn on if it’s TOO large and bare. I like your point of the triple half circles. Thank you!ReplyCancel

      • Haley - April 19, 2016 - 1:02 PM

        Love the triple half circles. I’m curious to see what something framed would look like above it. This might be a good spot for a wall hanging (and let it go behind the headboard) if that’s the kind of thing you like.ReplyCancel

  • Ryan - April 6, 2016 - 9:25 AM

    The sconces are so fab! The whole room is really starting to come together…bravo! What about something sculptural above the bed like a cool piece of modern art? I have a part of a sun bleached deer skull and antlers that I found on the side of the road in west Texas (it’s just what happens out there) hung above my bed. I like the 3-Dness (?) of it all.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - April 6, 2016 - 9:45 AM

      That sounds very Texas! :) I bet it looks amazing.ReplyCancel

  • Lucas Goldbach - April 6, 2016 - 9:36 AM

    Have you considered leaving the wall bare above the headboard and handing a small print/painting over each of the side tables?
    Maybe a few euroshams with a stronger pattern will add the interest you’re looking for on the bed?ReplyCancel

    • Kim - April 6, 2016 - 9:46 AM

      Yes! This is where we’re leaning right now, and I know we’ll be putting photos above each of the side tables no matter what. Maybe once we start with that, we’ll realize that nothing needs to hang above the bed!ReplyCancel

    • Staci - April 8, 2016 - 5:53 PM

      This is the direction I was leaning as well! Something over to each side– small or large, just symmetrical! Or, if you have more wall space on the side of the bed adjacent to the closet, maybe some vertically-spaced art (or a full size mirror) for a little asymmetrical flair.ReplyCancel

  • Melissa - April 6, 2016 - 10:09 AM

    Looks great!! I agree with the other comments about small prints over the side tables.ReplyCancel

  • Allison Hasserd - April 6, 2016 - 10:44 AM

    (angels singing)… ahhhhhh! loooove that you guys saved those and now get to use them! how rewarding! the bedroom is looking so cozy! love it! :)ReplyCancel

  • Rebecca G. - April 6, 2016 - 11:56 AM

    I agree with Ryan above that something sculptural would look really nice up above. I was thinking of something long and not too high. Think a beautiful piece of driftwood or something along those lines. I think using a natural material would add to the coziness of your bedroom.ReplyCancel

  • Julia@Cukoo4Design - April 6, 2016 - 6:40 PM

    Gosh I love them! They are so unique and I love that they mimic the shape of the headboard. Looks so cozy too.ReplyCancel

  • Dani @ Danielle and Co. - April 6, 2016 - 6:40 PM

    These turned out so beautifully! Thanks for the reminder to really look at things at second-hand sales, and not just pass by things that look a little beat-up. Having a lamp shine down from above is my favorite for a bedside light, too – no having a lightbulb blinding you from the side!ReplyCancel

  • Gillianne - April 6, 2016 - 7:42 PM

    Nice work, seeing the potential in those sconces and bringing them back to life and light.

    Have you considered fiber art above that arched headboard? You can find (or commission) interesting colors and shapes, and the texture of something woven would add a dimension visually to what’s already on that wall.ReplyCancel

  • Kris - April 6, 2016 - 10:28 PM

    Check out that penguin!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - April 7, 2016 - 9:34 AM

      One of my favorite random things, haha!ReplyCancel

  • Vanessa Bailey - April 7, 2016 - 12:15 AM

    Very nice clean-up of the sconces, I like them. I vote for nothing over the bed, it seems to me that sleeping people are defenseless against falling objects and pictures over the bed most likely won’t, but just might, fall. On either side of the bed is fine.ReplyCancel

  • Jen - April 7, 2016 - 2:19 AM

    Another vote for nothing above the bed. Looks perfect already!ReplyCancel

  • Iz - April 7, 2016 - 3:00 AM

    Fantastic job, they look amazing!ReplyCancel

  • Josh @ The Kentucky Gent - April 7, 2016 - 9:55 AM

    Love the dark color of your walls with those sconces – especially with that headboard. Dreamy bedroom indeed!ReplyCancel

  • Melissa - April 7, 2016 - 10:10 AM

    I love those sconces. They are great on their own, but look spectacular with the headboard. I vote nothing above the bed. I think the headboard and lights are amazing on their own. If I did any art, it would be a small cluster near the lamp above a bedside table. I say let that will shine as is and let art shine in a different location. Anyway, looking good!ReplyCancel

  • Tori - April 7, 2016 - 10:37 AM

    That looks so great you guys! I love all your projects!ReplyCancel

  • Vera Sheppard - April 7, 2016 - 1:27 PM

    The sconces are so incredible!ReplyCancel

  • Alex - April 7, 2016 - 4:03 PM

    The sconces are gorgeous. I remember being so jealous of them and actually of all your finds at that pop-up sale. They look to me like Koch and Lowy demilune sconces, and Koch and Lowy can do no wrong.ReplyCancel

  • Alexis Payne - April 7, 2016 - 11:30 PM

    They look gorgeous, what a happy coincidence they pair so well with your headboard!
    Are you loving the dark walls? I love mine so much and am constantly laying in bed or staring into my room so happy with the look.
    Are your nightstands/shelves DIY or purchased?ReplyCancel

    • Kim - April 8, 2016 - 9:06 AM

      We love them SO much! And we do the same as you. :)

      The nightstands are from CB2 and West Elm – links up in the post!ReplyCancel

  • Jacquie - April 22, 2016 - 3:19 PM

    The sconces turned out beautiful! I want to try and either do this and refurbish some vintage sconces or somehow create my own for my bedroom. Thanks for the great tips!ReplyCancel

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