A fresh coat of paint, new shades, and a few complementary sconces can upgrade your existing lighting setup.
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traditional white chandelier
Credit: Dane Tashima

Dining room lights do more than illuminate meals and set a mood. They're like jewelry for a space and can elevate its entire look, but sometimes they need a little help to truly shine. Whether you're transforming a diamond in the rough, updating an existing fixture, or mixing in a sparkling new piece, the options here are real gems.

Make Something New

Living home editor Lorna Aragon saw the potential in the brass relic, above, from a friend's fixer-upper, and reimagined it with white chalk paint to mimic pricey plaster chandeliers. To recreate her project, start by protecting the wiring. Unscrew the bulbs and wrap the sockets with painters' tape, covering them to shield the interior workings. Then, clean the metal. If it's rusty, sand it first using steel wool before washing. To clean, Lorna wiped the chandelier with a rag soaked in TSP cleaner ($4.24, homedepot.com) dissolved in warm water; it's a potent powder often used to prep items before painting. A solution made with Dawn dish soap ($1.19, target.com) or Windex ($3.99, target.com) will do the job, too. "You want to eliminate grease and stains so the paint adheres," she says. Follow with a wet rag, then wipe dry.

For even coverage without paint splatters everywhere, Lorna laid a dropcloth over a table in her garage, and made a spray booth by cutting through one edge of a big cardboard box and setting it on top. Then she hung the chandelier from an S-hook and applied two coats of paint, turning the fixture continually as she went. Once it was dry, she went over it with Rust-Oleum protective matte sealer ($4.49, target.com). Last but not least, Lorna replaced the shades and traded this old-timer's frilly originals for simple white ones.

Shop Now: Valspar Ultra Satin Interior Paint in Unforgettable (on mantel and trim), $32 a gallon, lowes.com. William Morris Chrysanthemum Wallpaper in Green/Pink, $237 for a double roll, wallpaperdirect.com. Rust-Oleum Chalked Ultra Matte Spray Paint in Linen White, $8, homedepot.com. Aspen Creative Small Empire Chandelier Clip-On Shades in White, $34 for five, amazon.com.

ceiling medallions
Credit: Dane Tashima

Mount a Medallion

Whether your chandelier is centuries-old or brand-spanking-new, a few simple DIY additions will make it unique. Pick an accent or two, and turn up the twinkle. These rings add vintage charm and come in all sizes, shapes, and materials. "Light urethane ones are easy to affix," says Lorna. "Paint them the same color as the ceiling so they look original. Or, swap out a plain or dated chain for a chicer style. "People don't always realize you can buy them in different finishes and shapes," says Lorna. For a cohesive look, pick one in the same metal as your light.

Shop Now: Clockwise from top left: Ekena Millwork "Theia" Ceiling Medallion, 24", $102, lowes.com. Hampton Bay Bellezza, $30, homedepot.com. Westinghouse Soleil Ceiling-Fan Medallion, $59, wayfair.com. Ekena Millwork "Orleans" Ceiling Medallion, $34, architecturaldepot.com. Westinghouse "Botino" Ceiling Medallion in Lattice Pattern, 12", $28, homedepot.com.

patterned and solid lamp shades
Credit: Dane Tashima

Swap the Toppers

Don't settle for the so-so shades that came with your fixture. "Personalize it by choosing colors or patterns to match your décor," suggests Lorna. Looking for something a little more glam? Dress up chandeliers and sconces with crystals. Replace clear ones with gemstone colors, or pick up wire links from the hardware store to dangle a few dazzlers from new spots.

Shop Now: Clockwise from top left: Shades of Light Black and Gold-Lined Chandelier Shade, 5", $25, shadesoflight.com. Lamps Plus Beige Box-Pleat Shade, $45, lampsplus.com. Ballard Designs Limited Edition "Riverbed" Shade in Lasso, $24, ballarddesigns.com. Lamps Plus Birch Blonde Giclee Shade, $60 for four, lampsplus.com. Ballard Designs "Isla" Block Print Shade in Slate, $29, ballarddesigns.com. Ballard Designs Limited Edition "Anais" Pleated Shade in Persimmon, $29, ballarddesigns.com.

traditional black sconce
Credit: Dane Tashima

Add a Classic Sconce

Want a side show? Hang a sconce or two. Pick a style that suits you, have a dimmer switch installed, and you'll be golden. A pair of Livex Lighting's black "Heritage" sconces ($115, lightology.com) would look gorgeous flanking a dining room fireplace or mirror. "For a traditional style, it's very streamlined and graphic," says Lorna.

mid century minimal sconce
Credit: Dane Tashima

Hang a Modern Option

Both cones on this geometric style from Allied Maker ($975, alliedmaker.com) emit light, creating striking shadows upward and downward along the punchy "Cassiopeia" wallpaper from Studio Four NYC + Angie Hranowsky ($68 a yard, studiofournyc.com).

european inspired glass brass sconce
Credit: Dane Tashima

Consider Old-World Lighting

Inspired by traditional European design, the Hudson Valley Lighting Lafayette Sconce ($500, hudsonvalleylighting.com) flaunts fancy details: etched glass, delicate beading around the backplate, and a patinated brass finish. Lorna likes it for a formal dining space or powder room. It looks even better on top of Graham & Brown's Twining Wallpaper in blush ($110 a roll, grahambrown.com).

ivory ceramic sconce
Credit: Dane Tashima

Go Natural

The Visual Comfort Leeds' Small Round Sconce by Christopher Spitzmiller ($449, circalighting.com) is composed of ivory ceramic and has gold accents that would suit an understated, contemporary setting—and it comes in four warm colors. As for Martha's pick? Her go-to sconce is similar in aesthetic—cool and neutral—with a gray ceramic base and globe bulb (it hangs in a Bedford hallway). She recently had several made by Avantgarden, in Pound Ridge, New York ($525, avantgarden.com). The company will customize the color and also offers a brass finish.

Styling by Lorna Aragon


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