New entry light

Rita and I have been on the lookout for a new light for our entry and a couple for our kitchen. The ones that came with the house aren’t our style and don’t match the character of the house at all. It screams 1990’s. I wonder if the 90’s were just a decade of bad design or if the style hasn’t been aged enough to have a a retro patina? In either case the 1990’s light looked way out of place in our 1970’s home.

You can see the lovely entry light in the background here. Ella is watching Hulu while we do the pre-purchase inspection.

It appears like much of our house had been updated in the 1990’s. Most of the 1970’s charm is no longer there. All the doors, floors, trim, lights, cabinets and fixtures have been changed. We are slowly working to bring it back to something that resembles a 1970’s house. We don’t want a time capsule house. That would be too much for us, and it works against our idea of liking the house we have.  Instead, we want to put things in it that reflect its 1970’s origins.

We really dislike when people take a house and try to make it something it’s not. Here’s an example from HGTV that I think really gets it wrong. The architect takes a 70’s split level and turns it into a 90’s style McMansion. I find it tragic that someone would do that to a home. If what you wanted in the first place was a 90’s McMansion there are plenty around. Rita and I are not about that at all. We really like the idea of honoring what the house is. We’re not militant about it, but we’d never try to make our 70’s home something it wasn’t. With that in mind we sought out some light fixtures to replace the Holiday Inn ones that were installed as part of the 90’s remodel.

I'm sure this was "elegant" in the 90's but man, it's ugly now.

We spent quite a lot of time looking at lights. We’ve got a few places in Portland that have tons of retro lights of different vintages. Hippo Hardware is a well known recycled hardware store. It has everything. The entire third floor is dedicated to lighting. There are hundreds of old light fixtures hanging from the ceiling.
Hippo Hardware

Images via

We went back probably 5 or 6 times trying to decide what we did and didn’t like. We never saw one that really jumped out at us despite the millions of lights there. What this told me was that we weren’t ready yet to decide. We just didn’t know yet what we liked. Instead of rushing into something we decided to keep looking.

We managed to find the light below at the Rebuilding Center, which we told you about back in the fall. It’s a huge recycle house parts non-profit in Portland. They have a smaller light section, but the lights are way cheaper. It was a really good find. It has a nice clean, simple style and it’s appropriate for the vintage of our house. We paid $10 for it and put it in our dining/library room.

We weren't totally sure about this at first, but picked it because we liked the simple lines and retro look. The glass was just right. It's the same vintage as our house. And the $10 price meant we could afford to be wrong.

One thought we’ve had about the entry light and the kitchen lights is to get other lights like the one above. Maybe we’d find one just like it or one that was similar enough. This particular style isn’t hard to find. Every time we go into the Rebuilding Center we see a couple of new ones. The problem is that we haven’t seen any as nice as the one we bought. Here are a couple that we’ve found:

Here's one we liked but it was missing the glass globes. They didn't have any available that looked right with it. There were quite a few like it. Most didn't have any glass. I'm beginning to think we got lucky with the one we bought.

Here's yet another example of the wood and brass 70's light. Didn't like this one as much. The brass was too brassy and it was also missing the glass.

There were a few more but none of them seemed quite right. Our entry needed a big light fixture. It’s got a big clerestory window that is designed to showcase a hanging fixture from outside. The glassy brassy thing we had in there just wasn’t doing it for us.

We still weren’t sure what we wanted, so we did some more looking. Over on Hawthorne Blvd there are a few retro vintage shops that have light fixtures. There were fixtures from the 60’s through the 80’s or so. Most were the right vintage for us, but we weren’t able to decide on anything for either the entry or our kitchen/dining area. We just weren’t sure what we wanted. Here are some shots of lights that we were thinking about.

Yes, it is a grape light. Maybe it would work in the kitchen?

Cool lampshade on a chain.

Retro for sure but not quite right.

Nice shape on this one. It's glazed ceramic.

Wicker globe.

This one has the wood glass, and brass like our other light but looks a bit too trailer park.

Rita lobbied for this one. I think it was too expensive at $250. (Maybe spoiled by the $10 light?) Looks like a one of a kind. I liked it but didn't love it. Not for the price.

This one had the essentials- wood, glass, and brass but still wasn't quite right. We're thinking the glass needs to be white, like our first light.

I really liked this one, and if our kitchen hadn't been updated in the 90s we might go with something like this. It would be great for a time capsule house, but that's not what we're going to have. We want something from the original era, but with lines and materials that are more timeless.

Liked the glass on this one.

Looked at a bunch of colored globe type of lights.

These are all cool. Not sure they would work in our house though, with our contemporary kitchen cabinets.

We left the store still not sure what we wanted or really liked. We tried a couple of more places and were still stumped. A trip back to the Rebuilding Center did yield these two entry-way beauties though.

Lobbied really hard for this one. It's a one of a kind piece. On closer inspection I could see that it was actually made of cedar fence boards. What's not to like here? It's got a great sculptural quality and retro looking geometry. It was large enough that it would fit in the entry way. It looked the same vintage as the house as well. Rita wasn't quite as convinced. After a bit of looking we saw another light that looked a bit more reasonable.

We saw this brass and wood guy hanging from the ceiling. We liked how it matched the light we already had. It was the same vintage as the house and was the right size for the entry.

Well, this is the one that came home with us. I went with Rita’s gut on this one.  The $30 price didn’t hurt. I thought it would probably be OK but couldn’t quite picture it. I liked that the wood and brass perfectly matched the light we had in the dining room. Standing in the living room you can see both lights, so having them match would be a good idea.

I put the light in the next weekend and knew immediately that we made the right choice. The light really comes alive when turned on. It has up facing and down facing bulbs that cast beautiful light from the fixture. It’s exactly the right vintage for the house. It looks great from outside. It hangs perfectly in the clerestory window. I’m certain it was hanging in a split level house exactly where we have it now. It was satisfying to take something of the right vintage and put it back where it belonged. You can see this in the pictures below.

Up on the ladder doing the deed. This light was heavy. Took a bit of creative balancing to get it in.


I think it looks awesome. It really comes alive when the lights are turned on. Looks more like a piece of modern sculpture than a light fixture. I love the way it looks from outside looking in through the window above the door. The wall is not the right color yet but that's another project for another day.

You can see from this shot how it hangs perfectly in the center of the clerestory window. I'm sure it was hanging in an entry just like this at the beginning of its life.

We are still on the lookout for lighting for our kitchen and dining area. We aren’t in a hurry though. We are certain we’ll walk into the Rebuilding Center one day soon and our light fixtures will be hanging there waiting for us.

Here’s a current photo of the two lighting areas we still need to address.

These are called boob lights for obvious reasons. Looks unawesome on the sloped wedding cake ceiling. Can't image that this looked good at any point in its history.

I really dislike this guy. It would be more at home in a double wide trailer or cheap motel room than in our house.

What do you think?

Are we on the right track with our lighting?  (If we’re not, we’re only $40 into this so far, so we still feel able to change course.) If you have any great lighting ideas for these two remaining areas (or sources of lights that might work) please let us know. We’d love to hear any suggestions you’ve got.