The “industrial look” design trend that began in the early 2000s has grown in popularity ever since. The style incorporates a variety of metals, rough-cut wood and concrete architectural pieces.
The trend began when designers started repurposing artifacts and fixtures found in abandoned factories and industrial buildings. Light fixtures are among the most coveted items harvested from old warehouses and manufacturing sites.
Fixtures have also been fabricated out of unusual pieces and machine parts. Let’s investigate how to incorporate old 120-volt industrial lighting fixtures into your designs as well as successfully convert them to low voltage.
Old warehouse shades
Some of the most popular reclaimed items, these large funnel-shaped pieces are being repurposed in outdoor landscape designs and incorporated into outdoor rooms for downlighting.
You can attach one to the countertop of a barbecue island on a pole or make one into an outdoor floor lamp for a patio seating area. The extensions are generally made of galvanized or black steel pipes serving as conduit with floor flanges as bases. Many have pull-chain switches with ornate fobs on the end.
Black iron pipe, iron fittings, pressure gauges and gate valves
All of these items have been repurposed to create incredible-looking path lights, often using cut mason jars or wire mesh baskets as shades. Normally, warmer temperature lamps ranging from 1,800 to 2,400 Kelvin are selected for these fixtures.
Wall sconces can also be made from black iron pipe and fittings. I have seen up- and down-type sconces made from iron pipe and fruit-picker heads and vintage hubcaps used to create backlight-style sconces. Installed with dimmers, they provide a romantic glow in the evening hours.
I’ve seen several types of industrial-style chandeliers. These eye-catching pieces range from simple to elaborate. A striking one can be easily made from an old wooden ladder.
How can you create one? Using a short bistro light string, you simply weave the cable through the crossbars, then hang the ladder chandelier from a patio ceiling using eye bolts and chain. This makes for a nice light source that’s also a conversation piece, especially if there’s some history behind the ladder.
You’ll need to convert your salvaged 120-volt fixture to 12 volts so it can be connected to a low-voltage transformer. This conversion is easier than you might think.
Medium and candelabra bases are the most common sockets found in reclaimed 120-volt fixtures. Several manufacturers make adapters for converting a medium base to a single-contact or bi-pin socket. There are also candelabra socket-to-bi-pin-socket adapters.
Twelve-volt A19 medium base and candelabra lamps are commonly available in the marketplace. The ones that have Edison type filaments complement vintage industrial fixtures nicely.
When it’s time to connect the 12-volt cable to a reclaimed fixture, you can ignore the green ground wire. Simply snip it off or twist it up into the canopy of the fixture. Be sure to properly seal any open cable or conduit from moisture.
Have fun with it!
If you’re the creative type, you can scour your local flea markets and junkyards for industrial lighting treasures.
You don’t have to do that, though; you can find a large assortment of new fixtures made in the industrial style at specialty lighting stores. Have fun, let your imagination run wild and get your creative juices flowing!
Kevin Smith is the national technical support and trainer at Brilliance LED LLC, Carefree, Arizona, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.