When a friend asked for help finding a replacement for the modern flush-mount fixture that used to light the entry to her 1930s cottage (below), I set out in search of a vintage hanging lantern that would better complement her home's architecture. I picked up a mid-century painted steel lantern with amber glass panels in need of TLC for about $90 at newyorksalvage.net. Similar restored lanterns cost about $250. I then called the pros at Grand Brass Lamp Parts, one of the few remaining manufacturers of reproduction antique lighting parts, to order the wires, exterior-grade socket assembly, chain, and decorative ceiling canopy I needed to get the old lantern looking good and glowing again.
Fully Restored Vintage Hanging Lantern
Many hanging lanterns from the first half of the 20th century were humble by design, looking as if they'd been crafted by blacksmiths rather than machines.
Dangling from unadorned chains, their iron, bronze, or copper cages often had hammer marks, grillwork, even riveted seams reminiscent of those on medieval knights' armor. And fitted with earth-toned frosted- or textured-glass panels, their warm glow complemented the coziness of the Craftsman bungalows, Tudor cottages, and more modest Colonial Revival homes in which they were most frequently hung. Popularized by tastemakers of the time, such as Gustav Stickley and the Roycroft crafters, these rustic lanterns exemplified a back-to-basics design sensibility. They were the antithesis of late-19th-century Victorian chandeliers cast from gleaming brass, with highly ornamented outstretched arms.
Invite guests to "come on in" by putting back into service a vintage lantern like the amber glass one that I scored at a salvage yard (pictured). To keep costs down, search for a lantern that you can clean up and rewire yourself. It's an easy job once you get the parts.
Assemble the Socket Housing
Thread one end of a hollow brass screw (aka nipple) onto the metal cap that comes with your porcelain socket, and tighten the cap's set screw. Slip the brass socket housing over the other end of the screw, as shown.
Secure the Housing and Ground Wire
Secure the housing and ground wire to the lantern by inserting the protruding end of the screw into the hole at the top of the fixture. Slip the ground wire's ring over the screw and twist on a hanging loop.
Prep the Wires
Rubber-insulated lamp cord comprises two wires joined at the center. Split them apart, and use a wire stripper to strip ½ inch of insulation from each, revealing bare copper.
Connect the Wires
First check the insulation. The neutral wire that wraps around the socket's silver screw has ridges. The hot wire, which goes on the brass screw, is smooth. Wind the wires clockwise and tighten the screws.
Fit the Socket in the Housing
Fit the socket in the housing, inserting the cord through the socket's supplied insulation ring and through the screw and hanging loop. Secure the socket to its metal cap by tightening the small screws inside the socket.
Attach the Chain
Attach one end of the chain to the hanging loop on the lantern and the other end to the loop attached to the ceiling canopy (not shown). Use pliers to open and close the links.
Thread the Cord and Ground Wire
Thread the cord and ground wire through the chain and into the canopy's hollow screw that connects to the fixture's mounting hardware. Now hook up the lantern and admire its radiance.