Boob lights are the lighting fixture everyone loves to hate. Pretty much every standard house has them, ranging from the kitchen all the way to the bathroom. While there are plenty of reasons why the boob light exists, they’ve earned a not-so-great reputation… starting with the name!
What are Boob Lights?
Technically speaking, a boob light is a flush-mount dome light fixture. You can find these standard contractor-grade round lights simply by looking around any apartment or home. Almost all of them have at least one! Unless someone has already gone through and removed them all.
To figure out why they got their name, all you have to do is look at them. It came to be when people noticed the similarity to a woman’s breast. Once you see it, you can’t unsee it. And suddenly, they’re everywhere you look!
But why are they everywhere? Well, boob lights are popular for a reason. They’re budget-friendly! Lighting fixtures aren’t always cheap when building or renovating a home. And since every room needs light, the costs can quickly add up.
Secondly, the fixture easily casts light on a lot of space. Having one fixture light up an entire living room or bedroom is more efficient than you think. While boob lights don’t exist for mood light or aesthetics, they certainly are efficient.
However, some can be decorative rather than just serving their purpose. Older boob lights used to be very ornate, but a more minimalistic design has been favored for the past twenty years or so. To many, boob lights appear unattractive and cheap-looking. They tend to collect dust and insects.
Many want something a little more unique or of higher quality for their home. But if you adore your boob lights, great! They remain a light fixture staple for a reason.
Boob Light Appearance
While it may seem obvious, what exactly does a boob light look like? Here are a few things that come standard in these light fixtures:
- They are always round in shape. Since almost all boob lights feature glass, making a round piece of glass rather than a square one is more efficient.
- As a flush mount, a boob light is attached directly to the ceiling. AKA, it won’t hang at all.
- In addition to the glass bowl, you will also have a rim that screws into the ceiling and a rod that hangs down.
- A final (or the – cough-cough – “nipple” of the boob light) screws onto the rod and holds the glass bowl in place.
The Unglamorous History of Boob Lights
So how did boob lights become the most popular light fixture in Western homes? Before electricity was invented, gas and kerosene lights were never installed near a ceiling for safety reasons. Otherwise, a fire could happen in an instant.
When the light bulb came into existence, this changed. Ceilings were lowered, and the need to have a light fixture that could be close to the ceiling became apparent.
In 1907, boob lights became more popular with the invention of the tungsten filament light bulb. Contrary to previous bulbs, they didn’t get as hot and became a safe option for flush lights.
A glass bowl was added over the bulbs to protect the ceiling and lightbulb from any damage and make stealing light bulbs more difficult. After all, they were a hot commodity! The glass also helped diffuse light throughout the entire room, eliminating the need to purchase additional lights.
In the 1950s, boob lights became the most popular lighting fixture. With the rise of suburbs and cookie-cutter homes, boob lights fit right in due to their affordability and conventional appearance. Ever since – they’ve remained the standard.
Where to Find Boob Lights?
If you live in the suburbs or an apartment building, the odds of finding a boob light in your home increase exponentially. Many homes that were built on mass contain boob lights because of their affordability and ease of installation.
Landlords also like to include these lights in their rental properties because of their low price points and how easy they are to replace. Believe it or not, some people take a light fixture with them when they move, and people are less likely to pack up a boob light.
Our society loves simplicity and mass production, and the boob light fits into both of those categories. This makes them a fit for most houses, small to large.
How to Replace Boob Lights
If your house is covered with them, you may be looking for some boob light replacements. Replacing the fixture is surprisingly easy and only takes a few minutes to do on your own.
Keep in mind; every light fixture will attach differently. Always refer to the diagram that comes with the new light fixture to install it properly. Here are the basic steps for replacing a boob light.
Choose a New Fixture
When deciding which fixture to purchase as a replacement, consider the height of the space and how large the room is, you don’t want the light to hang too low or not be designed to diffuse enough light for the room.
Typically, most boob lights are easily replaced with a flush or semi-flush fixture because they have the same mount (more on that below.)
Remove the Boob Light
First and foremost, turn all the lights off. You will also want to turn off the power from the electrical panel to be safe. Needless to say, you probably want to replace the boob light during the day.
To remove the boob light:
- Unscrew the tip (finial). Once unscrewed, the glass should also come down. If you don’t have a finial, twist the glass bowl to remove it.
- Next, remove the screws that hold the rim up. Keep them, as they may come in handy later! Now your light should just be hanging from the wires.
- Unscrew the wire nuts (the cap-looking things on the end of the wires.)
- Next, you want to untwist all the wires that connect your light to the electrical system.
Once done, your boob light should officially be detached from the ceiling.
Attach the New Fixture
Now you’re going to repeat the process but in reverse! You should have three wires hanging from the ceiling at this point.
- Black/Red: known as the current wire, it has all the electrical power.
- Copper: the copper wire acts as the grounding wire.
- White: this is the neutral wire and works to close the loop.
Your light fixture should also have the same three wires. Pair the wires with the same colored ones to the ceilings. Twist the ends of the wire together and screw the wire nuts/caps back on top of the connecting wires. If you’re not sure if they’re connected, feel free to give them a gentle tug.
Once the wires are attached and ready to go, you need to attach the light fixture to the ceiling. Depending on the design, you can use the same screws from your boob light. This way, you know they will fit into the existing spot.
And voila, you’re done! Turn the power back on and test out your light. If it doesn’t turn on, consider replacing the light bulbs. Sometimes they work with the old fixture and not the new one.
Boob Light Replacements
When it comes to renovating the home on a budget, lighting can make all the difference in the world. While boob lights may be a cheap option, there are other affordable and much more glamorous lighting options out there. All you have to do is look!
Switching up the lighting in your home can also help with selling. Boob lights don’t make the best first impression, with buyers thinking there may be other cheap fixtures in the house.
If the idea of replacing a boob light all on your own sounds scary to you, call an electrician. This also goes for any older homes with questionable electrical. Better to be safe than sorry, especially if handy work is not your forte.
Here are a few options for replacing the old light fixtures in your home:
Technically speaking, a boob light is a type of flush light. Flush lights are ideal for keeping out of the way, hovering close to the ceiling.
Flush lights certainly have their place within the home. In small spaces, you don’t want anything too large or showy taking up room. Hallways, bathrooms, and closets are all good fits for flush lights.
While they are meant to be less noticeable, you can still find some super classy options. Realistically, small or large lights can be as flashy or plain as you would like them to be!
You can get the best of both worlds with a semi-flush light. Like flush lights, they remain fairly close to the ceiling. However, there is a space between the ceiling and the fixture, giving it a little more hanging room.
Semi-flush lights provide better ambient light since they are slightly suspended and hang lower than a flush light. The resulting illumination creates a direct downward light and an uplift effect. Most living spaces, such as bedrooms and living rooms, prefer semi-flush lights.
Because they hang slightly, semi-flush lights work as great focal points in a room. You will likely find more flamboyant and unique options for semi-flush lights. They come in all sorts of styles, including brass, matte black, milk glass, nickel, and even linen.
Both flush and semi-flush lights make for simple boob light replacements. They should have similar bases and require very little electrical work to attach them.
Another option, though a less common boob light replacement, is recessed lighting. Many people like the look of nearly invisible lights, with recessed lighting going inwards to the ceiling and blending completely in.
This type of lighting is ideal for low ceilings and tight, small spaces. The look is modern, clean, and neat, working well to blend in rather than compete with a room’s design.
Recessed lighting may be easier to install than you initially think. You can find recessed lighting kits for as low as $20 per light. No can or joist is needed to install the light, making it easier to do yourself.
However, since they are a very different fixture than a boob light, you will likely need to cut a hole in the ceiling or do some patchwork. Keep this in mind before purchasing, and make sure your ceiling works for the recessed lighting.
For those who are super crafty, don’t want to replace a boob light entirely, or are on a budget, you can have fun with some do-it-yourself options. Here are a few ideas to get the creative juices flowing:
- Use a lampshade. Remove the tip and glass bowl of the boob light. Use the base fixture to attach a lampshade of your choice. To hide the light bulb from view, cover the bottom with diffuser fabric.
- Attach crystals. Just like the lampshade, remove the tip and glass bowl. Take down the fixture momentarily and attach strings of crystal to replace the glass. This creates a chandelier-like look, with light reflecting beautifully off the crystals.
- Macrame light shade. Macrame is back, and it works well with your existing boob light. Once again, remove the glass and replace it with a macrame hanging that covers the circumference of the fixture base.
These are just a few ideas to get you started. When it comes to finding boob light replacements, there are many options out there: farmhouse, industrial, modern, retro, traditional, and even whimsical. Lighting is a cool way to dress up a room instantly, with designs of all styles available for every kind of budget.
Check out your local hardware store online, and even browse through some local antique stores to find some true gems. In many eyes, anything is better than a boob light!