Swap your switch plates

One of the first things I always do when I move into a new home is replace all the light switch plates. I’ve done this in every rental I’ve leased and I’ve already swapped half of the switch plates in my new condo. This may seem like a finishing touch, rather than an initial step, but I truly think that replacing the cruddy plastic, often paint splattered, standard issue light switch and outlet plates brings an immediate polish and deluxe-ness to a home. And you can replace them one at a time to spread the cost out. I think most of my metal switch plates were $5 or less, so you don’t have to spend a bundle for this mini-update.

If you’re renting, just make sure you save the plastic ones and tape the screws to the plate. Put them in a safe spot so that when you move, you can quickly replace them all again and take your posh ones with you.

Here’s one I recently placed in our bathroom. I think it looks very handsome on the white subway tile.


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After I replaced many of plastic switch plates with fancy metal ones, I walked around the condo and took notes on the different sizes, types, and quantities I’ll need to replace the rest. I’ll keep this information handy when I’m out shopping. Here is my page of notes from my design notebook:

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Many of them are located in the kitchen, and some are a combination outlet and switch plate. I imagine those will be trickier to replace.

Tips for replacing light switch and outlet plates

  • Walk around your home and make notes about how many of each type of plate you want to replace.
  • Start by replacing the single, standard light switches. Since they are higher up on the wall than most outlets, they are the most visible.
  • Check architectural salvage stores for wonderful old plates before you resort to buying brand new ones. I found some excellent choices at Old Portland Hardware & Architecture on Division Street in Portland.

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  • For a very tailored feel, match all the plates to one another. To mix it up, but keep a cohesive look, choose different designs in the same metal.
  • For an eclectic feel, mix and match all different designs, materials, and eras.
  • If you decide to buy brand new, prices start around $5 and go all the way up to $25 for the fanciest finds. Some stores sell plates in packs of two, which is convenient and saves a little money too.
  • Make your own. With some Mod Podge, an exacto knife, and decorative paper or magazine pages, you could simply embellish the plates already on your wall for pennies a piece.

What sorts of little, inexpensive mini-updates do you do in your own home?

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4 Responses to Swap your switch plates

  1. What a great idea! Given all the moving I’ve done, I can’t believe I never thought of this before! I also liked the tip with your little sketches–very helpful!

  2. Lindsay says:

    Thanks! It’s very fun and easy to do. Just remember to take the nice ones with you when you move 🙂

  3. Jim Bunnelle says:

    Very true. I do the same for power outlet covers. But maybe I’m weird that way.

  4. Lindsay says:

    I intend to do the same with my outlet covers, weird or not!

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