How to Use Obsolete Electrical Systems for Retro Decor

Old electrical fixtures and appliances can add lots of vintage charm to a space. With some repairs and safety updates, incorporating these outdated pieces into your decor is easy. Here's how to use obsolete electrical systems to create a retro look in your home.

Identifying Good Candidates for Vintage Electrical Decor

Not every old electrical item can or should be reused in a home. When deciding what to use for your retro electrical decor, look for these characteristics:

Safe Condition

Make sure any electrical device you want to reuse is in safe working order or can be repaired to a safely functioning state. Check for frayed cords, cracked plugs, loose connections, broken parts, etc. If an item has any of these issues, it likely cannot be salvaged.

Interesting Look

Choose items that have a unique, antique appearance that appeals to you. Oversized light switches, vintage radio dials, old-fashioned microwaves, and the like all have lots of visual interest. Avoid pieces that look too generic.

Manageable Size

Extremely large, heavy, or unwieldy electrical appliances are difficult to install and use. Opt for smaller items like table lamps, radios, telephones, etc. Their compact size allows flexibility in placement.

Personal Significance

Use electrical items that are meaningful to you, like an old family radio or a lamp from your childhood home. This adds sentimental value.

Popular Retro Styles

Certain electrical appliances and lighting styles are icons of vintage decor. These include Art Deco sconces, carnival glass lamps, 1950s televisions, rotary phones, etc.

Repairing and Updating Old Electricals

Before using obsolete electricals for decor, they must be fixed up and made safe. Here are some tips:


If possible, rewire the item completely with new wiring. This eliminates any risks from deteriorated insulation or damage.

Replace Plugs and Cords

Swapping cords and plugs for newer models gets rid of cracking and worn parts. Match style and colors to the item.

Check/Replace Internal Parts

Inspect soldering, tubes, bulbs, fuses, etc. Replace any defective or questionable components.

Update Safety Features

Add modern touches like grounded plugs, polarized cords, and surge protectors to vintage items. This prevents hazards.

Refinish Surfaces

Repaint, re-chrome, or otherwise refurbish the external housing and surfaces to refresh the look.

Test Extensively

After repairs, test the item thoroughly to confirm all electric connections work properly before using.

Incorporating Obsolete Electricals into Your Decor

Once you've acquired and restored some vintage electrical gear, it's time to creatively work it into your home's style:

Living Room Accents

An old radio or television makes for a great conversational piece on an end table or fireplace mantel. Use brightly colored vintage table lamps for a retro living room glow.

Kitchen Appliances

Display a 1950s blender, toaster, or mixer on your countertop rather than hiding it away in a cupboard. Pair with other midcentury kitchen decor.

Home Office Touches

An old typewriter or desk fan adds a nice antique flair to a home office. Use vintage desk lamps or wall-mounted candlestick phones.

Bathroom Fixtures

Replace modern bathroom sconces and vanity lighting with elegant Art Deco wall lamps and glowing exposed-bulb fixtures.

Bedroom Lights

For a truly retro bedroom, install an antique chandelier or ceiling fixture over your bed. Place vintage lamps on nightstands.

With the right restoration techniques and creative placement, obsolete electrical systems can be given new life as fabulous decorative accents in a retro-style home. Just take safety precautions, and let your imagination run wild!