HOUSE: Newburgh

Ceiling medallion.


I know, you’re probably looking at this photo and wondering what the problem is for it to be tagged “before”, but don’t be fooled: that light fixture is hideous. I don’t remember what it’s called, but IKEA sold it briefly about five years ago. It’s made of clear plastic. I’d seen a picture of it in someone’s house and was tricked into thinking it looked good. In reality, it casts weird, sad, unflattering shadows, attracts dust like nobody’s business, gets scratches without making contact with anything but air, and generally looks terrible.

We’d been putting off doing anything about it since we needed to also deal with an adjacent decommissioned skylight (nothing to see—imagine a 3×3′ piece of plywood mounted to the ceiling and you’ll have a good visual). It’s since been patched over, and this weekend I finally got around to sanding and painting that section of ceiling.

I also mounted a ceiling medallion and installed a different light fixture. We had a spare FADO light in the basement from when we swapped in the Coral pendant in the hallway, so I just went ahead and used that for now.

About half of the medallions in our house are the plaster originals, and we’ve replaced the missing ones with reproductions. We’ve discovered that the resin/poly ones are very easy to work with, and once they’ve been painted and mounted, they really aren’t discernible from the real thing. There are a ton of options available, and we’ve found a couple of styles that compliment the originals in our house quite nicely. (You may recall that the medallion in the bedroom is actually cast from plaster by using this polyurethane repro as a mold! We’re too lazy to do that ourselves, though. And I’d probably drop it and break it.)


Before mounting it to the ceiling, I primed and painted the medallion. I like to use the same color as our trim paint (BM Simply White), but in a matte finish. The result is very much like raw plaster, and offsets it just a touch from the ceiling paint (BM Moonlight White).

Once I’d turned off the power at the panel and taken down the old light, I applied Liquid Nails (construction adhesive) to the back of the medallion. It’s strong stuff, so a few globs on the center ring and on the high points of the embossed area are all you really need.

I smooshed the medallion onto the ceiling, positioning it carefully so the electric box was centered in the middle of the opening. Liquid Nails needs about 30 minutes to dry, so unless you have crazy-strong arms and nothing else to do, you have to put some screws in temporarily to hold everything in place. I drilled pilot holes first to prevent the plaster ceiling from crumbling, then popped the screws in.

(By the way, this is all much easier if you have two people to manage the passing of tools and drilling of holes. Evan had to work, though, so I was on my own. I was too busy growing extra arms and doing ladder acrobatics to take many pictures along the way, sorry!)

While I was waiting for the adhesive to dry, I used paintable caulk to fill in the tiny gap where the outer edge of the medallion meets the ceiling. Caulk is absolutely necessary if you want your paint jobs to look good and seamless! After 30 minutes, I took the screws out and filled in the little holes with a smidgen of caulk. Everything got a paint touch-up, and then when that was dry, I put up the new light fixture and turned the power back on. Voilà!

new light off

new light

It’s not perfect, but it’s way better. I was running out of daylight by the time I took this photo, so it looks a little gloomier than in reality. I think we might want a larger fixture here eventually, but this is just fine for the time being.

It’s hard to tell in these pictures, but the medallion looks REALLY warped from some angles. The edge overlaps the patched skylight-hole, and the ceiling is a good 1″ lower on one side than the other. Because gravity is causing the light’s stem to hang plumb, everything else looks kind of wonky by comparison. I told Evan I think the medallion kind of looks like a pancake sliding off of a plate, but he thinks it looks like a Salvidor Dalí painting.


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  • Reply erin / dfm January 31, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    I LOVE IT! go, anna, go!

  • Reply kat January 31, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    yay your feed link worked. I’m going to go and see if that works for emmas design blog now as yours were the only two that wouldn’t play ball with me!

    • Anna @ D16 January 31, 2011 at 12:09 pm

      Emma has a direct link to her feed in her left column. 🙂

  • Reply michelle January 31, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    hehehe, cute! Dali approves

  • Reply Gaby January 31, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    A small degree of imperfection is ok…
    About Salvador Dalí, if you are fond of his work, have you seen “Little Ashes”?
    I absolutely recommend this movie, don´t get fooled about Robert Pattinson in the cast. It´s a wonderful film, don´t miss it.

    • Anna @ D16 January 31, 2011 at 12:46 pm

      I’m not a fan of Dalí’s work, personally, but I’ve wondered about that movie. I thought it looked alright, but everyone I know who’s seen it said it was terrible! Maybe I’ll have to give it a shot.

    • Gaby January 31, 2011 at 4:18 pm

      It´s about the early years of Salvador and the friendship/love between him, Buñuel and García Lorca. Every single scene in the movie has been known before through biographers, letters and interviews, and maybe it´s not so interesting for someone who´s not into that story.
      Those were interesting years, surrealism and war… and it´s amazing how three enormous artists met, left a mark on each other, and in the end had to face their own choices and destiny (please excuse the errors in my writing, not an english speaker myself!)

  • Reply Annie Markantonatou January 31, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    OH! I’m trying desperetely to get rid off those round things of my hubby’s home..
    why did you do this?

    • Anna @ D16 January 31, 2011 at 1:28 pm

      Why? Because some of the originals in my house are missing, and I’ve decided to replace them.

      (And because I like them!)

  • Reply Rebekah January 31, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    Are the holes in the inside of the medallion a standard size? I almost went to the hardware store yesterday and bought one (but got lazy Sunday feelings), your post has talked me into it!

    • Anna @ D16 January 31, 2011 at 2:28 pm

      I’ve seen them with all different sized holes, but you can cut them if you need a larger hole for some reason. I did that with the one in my office—I just used a utility knife and a lot of patience. Just make sure the hole isn’t bigger than the canopy of the lamp you’re hanging!

  • Reply Sarah B January 31, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    When I first saw the pic I thought how big the hole was in the middle, then I realised when I saw it up that it’s just a little guy – I didn’t know they came in mini versions. Isn’t it funny, that moment when you remove the screws and back away slowly, all the while saying, “please hold, please hold”?
    I also learnt the lesson that you really should paint them prior to installing them (which you also know) as they are a massive pain to paint upside down!

    • Anna @ D16 January 31, 2011 at 2:41 pm

      The medallion is about 20″ in diameter—not that small! We chose the size to matches the one in the downstairs hall, which is original to the house.

    • Sarah B January 31, 2011 at 2:45 pm

      No, not small at all! My eyes are playing tricks on me!

  • Reply Sarah B January 31, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    Hey! I posted twice! Sorry- I didn’t think it appeared. Am such a dag 🙂

    • Anna @ D16 January 31, 2011 at 2:45 pm

      That’s okay, I deleted the duplicate. 🙂

  • Reply Fiona January 31, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    Do you have recommendations for good sources for the resin/poly ones? I have a plaster one I ordered, but I’m afraid that putting screws into it will make it crumble. Also, while I guess you attach the light canopy on top, the plaster one I have is VERY detailed, and I’m a little worried about having a tough time. I’m not as handy as you are!

    • Anna @ D16 January 31, 2011 at 3:38 pm

      No place special, no…just Google until you find what you want. There’s SO much out there, and I don’t know if any one place is better than another (at least not so much for me to give a recommendation). Even the big box home stores (HD, Lowes, etc) sell the poly medallions.

      We put screws in the plaster medallion in the bedroom (we didn’t take them out—they’re actually going into studs since the plaster is relatively heavy), and nothing crumbled! Just make sure you make a tiny pilot hole first, then use the right bit size for your screws.

      Do you already have the light fixture you’re planning to use? Have you checked the size of the “flat” area at the center of the medallion? As long as the canopy is smaller than that area (but bigger than the center hole!) you should be just fine.

    • Fiona January 31, 2011 at 3:43 pm

      Thanks! I was always worried the resin ones would look “fake” but I know you are very concerned with authenticity (I’m thinking of your beadboard) so I can now investigate.

    • Anna @ D16 January 31, 2011 at 3:55 pm

      It’s absolutely essential that you paint them, and that you do it with a brush. They do look very plastic-y otherwise, and if you use spray paint, the finish will be too “perfect” to be convincing. I also recommend matte paint for the best look.

      My favorite is the one in my office — and it’s also resin!

      new light

  • Reply joana gomes January 31, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    sometimes, photos can be deceiving. so, i believe you when you say that, in person, the fixture looks differently. i like the after picture, although i don’t really appreciate the type of ceiling medallion myself. it does look good with the decoration, though

  • Reply bernard cerone January 31, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    there are flat canopies that would make it harder to detect the out of plumb aspect.

  • Reply Emma January 31, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    I’ve used these poly/resin ceiling medallions throughout our house. (In the eighties, somebody thought it would be a good idea to install track lighting everywhere throughout our Victorian home. We removed most of it although we still need to tackle our upstairs hallway.) I think they look great and agree that it is really hard to tell the original from the copies. It’s one copy I’m OK with using!

  • Reply Rachel February 2, 2011 at 8:40 am

    Two thumbs up for your Dali picture – hilarious.

    New to your blog, but really enjoying it!

  • Reply cottageofstone February 2, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    Love the medallions. Our house is 1906, so it didn’t have them. But I am all for bringing back the original elements to the house. 🙂

  • Reply ev dekorasyonu February 13, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    I almost went to the hardware store yesterday and bought one (but got lazy Sunday feelings), your post has talked me into it!

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