How to make your crappy window fixtures look awesome in 3 easy steps

So, like me, you live in a rented apartment. And, like me, you have a building manager that never fixes anything and in the miraculous case he does, he will take months to get to it. Case in point – I requested a window screen (literally less than 10 bucks at Home Depot) in May because my bedroom window didn’t have one (unlike the rest of the house) and I wanted to keep the window open to get some airflow in those warm summer nights without being invaded by mosquitoes. We’re now 10 days away from NOVEMBER – guess how many window screens my bedroom has? Yup.

So, as the 50/60 year old apartment I’m renting has housed many different people, it’s been painted over, and over, and over… (x100) again. Whoever painted this apartment was repeatedly lazy enough to not even care that s/he was painting over the window fixtures, the end result being this horribleness:

Now, of course, I wanted my building manager to fix this ages ago, but if I sit and wait until that happens, I might have finished my PhD, become a doctor, full tenured professor and get retired by the time he gets to it. So I decided to fix this myself. Not being my property, even though my boyfriend and I are allowed to paint the apartment however we want, I’m certainly not going to spend money in a place we don’t own so that the greedy company that charges us a LOT for monthly rent reaps the benefit. With that in mind, my budget for this adventure was a strict $15. So how did I do this? I’m certainly not going to spend more than an afternoon in an apartment that’s not mine, so we’ll employ the same tactics the renters do, but with a touch more taste: we’ll paint over the fixtures with the appropriate color. You could sand them, take all the white paint out, then repaint… but it’s a lot of work for something is not even yours.

If you didn’t already know this, Rust Oleum is your friend. For less than $15 you can order yourself some primer and metallic spray paints. Normally I would go directly to Home Depot, but you cannot buy spray paint in Chicago inside the city – I assume this is in order to make vandalism more difficult (though you could argue the effectiveness of this law considering the convenience of Amazon delivering spray paint to your door… vandalism made easy, simple and effortless, anyone?). Once you have your spray cans, get the cheapest painter’s tape you can find. Procure yourself  some plastic bags from your favorite grocery store (in my case, they’re from Jewel) and we’re in business.


Step #1 – surround the fixtures you want to with painters tape. Spray paint covers REALLY well, so you want to be sure you don’t leave anything exposed that you don’t want painted.


Step #2 – get your plastic bags and cut them open by the middle, so that you get ample plastic area that will function as shield so that the spray paint doesn’t stain the fixture’s surroundings. Place the plastic well around the fixture and you’re ready to spray, it will soon look like this:


The benefit of this method is that you most likely have tons of these bags at home, so you can do two fixtures at a time…


… or even three at at time…


…ad infinitum. You get the point. Also, bonus points for your windows looking like Spiderman shot spiderwebs all over your windows. Notice also that you can reuse these plastics for other fixtures, there’s no need to use lots of plastic bags unnecessarily – try to be a little green and balance your carbon foot-print a little bit, since you’re already using aerosols. Plus, if your fixtures are all of the same type, it becomes MUCH easier to put an already used plastic onto a fixture that needs to be painted, since the already dry paint on the plastic is somewhat hardened and placing it on the new fixture is as easy as placing a puzzle piece. Close the gaps with a little more painters tape, and you’re ready to spray:


You can also use this technique in furniture fixtures if you want:

However, I cannot stress this enough: surround the area with a good amount of plastics, cardboard from your Amazon boxes, whatever. It’s easy for the spray to stain objects that are close by since you have to keep a distance from the spray can to the object sprayed so that the coating is even, thus it’s in your own best interest to be careful. If you don’t believe me, look at how the picture above looks after spraying:


Step #3 When you’re done with your spraying, IGNORE what the spray can tells you about recommended waiting times: they’re ALWAY too short (I know, I’ve painted my bike, helmet, suitcase, etc… with spray cans from different vendors over the last few years…). Avoid touching it because you WILL leave an annoying fingerprint, requiring another coat. Entertain yourself, do things… personally I choose to play with my dog…


… followed by making myself one of my Healthy Awesome Lunches…


… and basically have a social life. As a rule of thumb, I say let the paint dry for one full hour after the first coat, then re-coat lightly. After that, don’t touch it, if possible, for 12 hour at least, preferably one full 24h day. Once fully dry, take the plastics and painters tape out, don’t just rip it off, do it carefully so as to not scratch the newly coated paint (it seems unnecessary, but the fact is that the plastic/painter’s tape are coated with metallic paint too, and when you take everything down it’s edges are harder than usual, so it wouldn’t be unlikely that you scratch your painted fixture).

And that’s it, you’re done! Now you don’t need to get angry at your lazy building manager, or your rentals company who keeps ignoring your messages about it, and you don’t need to spend any sizable amount of money or time to have your rented apartment looking minimally decent with window fixtures that actually resemble metal instead of a horrible white-paint mess.


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