Vintage-Inspired Embossed Switchplate Makeover

I need switchplates in my house.  I need them everywhere, on nearly every light switch and electrical socket.  See, when we moved in, we painted most of the rooms, so we took off the old, icky-looking plastic ones.  After the walls were painted, I stubbornly refused to put them back up, not in my pretty new house.  So one by one, very slowly but surely, I have been replacing them.

One of the places I still needed one was in my kitchen, where I have a triple light switch.  I’ve seen a few nice ones that I really liked, but I wasn’t willing to pay too much one when I knew I could fancy one up myself.  Notice the gaping hole in the wall that houses the switches?

Then a couple of weeks ago I was at a Habitat for Humanity ReStore where I happened upon a wooden triple switchplate.  It was beat up and needed some love, but in was only a quarter.  That’s right, a mere 25 cents!  How could I not buy it, right?  I brought it home and started looking around for ideas.  Inspired by a vintage cast iron light switch plate I spied on Pinterest, I had the idea to give it a similar look using rubber stamps.  Yes, rubber stamps!

You will need:

  • Wooden switchplate
  • Sandpaper
  • Spray primer
  • Rubber stamps
  • Pigment stamp ink
  • Embossing powder
  • Heat gun or blow dryer

I started by sanding the old finish off and giving it a few coats of spray primer.

Then I started stamping.  Now, for this part, make sure you use a pigment ink pad; dye inks won’t work.  The ink color doesn’t matter, since you’ll be painting over it anyway!  Working one image at a time, stamp with a well-inked stamp, then sprinkle embossing powder over the wet ink.  Shake off the excess powder, then melt it with a heat gun or a blow dryer on the high heat setting but low speed.  You’ll know it’s done when it goes from having a gritty look to being smooth and shiny.

If you have extra-think embossing powder it would be perfect for this project.  The only stuff I had on hand wasn’t very thick, so I stamped each image and embossed it, then went over it again with ink and embossing powder, and again, until I had four layers of embossing for each image.  (Clear rubber stamps are such a blessing for projects like this!)  Keep stamping and embossing until you are happy with your design all the way around.

Then, it was back to the spray primer!  Apply light coats, just enough to cover the color of the ink but not so thick that you lose any of the detail of the stamping.

Now it’s time to paint your switchplate!  Be sure to paint in thin coats so that you don’t lose the embossed details.  I used several coats in different colors, starting with the darkest and working lighter with each coat and applying the paint with a fairly dry brush.  This helped give more depth to the details of the embossing, and gave it a bit of a distressed look that matches the trim in my kitchen.

If your switchplate is in a place where it will need frequent cleaning (like next to the stove!), protect it by sealing with spray enamel, Mod Podge, or whatever other clear sealer you have.

On a side note, I now feel the need to paint the screws as well, since all I had on hand were the scratched up old ones from the switchplates I hate.  And I could have Photoshopped out my dirty switches (being next to the stove, they just don’t stay spotless no matter what I do) but in the spirit of keepin’ it real, I left it as is.  If it bothers you, you’re welcome to come over and scrub them for me!