The Vintage is in the Details – Bakelite!

Hi, there! I’m glad you came by today! I’m just sharing a little project I did a over the holidays, but one that, as silly and small as it is, I’m totally ticked over!

You know me – I love all things vintage. I love the feel of history, the ghosts of the past, and the familiarity that decorating with a vintage flair brings. Maybe it’s because I was raised in great part by my grandfather, who kept everything exactly as it was after my grandmother died. I was raised with cookware, dishes, décor, clothing, and furniture from eras gone by around me everyday. One of my favorite things from those eras is Bakelite.

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I played with a Bakelite Viewmaster exactly light this all the time growing up. I have no idea whatever happened to it and it makes me sick that it’s gone.

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Bakelite was one of the first synthetic plastics. Developed in 1907, Bakelite went on to be used in everything from men’s pipes to children’s toys, from kitchenware to telephones. We had a lot of it at my grandfather’s house. Everything from butter dishes to outlet adaptors were Bakelite. I look through museums and antique stores and see a lot of things I grew up with.

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To me, Bakelite is an instant time machine. It is so identifiable that you just don’t mistake it for anything else. It is still being made today, but not for the variety of items it used to be. Today, Bakelite is primarily manufactured for uses in the electronics, power generation, and aerospace industries. Also, some chess, checkers, and backgammon pieces are still made from it. But, if you want a Bakelite bowl or bracelet, you hit the antique stores and online sites like eBay or Etsy.

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So, since I want to bring as many touches of the vintage aesthetic into my Master Bedroom Project as possible, naturally I envisioned these perfect projects, carefully planned out all the details, then executed them to perfection, right?

(Insert chorus of angels singing TA-DA! here.)

Well, uh, no, not really. Actually, I rarely have “Chorus of Angels” moments. I have been known to have a few “Great Scot!” moments like that guy from Back to the Future, though, complete with the crazy hair and wild eyes, I’m sure…But, I digress.

Anyway, this time, I was being lazy – I’ll admit it. It was late and I was finishing up painting the walls when I realized I hadn’t picked up new outlet and light switch covers. I’m also one of those who can’t sleep until a project is done. So, paint the walls, replace the covers, then go to sleep.

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Boring, nasty, beat-up things…

So, I was sitting on the bed, talking myself out of running up to the hardware store at 9pm. If I had to go back up to the store, then I might as well create a mini-shopping list of things I still needed and just go out the next day.

Normal people are not kept awake by one night of uncovered light sockets, for Pete’s sake.

Well, I got bored with making a boring list of boring, not-fun things, as I am prone to do, and started mentally shopping for goodies for my décor. I was visualizing all the things I could remember from Grandpa’s bedroom – not really even thinking of the switch plate covers at all by this point. (I was actually trying to remember what had happened to Grandpa’s Bakelite portable radio and wondering if I could replace it.) I thought to myself that the old dark colored Bakelite things he had would really pop in my creamy “vintage buff” room.

That’s when my inspiration finally struck. I was thinking how awesome it would be if my switch plate covers were Bakelite. I was considering how long it would take me to find six Bakelite switch plate covers, when the cheapskate thrifter in me looked at the six perfectly functional covers I had taken off the walls. “Don’t spend money you don’t need to” my cheapskate practical brain whispered from inside my skull.

Went straight to the garage. Out came the spray paints. That’s the actual can. (As you can see, I paint like a crazy person.)

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Anyway, I chose Satin Expresso and gave them two even coats after priming. (Actually, I used Chocolate first, but it wasn’t the right brown. So, I guess, technically, these have three coats of paint after the primer). Don’t forget the priming! It’s a must for items that are going to get a lot of contact. I figured if I didn’t like it, I had planned on replacing the plates anyway.

But, I liked them! I like them a lot! The Satin Expresso was just spot-on to the classic Bakelite color.

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I like the contrasting outlets right now – they kind of really pop. But, I might change that. I don’t know. And I need to touch up the screws. I forgot a couple. LOL That’s what you get for having a “Great Scot!” moment late at night.

With the other vintage elements in the room, it’s tough to tell that these aren’t Bakelite at a glance. I mean, they aren’t something you walk in and go, “Oh Em Gee! Look at your switch plates!” That would just be weird. But, they are a small detail that adds authenticity and familiarity to the overall feel of days gone by, especially if I add one or two genuine Bakelite articles in the room. The only thing really missing are the ridge details found in most of the original Bakelite switch plates.

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It’s not like this was an earth-shattering makeover, but it was a fun little reminder that those small elements that you only notice subconsciously can add a lot to an overall design. Not everything has to be a major build or an expensive addition to get significant impact.

OK, so talk at me, peeps – am I just waxing poetical or are these pretty dang good as knock-off Bakelite?

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(Shona Skye Creative by Kristy M Creighton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. If you are reading this on a site other than Shona Skye Creative or my SSC-related social media accounts, and it is not a guest post, then the content has been stolen. Please report it at Thank you!)

13 thoughts on “The Vintage is in the Details – Bakelite!

  1. Cranberry Morning says:

    Yeah, I think you achieved the desired effect. 🙂 I got to work with bakelite when I was a kid. We made stuff out of it in Industrial Arts class. I wish I had some of it now. That should teach me to never throw anything away! lol

  2. Book Geek says:

    I know nothing about Bakelite but I love the contrast!! Plus while your hunting you can always keep an eye out for the real thing so you can upgrade!

  3. Christine says:

    HAHAHA Yay.. you're a little crazy hehe I'm glad you didn't go to the store at 9:00pm.. because you wouldn't have found the perfect solution. The plaques look GREAT!

    Thanks so much for sharing this at The DIY Dreamer… From Dream To Reality!

  4. Jenn "Rook No. 17" says:

    Kristy, I'm a big fan of Bakelite as well. I love your DIY project. The switchplate and outlet covers look wonderful! I love all of the Bakelite pictures that you showcased as well — especially the watch and radio.

    Jenn/Rook No. 17

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