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Switch Plates
July 25, 2007 8:44 AM   Subscribe

When you reach for a light switch in North America, what you encounter is probably pretty boring. No doubt you know you could spice it up a little. Maybe you don't know just how many choices you have. The range of styles available is huge. There are some that may not have much of a market. There are others you probably wouldn't put up in the office.
posted by Kirth Gerson (36 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
I first saw the others style using Michelangelo's David.
posted by MtDewd at 8:51 AM on July 25, 2007


uh... this is a+ awesome. I'm currently renovating at home and I'm going to be looking at this selection for a few hours. I didn't need to do real work, anyways.
posted by ninjew at 8:51 AM on July 25, 2007


Daring > Decent.
posted by cortex at 8:53 AM on July 25, 2007


It's all in where you have your cutout, cortex.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:56 AM on July 25, 2007


Very cool!
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 9:04 AM on July 25, 2007


More light switches and switchplates on Flickr!
posted by cortex at 9:05 AM on July 25, 2007


Thanks for this, Kirth Gerson. I've been wanting to update my plates for months. This post might kick my ass into gear.
posted by NationalKato at 9:06 AM on July 25, 2007


Pepsi light.

(I kid!)
posted by adamrice at 9:18 AM on July 25, 2007


Awesome!
posted by arcticwoman at 9:22 AM on July 25, 2007


I make my own custom plates by cutting interesting graphics from magazines, cutting them to fit the plate, and Modge Podge-ing them down. Works great. They basically come out like this (not mine).
posted by schoolgirl report at 9:24 AM on July 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


Are the lightswitches in the USA really that standardized? All those in the FPP have the same shape. Here in Finland I've seen approximately a gazillion different models, which, I presume, makes this sort of business difficult.
posted by Anything at 9:42 AM on July 25, 2007


Meh. None of them fit Decora format switches and outlets.

Rare was the house in the 1970s that didn't have at least one Bicentennial eagle-themed switchplate.
posted by elmwood at 9:53 AM on July 25, 2007


A classic. (NSFW)
posted by srboisvert at 9:54 AM on July 25, 2007


EDIT: There's Southwest Switchplates models for Decora/rocker style switches.
posted by elmwood at 9:57 AM on July 25, 2007


Anything: All those in the FPP have the same shape.

That's not true. The second link in the FPP has switch plates of different shapes and sizes. You don't even have to click elsewhere - it's right there in that link.
posted by NationalKato at 10:09 AM on July 25, 2007


He's right about the switches, NK. There are other shapes of switches in N.A., and you can get most if not all those plates to fit them. The thin rectangular cutout plates fit the most common type, and are also used with rotary switches, where the knob conceals the cutout.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:26 AM on July 25, 2007


How about having them operate the right way? Y'know, like down being on?
posted by scruss at 10:43 AM on July 25, 2007


Switchplates at Etsy are likely to be one-of-a-kind or one-of-very-few-like-it.
posted by Western Infidels at 10:49 AM on July 25, 2007


"In my house there's this light switch that doesn't do anything. Every so often I would flick it on and off just to check. Yesterday, I got a call from a woman in Germany. She said, 'Cut it out'"
posted by growabrain at 10:58 AM on July 25, 2007


(Etsy link above possibly NSFW.)
posted by mendel at 11:31 AM on July 25, 2007


scruss, it's not that difficult. You change the state of the light switch to change the state of the light. For example, if it is up and the light is off, you push it down to turn the light on. If, in contrast, the switch is down and the light is off, you push the switch up.

This model is simple and valid worldwide. Regional variations should not present too big a puzzle for the traveler.
posted by jet_silver at 12:03 PM on July 25, 2007


Heh, the "different choices" link is full of designs normally adorning dorm room posters. I bet business picks up for them real well around the beginning of summer.
posted by invitapriore at 12:11 PM on July 25, 2007


scruss, have you never experienced the wonder that is *having two switches for the same light*? Perhaps at opposite ends of a corridor?
posted by altolinguistic at 1:58 PM on July 25, 2007


It's all cool and stuff, but I'm with schoolgirl report, it's just as easy to make one as it is to spend $20 on a light switch cover. What we've done with some of ours is get a glass painting kit at a craft store, then I did some outlines with the "lead" and Boychild painted them. They look really groovy, and if we ever want to change them, we can scrub the paint off and do it again. We did a dozen or so for less than $10, and have enough materials to do probably two dozen more.
posted by dejah420 at 2:22 PM on July 25, 2007


I once lived in an apartment with pushbutton switches. Two round buttons, one above the other, covered by an old brass switchplate. Very nifty.
posted by gubo at 3:01 PM on July 25, 2007


The Southwest plates were interesting, but Birds lacked a chickadee, Floral lacked a lily of the valley, Animals lacked a black Lab, Sports lacked a basketball. Guess I could make my own.
Many years ago, when there was an outlet opposite the front door in the entry hall of my house, I masked it by covering the plate with wallpaper. Did the same for the stairway light switch that I did not want turned off.
posted by Cranberry at 3:10 PM on July 25, 2007


I want all the switches in my house to look like 50's CapCom-style fighter-pilot missile ignition switches, complete with the red cover you have to flip up in order to toggle the switch beneath. Except for in the bathroom. My luck, I'd stagger in late one night and accidentally bomb Poland.
posted by Eideteker at 7:35 PM on July 25, 2007


I am with Anything on this one: I've been all over the globe and the USA is very weird about switches and power outlets: there seem to be like 4-5 variations on the same theme and that's it. Anybody know why? most of the rest of the planet has some variety there or (less often) considers them part of home decor...
posted by costas at 5:35 AM on July 26, 2007


For power outlets, why would variety be good? The U.S. outlets are standardized on purpose, and there is no need for the array of adapters you find some places.

As for switches, there is a variety. The reason you only see a few types commonly is because those are cheap, so that's what the builders install. Most people find them adequate, and aren't motivated enough to spend the money to change them.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:15 AM on July 26, 2007


Well, adapter interfaces are standardized (per country anyway) everywhere else too. But you get some variety on the design of the outlet. And I don't get the economic explanation either: you have the same boring old switches in 4-star hotels where (presumably) they can order whatever they'd like, because of scale. And fancier switches are not that much more expensive, otherwise they wouldn't be commonplace in the rest of the world.

Same thing with door-knobs. A very American thing to have that almost no-one else uses (and again isn't standardized in the US as far as I know either).

Either still beats the very British separate-taps-for-cold-and-hot-water thing. Now, that almost defies rationality :-)
posted by costas at 6:20 AM on July 26, 2007


Here are 20 pages of U.S. wall switches, 12 per page.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:24 AM on July 26, 2007


If I were building a 500-room 4-star hotel, with say 5 switches in each room, you'd better believe I'd buy familiar and adequate $1.50 switches instead of fancy $5.00 ones that don't work any better and might be harder to clean. (I don't really know what fancy switches you have in mind - the 5-stars I've stayed in didn't have any remarkable switches.)
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:31 AM on July 26, 2007


costas writes "Same thing with door-knobs. A very American thing to have that almost no-one else uses (and again isn't standardized in the US as far as I know either)."

How do you open doors without door knobs?
posted by Mitheral at 3:58 PM on July 29, 2007


You've heard of French doors?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:55 PM on July 29, 2007


You must mean something different than what we call French Doors in Canada as every set I've seen here has knobs.
posted by Mitheral at 9:44 PM on July 29, 2007


Hey, look up there! It looks like - yes! It's a joke!
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:55 AM on July 30, 2007


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