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Known for their durability and high-gloss shine, our iconic porcelain enamel barn lights are handcrafted from solid steel and coated with multiple layers of porcelain enamel glass. With a variety of finish colors, accessories, and other customization options, our signature RLM shades become truly one-of-a-kind! Read More »

What is Porcelain Enamel? And why’s it used in lighting?

Porcelain enamel is a glass coating used in the manufacturing of innumerable household products. Also referred to as vitreous enamel, porcelain’s appeal primarily centers on its inherent ability to strengthen and protect these items from everyday wear and tear.

Due to its unmatched durability and resiliency, porcelain was an industry standard for historic lighting manufacturers. The shades once installed in factories, warehouses, and agricultural settings were ensconced with layers of porcelain enamel to help them withstand the sometimes taxing conditions they faced in these locations.

What are some aesthetic benefits to porcelain?

Unlike other finishes which can gradually fade with age, porcelain has demonstrated the ability to retain its color even after decades of use. Along with this color retention, porcelain possesses high-gloss properties that beautifully render colors and let the shades glisten in the sunlight.

What is RLM lighting?

Porcelain enamel is most commonly used on traditional RLM lighting shades—that stands for Reflective Luminaire Manufacturer. RLM lights are designed to direct light downward onto floors, sidewalks, and other surfaces, filling homes and businesses with illumination. These lights originated to brighten industrial and outdoor settings, but they eventually found their way into the interior spaces of businesses and homes.

RLM designs have remained consistent throughout the 20th century. Because they feature nostalgic character without feeling outdated or antiquated, RLM lights are still prominently featured in contemporary homes and businesses. As new preferences and styles have emerged, slight variations on these classic designs, like rounded lines and subtle playfulness, let RLM shades remain relevant to modern spaces.

How is porcelain enamel lighting constructed?

Historically, porcelain light fixtures were manufactured exclusively by hand, but eventually mass production replaced this “hands on” approach. However, manufacturers like Barn Light Electric, who revived the art of porcelain enamel lighting in the United States, honor the legacies of traditional lighting companies by producing American made lights and RLM shades by hand.

At Barn Light Electric, the process of creating porcelain enamel lights begins as round disks are stamped out of flat pieces of steel. The steel disks are then spun on a lathe and carefully worked around a mold by hand until it assumes the traditional shape. Holding the shades in their hands let our talented artisans pay meticulous attention to detail as they create each light.

Multiple layers of porcelain enamel are then applied to the shade to give them their distinctive appearance and ingrained durability. To permanently fuse the porcelain and steel together, the shades are fired in an oven capable of reaching temperatures of 1,600 degrees. After that, the shades are outfitted with sockets, mountings, and other customization options and shipped to homes and businesses throughout the country!

What the most common mountings for porcelain light fixtures? Where is porcelain enamel lighting typically installed?

Because porcelain light shades are capable of interior and exterior installation, they’re available with nearly every mounting imaginable. This lets every space embrace the nostalgic look of RLM porcelain lighting.

  • With a look evocative of the fixtures found on classic barns, porcelain gooseneck lights offer a grounded character to contemporary décors. This mounting protects the fixture’s wires, allowing installation in outdoor spaces and high volume commercial settings. Multiple angles of curved gooseneck arms further determine the light’s aesthetic while providing distance from the wall.
  • As pendant lighting, porcelain shades carry a traditional style to the various rooms of homes and businesses. Cord hung porcelain pendants are frequently installed above tables, both in kitchens and restaurants, to give spaces a defining aesthetic and establish its mood. Porcelain pendants with chain mountings function similarly, but with an enhanced industrial character. Because they protect the fixture’s wires, stem mounted pendants can be included in indoor and outdoor locations.
  • Mounted squarely against the wall, porcelain-coated sconces offer RLM styles with a more compact profile. With their wiring tucked away, wall sconces can greet guests outdoors on front porches or carry style into hallways.
  • Porcelain chandeliers unite multiple RLM shades with a single mounting. Used to make a statement in both homes and businesses, these lights function as the eye-catching focal points that define a room’s aesthetic.
  • For lights exclusively for outdoor spaces, porcelain post mount lights contribute security and style to settings like parking lots, public parks, and sidewalks.

With a vast selection of porcelain colors, wire cages and cast guards, and other options, all porcelain lighting can be fully customized to meet any space’s particular needs.