We are replacing our light switches with the historic push button light switches, and a brass switch plate.  my question is - is it also appropriate to use brass switch plates for all of the outlets?   we're in the process of gutting two rooms, so we have to pick new plates anyway, I'm just wondering what would be typical.     I'm only hesitant to use the brass for the outlets because they will be in the baseboard - would it look weird to have brass down there instead of a white plastic that would blend in more?

thanks for any insights or experiences!


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I sometime put dark brown plastic outlets and outlet covers.  I am not sure of the history of such things, but when I was a kid, it seemed like old, pre-WWII outlets were often dark brown plastic or bakelite.

Hope, I agree with Phil.  We also have push button switches and brass plates and we have the

dark brown covers on the outlets so they disappear into the molding.  Why would you want to bring

attention to the outlets. 



Thank you Phil and Charles, I think I just needed a sanity check.  I think outlet plates to match the baseboard will be just fine and we'll probably never see them anyway as they'll be behind furniture most of the time!



In the home I had that was built in 1904 it had all the original electric.  On the first floor the switches were push button with brass coverplates.  The brass was real heavy and very smooth, no fancy design.  The baseboard had no plugs but they were in the floor with the same brass cover plates and the plugs themselves were the brown bakelite.  Upstairs the same switches but the cover plates were the dark brown bakelite or plastic coverplates.  Upstairs had no plug ins in the floor or wall.  The breaker box had 4 fuses with a fork like handle like something out of a horror movie.  I saved it and wired it up to my stereo system out in the patio. It was a conversation piece for sure.   

As the owner of your house, you should always feel free to decorate as you choose. However, having said that, your outlets would have been celebrated just as much as your switches. The entire electrical system exposed to view would have been treated as one system.  As a long time restoration contractor, all of the intact interiors I've come across have been consistent thruout. It's still your house, do what makes you happy!  Enjoy!

David: do you mean that if light switches were brass, then the outlets would also be brass?  And if so, do you also ever see differences between upstairs and downstairs in those intact systems?  My window hardware is bronze downstairs and cast iron (same pattern) upstairs, for example, so I am wondering if original systems ever had brass downstairs and bakelite upstairs, or does that pattern reflect an electrical system put in only on the first floor with a later addition of it to the upstairs.  [Subquestion: did people tend to wire the whole house at once, or was it often a 2 stage process?]

Phil: I find that most homes were done all floors at one time, but the year as well as wealth of homeowner play a part. Early systems were often only lighting ( no outlets ) with either converted gas fixtures or new electrical lights. Many early fixtures had a switch built in, so no need for a wall switch. In higher end homes I have seen better hardware, as well as better grades and species of wood, from floor to floor, so I would think the electric trims could have been manipulated the same way.  I do think if you installed outlets on a budget, you would possibly only do main floor, as there was little need for electric in bedrooms.  I have seen homes as late as   only a few years ago with only a 2 prong converter screwd into an old wall sconce for plugging in cords in a bedroom. A better way to identify times of install is if the boxes, wire, devices and clamps match each other.

Interesting. Pre-electricity, and similar to the sconce outlets you point out, people use to tap off a gas hose from gas ceiling chandeliers for an extra gas hook-up in a room.


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