Anatomy of a Surface Mount

Surface mount light fixtures make up some of our most essential offerings here at Schoolhouse. Whether brightening up a breakfast nook or illuminating a lengthy corridor, surface mount lights are versatile, elegant, and easy to install. One thing we’ve noticed is that the terms used to describe surface mount fixtures aren’t always broadly understood. Because lighting jargon can be a little tricky to master, we’ve created this short guide to explain their terms of art and provide necessary tips for anyone buying a surface mount fixture.

Surface Mount Terminology:

First things first, the term “surface mount” refers to any light fixture that is mounted to an architectural surface (such as a wall or ceiling) and has exposed housing. Here at Schoolhouse, we use the term to refer to fixtures that are made to be mounted to the ceiling. Some of these fixtures can also be mounted horizontally to a wall, but unless the fixture was specifically designed for this purpose, we call it a surface mount. We refer to fixtures designed for wall mounting as wall sconces.

The Basic Components of the Surface Mount include:

– The canopy is the part of the light that attaches to the ceiling or the wall and covers the electrical junction box

– The fixture actually holds the lightbulb (or in the case of our integrated LED lights, the LED module) and might also contain the on/off switch if the fixture has a pull chain switch

– The fitter is the portion of the fixture that holds the shade on. Usually, it does so using tightening screws which help to secure the shade in place

– The shade attaches to the fitter and covers the lightbulb. Often, shades are made to diffuse light, giving the lamp a softer glow. Non-translucent shades can also help to direct the light.


Tips for Buying Fixtures and Shades:

There’s nothing quite as satisfying as unboxing your new fixture and having it be everything you ever hoped for. To do that, you’ll want to understand how to order and what to order. Follow these tips and you’ll be set up for success:

1. Remember the shade is a separate piece. 

While some of our lights come with their own shades, many do not. This modular approach to the way we sell our products allows our customers to get the exact combination of fixture, shade, and bulb that they want. The product page will indicate whether or not the fixture comes with a shade included.

2. Match the fitter size to the shade size.

There are many options for shades to match your new fixture but not every option will fit every size of fitter. If you’re buying a fixture with a 2.25 inch fitter, you’ll need purchase a shade with a 2.25 inch opening. The fitter size can be found in the product description.

3. Try different shade types for different effects

In addition to changing the overall look of the fixture, different shades will offer different lighting effects. For example, a translucent shade will spread a warm light around while also drawing the eye the fixture itself. An opaque shade will help to direct light to a specific area of focus. You can even forego the shade altogether if you want to make a strong statement. In that instance you'll want to choose a surface mount without a fitter. 

4. Consider your home's (and your own) style

Most of our shades fall into one of three design philosophies: traditional, modern, or industrial. Traditional shades might feature painted or dyed glass and come in a range of shapes and sizes that reflect a variety of design traditions. Shades designed in the modern aesthetic offer simple geometric forms, clean lines, and minimalist finishes that highlight the materials from which they’re built. For industrial design, our Factory Series offers the best example; their simple form and function are eye-catching but practical.

5. Don’t forget the lightbulbs!

The obvious benefit to ordering your lightbulbs with your fixtures is convenience. Simply put, you don’t want to have to make a trip to the store when your new fixture arrives. Ordering your lightbulbs from Schoolhouse will also ensure you have no problems with compatibility because our lightbulbs match both the aesthetic and functionality of our fixtures.



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