Cheap fans with phony shiny wood grain and "brass" parts are pretty ugly, and pretty prevalent. Since I couldn't find a great looking replacement that didn't cost a gazillion dollars, and since my fans still worked fine, I decided to just change their look. This project is easy to do and doesn't require any electrical work (unless you want it to). Plan on taking 2-3 hours to tackle the first 6 steps, and another 30 mins to reassemble your fan and turn it on.
Step 1: Materials
Rustoleum oil based paint or the like
2-3 paint brushes
All purpose cleaner and towels
Screwdriver (flat and/or Phillips depending on your fan)
Step 2: Remove fan blades from motor
I have done two fans. For the first I removed the entire fan from the ceiling requiring me to turn off the power to the fan at the circuit box. While this did allow me to fix a problem with the fan (it's a 3-speed but was only one was working), it made painting the motor housing difficult.
For the second fan I just left the motor on the ceiling. This made painting the motor housing really simple. Removing the fan blades is very easy to do. Seems pretty standard that the blades are attached to the motor by a couple of screws and that's it. Just remove the screws and the blade and connector will separate from the housing.
Step 3: Separate fan blades from connectors and clean all
Unscrew the blades from the connectors. These screws came out very easily in both my fan projects.
Fan blades get super grimy and dusty, esp if near a kitchen which was the case for one of mine. I used all purpose cleaner and rags and went over the blades a few times to get them clean. Same with the connectors.
Step 4: Put a primer coat on the blades
You only have to paint one side of the blades since no one will ever see the top side. Prime the edges of the blades first and then work a thick coat onto the face of the blade. Any good quality primer will work. I used Zinsser water-based primer.
I did one coat of primer and that seemed to be enough. But two coats wouldn't hurt, and primer paint dries pretty quickly.
Step 5: Paint metal parts - no primer needed
I used Rustoleum oil-based black satin paint. If you use an oil-based paint wear gloves as the paint likes to stick around. For the connectors I did a nice thick coat with a cheap brush. Even if you splat it on, the paint sorta smooths itself out as it dries and has a spray-paint finish to it in the end, very smooth and even. One coat was all I did, with a little touching up on the finished product. For the motor housing, I positioned a 6-foot ladder on one side of the housing attached to the ceiling and painted one half then moved to the other side to paint the second half. I used a much thinner coat on the housing since I didn't want drips -- that Rustoleum is nasty stuff to clean up.
Step 6: Paint blades with two coats of finish color
By now the primer coat is dry enough to do the first color coat. I used left-over water-based latex paint from the paint job recently done in my living room so that the fan blades match my walls. You'll need to do at least two coats if you are going to a lighter color on your fan blades.
Step 7: Reconnect blades to connectors, and connectors to motor
Wait overnight for everything to dry and then put the fan blades and connectors back together -- reverse what you did in steps 3 and 2. Be careful when handling the connectors because the paint can scratch off pretty easily. Not really a problem later since you will probably never touch the connectors, or if you do it will be with a soft cloth when cleaning.
My fans have two rows of screw holes so that I can choose to use four blades (inner row of holes) or five blades (outer row of holes). I went with four to minimize the fan even more. With the nice white paint you can hardly see the fan when it's on.
Step 8: Touch up et voila!
You may need to touch up your paint job, especially the paint you use on the connectors and motor housing -- it's tough to paint those shiny surfaces thoroughly in one go around. Regardless, I found touch-up to be minimal.
I chose to ditch the horrible glass globes that come with these old crappy fans and invested in these Satco light adaptors. They work like adjustable track lights. I picked these up online for around $12 each, so $72 for enough for the two fans. (I bet you could do something awesome and super cheap with little Ikea light fixtures!) And the six 50w halogen narrow floodlights set me back about $30. But even with these accessory costs, I got two great looking, great working fans for well less than half the cost of one replacement fan.