Bright Ideas for Light Fixtures

Shop flea markets and hardware stores to create these one-of-a-kind lamps.

Veneer Lampshade

Add some natural ooh-la-la to your living room. This wood-grain beauty mimics more expensive models. Our secret? By-the-sheet veneer, available for a few bucks at your local wood supply store.

Here's how: Roll the shade on the veneer and trace three panels, each the full height and roughly one-third the width of the shade. Cut out the panels with a sharp crafts knife. Bond the pieces to the shade with veneer cement adhesive. Hang with a pendant light kit, readily available at any home center.

Bar Cart Lamp

Light up your mobile drink cart. Drill a hole in a cart top and in the shelf below. Insert a hollow metal curtain rod and secure it in a wood lamp base screwed to the bottom of the shelf. Use a light kit to wire the lamp, and top it with a shade and finial. Just add your favorite beverages!

Starfish Nightlight

This beachy nightlight emanates soothing seashore vibes. Place it in a dark hallway or a child's room for a pretty nighttime glow. Use a dried starfish collected from your travels or one purchased from a crafts store. Use a utility knife to gently scrape the back of the starfish to make it more translucent. Then glue it to the front of a standard dollar-store nightlight.

Wire Lampshade

Tap into your inner industrial chic. Cut a wire lampshade frame in half and crimp aluminum radiator grille around the frame. Line the grille with opaque art paper to diffuse the light. Use a light kit to wire the light, cut off the plug, and hard-wire the sconce to the wall.

DIY Tip: Use a high-power, low-wattage LED light for long-lasting luminosity and to prevent the paper from getting too hot.

Letter Lighting

Letters, typography, and word art are everywhere we look right now. Here's our bright take on the trend: Drill through the front of a plastic letter with a concave back, then poke battery-operated holiday lights through the holes.

Microphone Stand Lamp

Be on the lookout for school band auctions and clearance sales at music stores to score a microphone stand. String a pendant light cord up through the hollow stand and down the boom arm. Use a torch to heat a threaded steel nipple, then bend it to 90 degrees. Screw in the end of the boom and then thread it through the lampshade and secure with a finial or nut. The shelf is a perfect spot to display magazines or kid artwork.

Light in a Bottle

Simple and elegant, this is a great project for beginners and super speedy to boot. Secondhand stores are brimming with pretty bottles. Find a pretty translucent bottle and an appropriately sized shade to match. Use a bottle light adapter kit (available at most hardware stores) with a simple cork fitting. Voila! A new lamp without drilling even one hole.

Hanging Bowl Lamps

We see plenty of pendant lamps in kitchen spaces, but this charming twist makes them bedroom-ready. Simply drill a hole in the bottom of an enamelware bowl, invert, and insert a halogen accent light, securing with caulk. To dress up the cord, fold 1-inch grosgrain ribbon around it and glue with fabric adhesive, forming an inverted seam. Finish with a bow.

Four-Tile Fixture

We love this sconce project for its slightly Southwestern flair. Place one above a chair or entry bench, or place matching sconces on either side of a fireplace or door for symmetrical style.

Here's how to make it: Mortar and grout four tiles to a plywood base. Use a carbide-tip masonry bit to drill a hole at the center (drill through an X of masking tape to prevent chipping). Insert a candlestick sconce, and hard-wire.

Twine Pendants

Move over, papier-mache. This project takes rustic to funky new levels. Fill a bowl with Elmer's glue and a few drops of water. Coat long lengths of twine in the glue mixture. Then enlist a friend to hold and turn an inflated round balloon as you guide twine around the circumference. Be sure to apply twine to every area of the balloon, leaving enough spaces for light to emerge. When dry, pop and remove the balloon, then hang with a pendant light kit and an oversize bulb. We like to hang these pendants at various levels on a covered porch before party time; they cast an inviting glow.

Shelf and Mirror Lighting

Maximize a small lamp's wattage by using mirrors to bounce the light around the room. Drill holes through the top and back of a shelf to accommodate a glass shade and lighting kit; guide the wiring out the back. Hang the shelf, then top with a folding mirror.

Lamp Parts: Shade Wire

Lampshade wire forms the framework for shades. This washer-top wire is to be used with a harp and finial.

Lamp Parts: Nightlight, Harp, and Cord

Night-light: By affixing a decorative object to the basic unit, you can create a custom night-light.

Harp: A harp, harp base, and finial help secure a shade to a lamp. The bulb sits in a socket.

Cord: Electrical cords are available in many lengths and colors; some are wrapped in fabric.

Lamp Parts: Light String

Whether battery-operated or plug-in style, holiday lights can inspire a variety of mood-lighting projects.

Safety Note: If you follow manufacturers' directions, lighting kits for plug-in lamps are easy to use, even for a novice. When hard-wiring, however, always flip the circuit off and consult a wiring how-to book, or hire a professional.

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