DIY Traditional Light Pendant From $1 Shades

I looked around my house the other day and realized that at least 90% of my décor falls into three categories:

  1. Hand me downs from my parents/brother and sister-in-law.
  2. Rehabbed thrift store furniture.
  3. Target find.

After being relatively nomadic on our own for 12 years, my husband and I finally settled into a house after our third anniversary. And once the movers dropped off the last of our stuff, it was a matter of uniting a mish mash of furniture and décor from nearly every conceivable style (mid-century modern, shabby chic, beach cottage, contemporary) into a nearly 100-year-old Dutch Colonial.

This is when I turned to thrift (and Target) to help me unify my design. As someone on a beer budget who loves to switch of the look of a room every, oh, four to five months, I can’t exactly afford to bring in brand new pieces on a whim. But with a group of four or five constantly stocked thrift stores nearby, I always have material.  Yet, it’s not always just my budget that causes me to gravitate toward thrift: vintage furniture is often well-built and totally unique. It also provides plenty of hours of therapeutic creativity with low risk; I don’t feel bad if I, say, make a mistake on something that cost me $3.50.

The hunt for something totally unique is what brings me here today. Three years ago, I purchased the Hemma cord set from IKEA for $5.  (There is seriously not a better deal out there!) I intended to purchase or build a shade…and then never got around to it.  I’ve seen so many contemporary pendant shades, but all were priced well above my budget. So, I decided to turn to thrift.

The Hunt: Now here’s the thing: I can’t guarantee you’ll find this exact piece at your local store, (that’s the fun of it) but the instructions of whatever materials you use should remain relatively the same. In fact, pendant lights can be designed from a variety of materials easily found at your local thrift. You can look for old wood and glass shades like I discovered, or get creative! I’ve seen people use similar instructions for: glass bulb shades, a globe cut in half, two colanders, the skeleton of two fans, a bird cage, two utensil holders…the list is limited only by your imagination! Gravitate toward metal, wood, glass or heavy-duty plastic: you don’t want to use a material, like, paper, that may catch fire if placed too close to a heat source. I found these two old light shades at Habitat for Humanity for $1.00 a piece.

What You Need:

  • Preferred Paint (I used Martha Stewart Textured Metallic in Pyrite)
  • Small Hinge
  • Small Latch
  • Small Screwdriver or Heavy Duty Glue (Gorilla Glue)
  • IKEA Hemma Light Pendant Or Similar
  • Optional, Sandpaper and Wire Cutters

Step One, Create Hole: Because I am using a wood shade that was already designed for lights, I don’t have to cut an additional hole. The material you use will determine what set of tools you will need; likely a set of wire clippers will be able to cut through most materials. Measure the diameter of the pendant and cut a hole so the pendant will snugly rest at the top of the globe without falling through or touching the sides.

Step Two, Sand or Paint: If you are using wood shades or any wood object, it’s always good to run a layer of sandpaper over it. If you are using a fan, colander, wood, or anything you’d like to paint—now is the time. Since I am using wood, I decided to give it a textured finish with Martha Stewart’s Textured Metallic Specialty Finish in Pyrite. If you are using colanders, try spray paint. I’ve seen some really neat pendant lights with a yellow interior and a bright blue exterior-love it!

Step Three, Hinge: Once your piece is dry, you’re going to want to hinge the two halves together. This will allow you to open the pendant with ease to replace the light bulb. I purchased these small hinges at our local hardware store, along with a small screwdriver. Because they are small and the wood is soft, there’s no need to use a drill, simply screw in the hinges with their corresponding screw. If you’re using a metal material you can either use a super heavy-duty glue, like gorilla glue, to attach it, or drill a small hole through the side material and run a piece of wire to hold.

Step Four, Latch: On the opposite side of the hinge, you want to add a small latch so that you are able to keep your pendant closed. I used a small 5/8-inch latch I found in the hardware store and hammered in the tiny nails. If you are using a globe or colander, use glue or wire to attach as you did above.

Step Five, Pull Pendant Light Through: Now, simply pull the cord through the hole and secure the pendant light. Add a light bulb and you’re finished!  Congratulations on creating something totally ‘you,’ and totally priceless!

Photos via the author