I’m Back! And how to turn $10 into a custom light fixture

So I took a few months off of blogging. Creativity ebbs and flows – and the last couple months were more about getting along and less about craft projects and trying new recipes. We’re now in a new apartment – one that is bigger and in a great neighborhood, but has taken a little more elbow grease than the one before. I love a challenge, though! I had to pick my priorities, it’s a rental so changing EVERYTHING is out of the question. There’s a lot I will be blogging about in the coming months – how we painted the whole place for under $40, a massive kitchen update, and much more. One of the projects that has made the biggest impact is turning a boring and outdated dining room light fixture into a dramatic centerpiece. So here is the story of how I turned this:

Into this:

for $10!

The beauty of this project is that it can be adapted to pretty much any hanging light fixture – and I know a lot of apartments have less than stellar lights begging to be updated. Also, it leaves absolutely NO damage to the apartment – it is held up only by the wired twine wrapped into the chain. So here’s how you can do this.


  • Handmade art paper (Check out the Paper Place if you’re in Austin) – $4.50
  • Heavy gauge floral wire – $3
  • Twine-covered floral wire – $2.50
  • Double sided tape – a couple cents worth?


  1. Take a measuring tape and wrap it around the fixture to figure out how big your shade needs to be. You want it to wrap loosely and add a few inches – paper too close to lightbulbs is a bad idea!
  2. Use the measuring tape to figure out about how tall you want the shade to be. You really only need to barely cover the existing fixture – just decide how much you want it to be visible when you get close, the longer it is on bottom, the less the old chandelier will show.
  3. Use these measurements when you go to buy supplies. You will need twice the circumference plus a few inches for the heavy gauge floral wire and once the circumference in paper (it’s okay if you have to piece it together). You will only need one package of twine covered wire and double sided tape.
  4. When picking out paper, consider how much light you want to show through. You can hold the paper up to the store lights to figure out how opaque it will be. Make sure you pick out a paper that is relatively sturdy – tissue paper will be too delicate. I picked out a sturdy yet slightly transparent marbled paper with an organic look that worked well with the imperfect, slightly crumpled shape. It had a great metallic gold swirl that makes it stand out even when the light is off.
  5. Back at home, trim your heavy gauge wire and paper to the desired size – add an extra 2″ to each piece of wire and about an extra inch on each side for the paper. I just needed one piece of paper – cut in half longways. If your paper is too long, make sure your pieces are equal in size, you’ll want your seams to be equally spaced.

    (Thanks Mom!)
  6. Now to start assembling! Start by making your separate pieces of paper into one long piece. You’ll want a single overlap – so line one narrow end of paper with double sided tape, as close to the edge as you can get. Then press the unfolded second piece over the tape, with the edge of the paper as close to the other edge of the tape as you can get. Repeat this as many times as you need to get one long piece – just don’t close the loop quite yet! You want a strip, not a cylinder.

    (see how smooth that is!)
  7. Now that you have your shade in one piece, it’s time to add the wire frame. Line one long end of the shade with double sided tape. You want full coverage, leave no gaps, and stop about one inch from the end.
  8. Take your first piece of wire and straighten it out as best you can. Fold the edge with the tape over the wire, starting in the middle, and adhere to the other side of the paper. You want this seam on the inside of the shade, so the “good” side of the paper does not have tape on it – you’re wrapping the good side over the wire, taping to the back side. Move out from the center, one side at a time, stopping when you get to the end of the tape.
  9. Repeat the process with the other side. Your wired side may be making things difficult, but it will help to weight down each end with something heavy. I used liquor bottles, but you’re free to use books if you want to feel less like a lush.
  10. So now you have one long strip, with bendable wire on each long end, and un-assembled short ends. Wrap it up into an open cylinder shape and stand it up. This next part is a little tricky.
  11. You want this seam to end up looking exactly like the other seam, the tricky part is that you have the wire ends to deal with. Each wire end needs to slide into the pocket that the other end of that same wire is coming out of, like a little wire handshake. Do this to both the top and bottom wires.
  12. Add double sided tape to one of the outside paper edges (stopping before you wrap around to the inside), and delicately press the other paper end on top of it.
  13. Add double sided tape to the inside of this seam and make sure there are no gaps.

    (Don’t pay attention to the strings on top, that was a failed experiment!)
  14. Now you have a shade! Give yourself a high five! Here comes the fun part – the sculptural suspension pieces. Use a razor to cut three small, evenly spaced holes just below the top wire. You only want to use three connecting pieces – it’s the easiest number of supports to use to level the shade.
  15. Cut three long pieces of twine-covered wire, long enough to reach from the outside of the shade to the connecting point on the chain, plus some to twist around.
  16. Poke one wire through each hole, pulling a few inches of each piece to hang outside of the shade, and the long piece inside it. Pinch the wire to hold the shade in place, and twist the end up all curly-like.
  17. This part will really work out best if you have 2 people – one to hold the shade or stand back and tell you about the balance, and one to manipulate the wire.  Start by pulling the long end of each wire into a different loop in the chain.
  18. Start pulling each wire, one at a time, to get the shade at about the right height that you want. You’ll want to bend a kink into the wire where it connects to the chain to hold it in that position.
  19. Twist the long ends, trying to fill the space – both vertical and horizontal. You want it to look natural, like vines growing up a trellis.
  20. When you have it relatively level, you’ll want to turn your attention to the shade again. Smooth out the kinks, working it towards a relatively round shape.
  21. The shade will now be a little lopsided again, fix this by bending the wire between the shade and the chain.
  22. You’re now basically done – take your twine twisting the twine into an artistic shape and making sure the shade is even.

You’re done! You just turned your ugly chandelier into a beautiful work of art! I wish I had a better camera to truly capture how cool this looks, it really was a great project that transformed the dining room. The light is now soft and inviting, and we have a great conversation piece.


4 responses to “I’m Back! And how to turn $10 into a custom light fixture

  1. VERY cool! Glad you’re back! 🙂

  2. Yea Em’s back!

  3. Hoorah! How amazing. Congrats on your new apt and more space.

  4. Thanks everyone! I’m glad to finally have the creative juices flowing again.

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