Monday, March 28, 2011

DIY cage light lampshade

I love, love cage lights, but I haven't managed to sell Rich on the idea, and I can understand. Y'all probably understand the appeal, but I think that most normal people (of course I'm sure some of you are that too :) don't really get the draw of exposed bulbs. They're a hard sell because getting them to look just right, not too harsh can be tricky.

Well, I had nearly convinced Rich that a cluster of cage lights would look awesome near my reading chair. It was going to be my birthday present...
but before I could fully convince myself, i changed my mind when I stepped outside one day to study the sad state of our back yard, and looked up:
there it was, our neglected planter that we hadn't even bothered to take down. My mind started racing, and I dropped everything that I was supposed to be doing, and set out to work. That's the trouble with free projects, they always, always seem like a good idea, and at least for me, they always assume a frantic type of urgency that may or may not cause at least a tinge of temporary insanity. Thankfully I have an understanding (or maybe it's worn down?) husband and patient kids who like to humor me. 

The shape reminded me of  this cage light pendant that I had seen at mothology:
I didn't know exactly what I was going to do with mine, until I found a great lamp base at Target that I couldn't find a good shade for. So I decided to combine the cage light concept with a regular lamp base rather a pendant light since that's what I needed for my reading corner. 

The Process:
• Select a hanging planter basket with a crossed bottom (as opposed to a solid disk)

• remove filling and hanging chains from the basket (most chains are simply attached with easy to remove clips)

• Place piece of paper on the outside of basket and trace the lines of the basket onto the paper (I used a falling apart book of Bob Dylan music as an inside joke with Rich…I've loved Bob since I was 12 and spent high school covering an entire walk in closet with his pictures, but Rich can't stand him :)

• Cut out the strip of paper and use as a template for cutting out remaining strips. Note: You can be less meticulous about cutting out the strips to perfectly match the width of the bars, or you could simple cut out random strips to create a paper mache effect. I wanted the light to distribute evenly when turned on, so I cut the strips to correspond exactly to the width of the wire bars.

• Brush mod podge or acrylic gel medium onto the strips of paper and place them on the inside of the basket wires, pressing them lightly into the bars so that they stick to the wire bars as well as to the other sheets of paper. Repeat until you've covered the inside. Note: the key is pressing lightly, so that the paper doesn't loose its shape or warp.

• Let dry for several hours. Reapply mod podge in any areas that look weak. (After it was completely dry, I brushed the entire inside with mod podge to make sure it kept its form.

• Cut the top third off a wine cork and cut off about 1/2 inch

• Using a drill or knife (I used a paring knife) create a hole that's slightly smaller than the width of the harp's finial screw

• On the other side of the cork, slice a cross (I used a serrated bread knife for this part as it cuts through cork very easily)

• Screw the hole side of the cork onto the harp's finial screw

• Place the cross at the bottom of the hanging basket through the slices in the top of the cork
 I have had one guest ask me if my daughter made it (she's 5 :) and a few others who have eyed it questioningly, but I really like it, and smile whenever I take the time to read some of the lyrics.


  1. Great job!!! My experience with exposed bulb lamps is that you should chose opaque glass bulbs otherwise you'll be dazzled by the filament when the light is on.

  2. I LOVE it!!! I love when we can recreate something from all our favorite stores! It looks really good!

  3. Leah, that blows my mind that you made that. You are amazing.

  4. You amaze me once again!!! Gorgeous. I still have the sisal lamp shade on my list of projects to attempt. This awesome project will have to be added to the list. I love your description of being rendered temporarily insane when an idea hits. I am so glad I'm not alone:)

  5. I love those lamps! in Argentina are really expensive, but as expensive as the planter basket. I will try to find an old one to do it!

  6. It's adorable! I love your take on the shade...such a fun and whimsical conversation piece for sure! Would love to see how it lights up at night...maybe a sneak peek into an evening shot? Such innovation, thanks for sharing!


    Haute Khuuture Blog

  7. Hello Leah: your light (and blog too!) is really cool and I linked this to my pendant lights post today, for inspiration!

  8. Grand Brass has the mcgill cages, sockets, antique style bulbs, and twisted wire. I purchased all the items needed and saved hundreds of dollars. I had some questions before ordering and the knowledgeable staff was able to help me. I would highly recommend.


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