Interior Decorating: Shabby Chic Chandelier Ideas

Whether you're updating an old chandelier or creating a new one from scratch, these one-of-a-kind lighting ideas make decorating fun.

Chandeliers can be fun and fabulous when you're decorating with shabby chic items. Whether you're starting with a traditional light fixture or something unusual, your chandeliers can make a personal decorating statement.

What's your lighting goal? If your room already has lamps that you use and like, a chandelier may be more decorative than practical.

If it will be an important light source, your first concern may be the number and size of bulbs or candles on it.

First, decide whether to work with a readymade chandelier, or something that you'll create from other materials.

If you're starting from scratch, aim for something quirky and unique.


Start with an interesting form that can hang from your ceiling.

For example, a small tree branch can look dazzling if you attach votive lamps with ornately twisted wire. Add some large glass beads--threaded on the wires or hanging from clear nylon fishing line--and the effect is dazzling.

An old but stylish birdcage becomes a festive chandelier if you cover it with strings of holiday lights in various sizes or colors. For extra brightness, you can suspend a traditional or novelty light bulb in the center of the cage, using a "make it yourself" light fixture kit from the crafts shop or hardware store.

That same kind of lighting kit may be the starting point for other chandelier designs.

Create a chandelier that's sure to get smiles with a kitchen colander as the shade. Hang vintage crystals or holiday ornaments from the rim. Weave colorful trim through some of the colander holes, and leave the rest open for light to shine through. If you're handy with tools, cut a few star shapes in the colander. The light will cast interesting designs on your walls and ceiling.

Or, use a metal colander with small round holes. Paint it black. (Be sure to buy paint intended for use on metal. This can be sold as appliance paint, automobile paint, or specialized craft paint.)

Drill small holes--or insert tiny eyehooks--into wooden dominoes. Suspend at uniform or widely different heights from the rim of the colander. When the white light shines through the holes of the black colander, it will mimic the white dots on the dominoes.

Or, suspend a new lampshade frame with a regular light fixture kit. Cover the shade with a "retro" fabric, such as a 1930s-style print in crayon box colors. Suspend small toys--maybe vintage Cracker Jack items--from the edges. If you're daring, a yellow light bulb makes this chandelier a true conversation piece.

Almost any fire resistant item that's open at one end can be used with an inexpensive lighting kit as a one-of-a-kind chandelier.

Whether the decorations come from your kitchen, sewing kit, toy box, vintage jewelry collection or another source, the finished chandelier is certain to earn compliments.


It can be even easier to salvage a broken chandelier from a yard sale or a dusty corner in your attic. Clean it up and use it "as is" or refinish it to make a unique visual statement.

If the light fixture is old, you'll probably need to replace the wiring. This is very easy. Visit your public library for illustrated wiring instructions; many home repair books will show you how.

In a nutshell: Loosen the hardware on the chandelier and attach strings to the far ends of the existing wires. Remove the old wires, starting at the ends opposite from where the strings are attached. Then, use the strings as guides to pull new wires through the fixture. (It's much simpler than it sounds.) Clamp or tighten the hardware, and you're all set.

If any parts are missing from the chandelier, you can probably replace them at the hardware store. But, think of alternatives, too.

For example, you could combine parts from two different, broken chandeliers. The result could be dramatic and fun.

For a serene and fashionable look, you can paint the wood and/or metal parts in white, cream, or pastel colors. If you're painting on metal, be sure to buy products intended for metal surfaces.

If your chandelier had hanging glass crystals, you can replace them at most large antiques shops. However, for a real "shabby chic" look, don't try to match the old crystals exactly. A variety of sizes, styles, and cuts can add interest to your chandelier. Substitute quirky items for a few of the crystals; small, slender holiday ornaments are a simple choice. Old plastic, glass, or rhinestone earrings and pendants are equally fun in place of crystals.


Most crafts supply shops offer a wide range of finishing products, including paints that look crackled or like cast stone. Or, you could mix and match solutions for the look of rust or verdigris in a variety of colors.

Add unexpected trim such as rusted barbed wire and vintage lace; Mardi Gras beads, tiny "worry dolls" and brightly dyed feathers; or Chinese coins strung on red ribbons.

For a more daring look, make a small lampshade for each bulb out of leopard print fabric trimmed with faux leather.

Or, you could wrap the entire chandelier with plaster gauze (the kind used for casts on broken bones). With a sponge brush, apply a sealer or gesso to the dried gauze.

Then, you can paint the chandelier in demure or wild colors using acrylic paint. Thin any acrylic paint with water, until it's the consistency of a cream soup. Apply it with a sponge brush.

Finally, glue beads, buttons, or other ornaments to it, and add novelty light bulbs to the fixture.

Chandeliers can be as demure or daring as the rest of your decor. Start with a small project, and you'll soon be creating one-of-a-kind lights for every room in your house. And, very time you redecorate, you can refinish your chandeliers for an entirely new look.

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