Say that one three times fast.
10 months ago, when I started this nursery makeover thing, all I knew for certain was that I wanted a mirrored chandelier. It was the first nursery project that I started trying to figure out. (That’s right, it took me longer to design and build a chandelier than it did to grow a human being.) I didn’t know exactly what that mirrored chandelier would look like, but I wanted a chandelier that would bounce light around like a disco ball. Oh, but I didn’t want it to look like a disco ball.
Those among you who enjoy killing time by pondering the great questions of the universe may be wondering, “Why a mirrored chandelier that’s not a disco ball?” So. It all goes back to the very beginning, when I was trying to figure out what the hell a nursery was supposed to look like. And I spent an unhealthy amount of time on Pinterest and Google looking for inspiration. And yet I failed to find a single image of a baby’s room that elicited a more emotional response than “meh.”
The only ones that even got that high of a mark were the nature-inspired ones.
I wouldn’t say I was IN LOVE with any of these rooms. Only that they were the best of the bunch. They were the ones where I thought, “Yeah, okay…maybe. I mean, I suppose. If I HAVE to design a nursery and then spend a considerable amount of time in it, then I guess I could tolerate a nature-themed room. I guess.”
Upon settling for the theme that seemed like the lesser of the nursery-theme evils, my thought process went something like this:
- No trees on the wall, because everyone else is doing it.
- No green shag on the floor, because it’s too Elvis.
- No pale blue ceiling, because ceiling = blue sky = too literal.
- So, I need to make a room look nature-y, without using the walls, floor, or ceiling.
- So where does that leave me? What else is there?
- What else, what else what else…
- Maybe…the light fixture??
- A light fixture that looks like…
- A cloud?
- The sun?
- A bird?
- What else is in the sky?
- OH! Raaaaaaaiiin.
- I like rain.
- But rain is…dark. And cloudy. And light fixtures are supposed to be, you know, light.
- WAIT!! How about those rare times when it rains while the sun’s shining? What’s it called, a sunshower? And everything looks so sparkly and magical??
- Babies like sparkly magical shit, right??
- Hey, did I just have a maternal thought? Thinking about what babies might like? That’s the first time that’s happened!!
And so the idea for the Sunshower Chandelier was born.
Incidentally, the idea of having any sort of “theme” for the room died shortly thereafter. Let’s all have a moment of silence for the green shag rug.
Anyway. You’re all here today because the idea for a chandelier that looks like sunshine on raindrops stayed with me. And I’m here because I like the idea of you all trying to say “Sunshower Chandelier” three times fast. Either way, since we’re all here in one place, I might as well try to tell you how I made it.
I use the word “try” because, truthfully, I really did spend over 9 months contemplating the design and execution of this thing, and I didn’t write anything down. I should have written stuff down, I know. But I figured, “I’ll have pictures to remind me of the steps.” And when I started, I diligently took pictures of every step. But there were so many mistakes and dead-ends and re-dos that one day I looked back at the pics and couldn’t remember which ones were the how-to’s and which ones were the how-not-to’s. So I stopped taking pictures.
To top it all off, combine the fact that I’m making this shit up as I go with the fact that, in my sleep-deprived state, I’m just generally less coherent than I once was, and well…I can’t guarantee results. But good luck! If yours turns out better than mine, send me pics!
You will need:
- 46 mirror strands, made from:
- Krylon Chrome spray paint (optional; see Step 3 below). I got mine from Michael’s.
- 3 embroidery hoops, sizes 6″, 9″, and 12″. I got mine from JoAnn Fabrics.
- 7 (or 14, depending on what you do for Step 3) 6″x 9″ acrylic mirrors. I got mine from CreateForLess.com.
- 2 packs of bright silver 9 mm square jump rings. I got mine from JoAnn’s.
- 3 packs of bright silver 7 mm square jump rings. JoAnn’s again.
For the chandelier innards, you will need (mostly from Grand Brass Lamp Parts):
- Polished Nickel Cluster with 3-light large body and 90-degree arms, and nickel-plated 1″ Loop with wireway
- Chrome-plated Contemporary Canopy Kit, 5″ diameter
- 5 feet of 18/2 SPT-1 Clear Silver Lamp Wire
- 1 foot of nickel-plated 1/8″ thick Oval Steel Chain
- 2 feet of nickel-plated 3/32″ Steel Chain
- (not pictured) 3 6-watt dimmable LED chandelier bulbs (60-watt equivalent)
Not pictured, because they were random unlabeled things I found amongst my abandoned jewelry-making supplies leftover from that one time I thought jewelry-making was something I would like:
- Jewelry chain, most likely this stuff or something very very similar
- 2″ silver head pins, like these
- 2″ silver eye pins, like these
Total cost = about $127.
Step 1: Drill tiny holes in your embroidery hoops. You only need the inner hoops for this (the ones without the adjustable screw). Drill the holes about 1/8″ away from the bottom edge of each hoop. For the 12″ hoop, you’ll need 20 holes spaced evenly apart — that’s about 1.9″ apart. For the 9″ hoop, drill 16 evenly spaced holes, about 1.75″ apart. And for the 6″ hoop, drill 10 holes about 1.9″ apart. These are where your mirrors will be attached to the hoops.
You will also need to drill 4 tiny holes, one every 90 degrees around each hoop. Drill them about 1/8″ away from the top edge of the hoops. This is where the hoops will attach to each other.
Step 2 (Optional): Stain and seal your embroidery hoops. After a quick sanding, I stained them with Minwax stain in English Chestnut, because I had it leftover from the floors. I finished them with 3 or 4 coats of Minwax spray-on poly in a satin finish.
Step 3: Cut your mirrors. You will need 123 EACH of 1.5″ squares and .75″ squares. Plus you might want to cut a few extra, just in case. I just used a scissors; the mirror sheets are fairly easy to cut. Note: the mirrors come with a protective piece of plastic stuck to the mirrored side. Keep this plastic on until you are ready to start stringing squares together.
Here’s what I would do different on this step: Buy twice as many mirror sheets. Before cutting them, glue them back-to-back in pairs, so that you have 7 double-sided mirror sheets. Then all your squares will be double-sided and will have twice the light-bouncing power. Mine are single sided with chrome spray paint on the back side (see step 5), and I would totally change it if I had another 10 months to kill.
Step 4: Drill your mirrors. Set aside 23 squares of each size; these will be your “end” mirrors for each strand. You only need to drill ONE tiny hole in one corner of these “end” mirrors. (This will make sense later, I promise.) For all the rest of the squares, drill TWO tiny holes: one in one corner, and one in the corner across the diagonal.
If you are smart, you will make some sort of jig that allows you to drill perfectly placed holes, preferably in more than one square at a time. If you are me, you will eyeball it on each individual square, resulting in mirrors that hang “straight enough,” and spending a lot of time on something that could, in theory, be accomplished in 1/4 of the time.
Step 5: Spray paint the back of your mirrors. If you’ve decided to ignore my advice about doubling up your mirrors in Step 3, you’ll have to do something to make the white surface on the back of the squares look reflective. I had planned to use that Krylon “looking glass” spray paint, but then I read the back of the can and it said it only worked on the back of glass. Not the front of plastic (or the front of any surface, really). So I settled for chrome spray paint.
This part of my chandelier is why no one will ever mistake my Sunshower Chandelier for something high-end. Upon close inspection, it looks DIY-tastic. You should really consider doubling up your mirrors instead of spray painting.
Although if you do go the cheap route and decided to spray paint, I don’t know why you couldn’t just paint these before cutting, and save yourself the hassle of dealing with hundreds of individual squares. Just a thought.
Step 6: Make your mirror strands. A tiny needlenose pliers helps with this step. The bigger jump rings (9mm) go in the top square of each strand, because it will go through the embroidery hoop. The rest of your squares are all joined together with the smaller jump rings (7mm). Make sure to end each strand of mirrors with a square that only has ONE hole drilled in it.
You will need to make:
- 20 strands with 3 squares each; half of them will start with a big square, and half with a little square.
- 16 strands with 6 squares each (again, half start big and half start small)
- 10 strands with 9 squares each (ditto)
Find a series on Netflix and prepare to watch the entire thing. This is the most time-consuming part of the project.
Step 7: Attach your mirror strands to the embroidery hoops. Use the big jump ring that you attached to the top of each chain. The shortest chains go on the biggest hoop, the medium chains on the medium hoop, and the longest chains on the smallest hoop.
FYI, I’m not sure this is the best time for this step. The whole chandelier is about to get pretty ungainly. If at all possible (i.e., if your ceiling is not too high and you’re not afraid of being on a stepladder for an extended period of time), you may want to consider attaching the mirror strands as the very LAST step. As in, after the fixture is hanging from the ceiling.
Step 8: Get ready to attach the hoops to each other. Here’s where some of that “not pictured” hardware from the materials list comes in. You’ll want that little needlenose pliers I mentioned earlier for this step.
In the two smaller embroidery hoops only, use the eye pins to form loops on the inside AND outside of the embroidery hoops.
- Thread the pin through the hole, so the eye is left on the outside.
- Carefully bend the straight end of the pin into a loop on the INSIDE of the embroidery hoop.
- Then thread the straight end back through the embroidery hoop to the outside.
- Form the end into a small eye, about the same size as the one you started with.
You’ll end up with two small eyes on the outside of the embroidery hoop, and one slightly larger (and probably significantly less round) loop on the inside of the embroidery hoop.
In the biggest embroidery hoop, you’ll use the head pins.
- Thread the pin through the hole, so that the head of the pin is on the outside of the embroidery hoop.
- Carefully bend the straight end into a loop on the inside of the embroidery hoop.
- Rather than threading back through the embroidery hoop, twist the straight end of the pin around the loop you just made, twist-tie style.
You’ll end up with a barely-visible pin head on the outside of the embroidery hoop, and a (probably messy-looking) loop on the inside.
Step 9: Attach the hoops to each other. I used about an inch and a half of jewelry chain for each connection. Precision is important, though, so your best bet is probably to count links rather than measuring. Use all the eyes and loops you just created with those pins. Bend the end link in a chain just enough to get it around the appropriate loop(s), then bend it back to close it.
And ta-daa! The “form” of this chandelier is assembled. Now let’s move on to the “function.”
Step 10: Create the hanging structure out of the stainless steel chain. From the smaller chain, you will need 4 lengths of 6 links each, and 1 length of just 3 links. From the bigger chain, you will need as many links as necessary to hang your chandelier the appropriate distance from the ceiling. (We ended up using only 2 links of the big chain.)
Each of the 6-link chains will be attached to the open loops left on the inside of the smallest embroidery hoop. The loose ends of those 6-link chains get connected to one end of your big chain.
The 3-link chain also gets connected to the same end of your big chain. In order for the chandelier to hang straight, the 3-link chain must be in the middle of the 4 other pieces.
Step 11: Wire it up. I asked Chris to do this part. I say “wire it up” with the assumption that either you know how to do such things, or you are happy to ask a Designated Electrical Buddy to do it for you. I do know that the socket cluster comes pre-wired, so all you have to do is connect the individual wires from each socket to the single wire that you’ll run out the top of the cluster. (The cluster should hang with the sockets pointing down.)
Attach the top loop of the cluster to the end of the 3-link chain in the center. Attach the canopy to the free end of the big chain. Weave the single wire through the links of the chain all the way up through the canopy.
Step 12: Hang it! Connect the wire from the chandelier to the wires in your ceiling, making sure that your circuit breaker is off first, and using your Designated Electrical Buddy if necessary. Stuff the wires up into the electrical box, then attach the canopy to finish the whole thing off. Install the light bulbs. We went with LEDs because I wasn’t sure if the acrylic mirrors would end up touching the light bulbs (they do) and I didn’t want bulbs that burned too hot.
Now stand back and admire your handiwork.
The Sunshower Chandelier: Because babies can’t get enough of that sparkly magical shit. Oh, and it’s fun for adults, too.