September 18, 2011

Vase into Mercury Glass Pendent Light [West Elm Inspired]

I am always looking for ways to spice up and personalize our condo, although I'm somewhat limited because we're renting right now. Sometimes people forget they can change out the lighting when they rent. It's an easy change, just make sure you're not doing anything that will damage the existing fixture or the ceiling and you can easily take it back out when you move. 

For this project I was inspired by these cylinder pendent lights from Rogan Objects. They're priced at 500-700 bucks(!!), are made of hand blown glass and look pretty fantastic {and pretty expensive}

West Elm is selling these "antique" glass jars.  These babies will set you back 100 bucks.  I love the color gray glass and the visible light bulbs inside them.

My plan was to create a combination of both these looks. Here's what I did. I started with a brand new vase. First things first, we need to make the hole in the vase for the cord to come out of.

DRILL THE HOLE: What you will need

  • glass vase
  • diamond tip drill bit (available at home improvement store, cost $5)
  • electric drill
  • spray bottle with water
  • goggles
  • rubber gloves
  • 220 grit sand paper
  • permanent marker
  • measuring tape

  1. Measure and mark the exact center of the bottom of the vase with permanent marker.
  2. Suit up in some protective gear. eHow- says to put on long sleeved shirt, goggles, and wear rubber gloves. So, I did that. Pretty quickly I took off the long sleeved shirt because one, it was hot outside, and two, there weren't any shards of glass flying anywhere, at all, the whole time. But I kept the goggle on, don't mess around with your eyes!
  3. Grab your new drill bit, a drill, and a spray bottle. 
  4. You're going to drill a hole though the glass and this will be where the cord passes through. At Home Depot they only had one size drill bit for glass, but it was plenty big enough for the cord to be threaded through.  


  • *When you drill, you want the surface to be wet the whole time. Lubricating the tip keeps the glass from breaking and helps the tip last longer. 
  • *Place your vase on a flat surface, so that it will be supported equally on all sides the entire time.
  •  *If you're drilling though a thick glass surface you can use a high drill speed, but start on a slow speed either way.
  • *Be careful to hold the drill firmly, but don't apply pressure. Allow the drill's weight to do the work.
  • *Make sure to hold the drill straight up and down so the hole is straight, otherwise the lamp will hang crooked.
  • {note: This is the same procedure you would follow to drill through ceramic, porcelain, and pottery. Just in case you want to turn all your household items into lamps!} Getting the drill to bite into the glass was the hardest part of drilling because you don't want the drill to slip and nick up the glass. Also, the shape of the bottom of my vase helped the water to pool to the center and made it easy to keep the drill bit lubricated. During most of the drilling, I would only spray the hole every minute or two.

(4) Grab a friend to help. When your drill tip starts to reach through the glass to the other side, you will need to spray water on the hole every few seconds since it'll keep draining right through to the other side. You can easily hear the difference between drilling with water and without. At this point it's smart to stop and have someone help you. 
Have one person spray the hole almost constantly and hold the vase steady while the other holds the drill with both hands making sure to support most of the drills weight and go slowly. This should help from chipping the glass at the very end when it will be weak.

5. Keep your gloves on and sand the edges of the glass hole with 220 grit sandpaper. Make sure everywhere but the hole is covered in tape, so you don't scratch the glass anywhere else. Keep the gloves on to clean up all the water and thoroughly wipe down the vase. 


Krylon's "Looking Glass" spray paint (cheapest @ Michael's, cost $7 with 40% off coupon)
  • painter's tape
  • newspaper
(6) Follow my directions to make mercury glass. The only thing I did differently was the number of coats I applied. I only did three LIGHT coats because I wanted the light to easily pass through and wanted a mottled looking finish.

INSTALLING THE LIGHT: What you will need

  • lighting kit (cheapest @ Ikea, cost $5)
  • ceiling medallion (home improvement store, cost $5)
  • electrical tape
  • 60 watt light bulb

(7) Take down your existing light fixture and disconnect the electrical from it.

In my case I took down a recessed light.

(8) Put your new pendant light together. Thread the lighting kit wire through your new pendent light/glass vase, through the top of the vase and out the new hole in the bottom. I added a piece from another light to the new top, to make it look more like a light. 

(9) Thread the cord through the ceiling medallion of your choice. I chose the cheapest option, a silver 6 inch medallion purchased for 5$ from Home Depot. This will cover the hole in your ceiling left from the removal of the old light.

(10) Connect the electrical wires for your new light.  There's a positive and negative wire for both the light and the electrical in the ceiling. They are usually color coded, black and white, one for each charge. It's a matter of matching up colors. In the photo you can see the black wires coming down from the ceiling, them tape, then black wire coming up from the light fixture.
Use the electrical tape the cover all the exposed wire.

(11) Secure the lighting kit cord somewhere in the ceiling using the hooks that came in the package with the light kit.  {There's directions that come in the light kit. If you have questions.} The hooks will support the weight of the light fixture, instead of the electrical wire holding it up- which would be bad. **Amended, we took off the electrical tape, per a reader's suggestion, and crimped the wires instead. 

(11) Attach the medallion to the ceiling using the hardware that came in the package. There's directions in the package and it looks easy to do. I ran into a bit of trouble with this step. Because I took out a recessed light, rather than a normal light fixture, the hole in the ceiling was over 7 inches wide. I would need a second larger medallion to cover a hole that big and it would have to be layered with the smaller one. Like these:

However, I had no way to affix them to the ceiling without leaving a mark when it was time to take it down. So instead, I used glue to secure the medallion directly to the recessed light. It's a rubbery glue that holds well, but when you pull the items apart and break the seal, it will easily come off without leaving a trace.  Before popping the recessed light housing back into place in the ceiling, I secured the lighting cord on the hooks I attached the the light housing, as can be seen two pictures up.

Unfortunately, I was left with two holes where the medallion was supposed to be attached to the ceiling with screws.

So I used upholstery nails left over from my headboard project. I used a toothbrush to brush Rub 'n Buff silver wax on the brass tacks. They matched well enough.

(12) Now, put the bulb in and you're all set!

All said, this was an afternoon's worth of work. A bit longer for me though, since I didn't know what materials would be needed ahead of time. You know how it goes when you're winging it, right?

 Here's the BEFORE

 And the AFTER

Here's a close up, with the light on. There's a lot of variation to the mirror finish.

The cord is beginning to hang straighter, the longer it's up. It's still a little wavy from being folded in the package. I love how you see the bulb and light assembly through the glass. It's exactly what I was going for!

What about you? Have you made your own light fixture lately? Made up a project on the spot and have to improvise? Or run to the store 25 times?