A Surprising IKEA Hack for High-End Lights on a Budget

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Aimée Mazzenga)

In a recent house tour, we took a peek inside New York City-based couple Justus and Carla’s global-inspired rental apartment that was filled with DIY design. While there were a lot of DIY projects I fell in love with in their home, one in particular really stood out: a high-end lighting look made from very affordable IKEA items!

There’s a design shop Carla walks by every day on her way to work, and she had fallen in love with Michelle Varian’s Brass Mala Pendants (which inspired the two larger fixtures), but the price was out of their budget. (A 10-inch size is $750 and the 16-inch is $1,470). The smaller bulb on the left was inspired by DLdesignworks on Etsy ($125). So, the total cost if they had purchased these lights could have been: $2,345.

Justus knew how to wire lights after working a summer job wiring electrical so they decided to make the lights themselves. Can you tell which magic IKEA item they used?

(Image credit: Aimée Mazzenga)

From Carla: “Most of the parts were lamp parts that already had a 1/8 IPS hole (slightly larger than 1/8″), so we only needed to drill the IKEA bowls. We got a special 1/8″ drill bit for metal from the local hardware store, put a piece of scrap wood on the floor, put the bowl top down on it, and I held it in place while Justus drilled. First, we made a small pilot hole with a tiny drill bit and then used the metal drill bit to create the larger hole. After that we spray painted the bowls (different color and finish for the inside than the outside, shiny versus matte), assembled the pieces, wired them, and hung them up!”

(Image credit: Aimée Mazzenga)

While this is a fairly easy DIY to tackle, Carla admits it “took a lot of iterations to get right. Putting them together, taking them apart, rearranging the pieces, and starting all over again.” Here are some lessons they learned (so you don’t have to!)

  • Before drilling the IKEA bowls, mark off where the exact center of the bowl is. If you eyeball it, your canopy will hang crooked. We messed that up on the first bowl and had to re-order.
  • Spray paint in small strips a few feet away from the bowls. If you spray too close or do too much at once, they’ll drip and ruin the finish.
  • We had some experience wiring, but recommend consulting a professional electrician. Some companies have tutorials for assembling their products. Color Cord Company has a good one.

Full materials list:

Light #1 – Smallest

Cost: $47.37 (Parts listed from top to bottom of lamp)

  • Plug: Cord Plug End in white from Color Cord Company – $4.00
  • Wire: Ivory Rayon 2 Twisted Euro Wire (20′ at $1.25/Ft) from Grand Brass Lamp Parts – $25
  • Cord Grip: Strain Relief, 1/8 IPS in clear (we spray painted it gold) from Grand Brass Lamp Parts – $0.45
  • Tapered Brass Coupling (at top): 1/8 IPS Thread Unfinished Brass 7/16″ Tapered Coupling (2 at $0.64) from Grand Brass Lamp Parts – $1.28
  • Brass Pipe (at top): 10″ Unfinished Brass Pipe with 1/4 IPS Thread from Canal Lighting & Parts – $4.20
  • Brass Canopy (at top): 2-1/2″ Stamped Brass Ball Half with 7/16″ Slip through Hole from Grand Brass Lamp Parts – $4.00
  • Brass Coupling Between Black Plate and Top Canopy: 1/8f X 1/4f Straight Brass Coupling from Grand Brass Lamp Parts – $0.65
  • Black Plate: 5″ Black Dome Canopy with 1/8″ Center Hole from Grand Brass Lamp Parts – $1.85
  • Socket: E-26 Base Porcelain Lamp Socket from Grand Brass Lamp Parts – $2.95
  • Bulb: 40W Globe Light Milk Bulb from Canal Lighting & Parts – $2.99

Light #2 – Medium

Cost: $60.34 (Parts listed from top to bottom of lamp)

  • Plug: Cord Plug End in white from Color Cord Company – $4.00
  • Wire: Ivory Rayon 2 Twisted Euro Wire (20′ at $1.25/Ft) from Grand Brass Lamp Parts – $25
  • Cord Grip: Strain Relief, 1/8 IPS in clear (we spray painted it gold) from Grand Brass Lamp Parts – $0.45
  • Tapered Brass Coupling (at top): 1/8ips. Thread Unfinished Brass 7/16″ Tapered Coupling (2 at $0.64) from Grand Brass Lamp Parts – $1.28
  • Brass Pipe (at top): 10″ Unfinished Brass Pipe with 1/4 IPS Thread from Canal Lighting & Parts – $4.20
  • Top Canopy: Blanda Blank, 5″ Stainless Steel Serving Bowl from IKEA – $5.98
  • Brass Coupling between Black Plate and Top Canopy: 1/8f X 1/4f Straight Coupling Brass from Grand Brass Lamp Parts – $0.65
  • Black Plate: 5″ Black Dome Canopy with 1/8″ Center Hole from Grand Brass Lamp Parts – $1.85
  • Bottom Canopy: Blanda Blank, 11″ Stainless Steel Serving Bowl from IKEA – $6.99
  • Socket: E-26 Base Porcelain Lamp Socket from Grand Brass Lamp Parts – $2.95
  • Bulb: Bulbrite 40W Mirrored Top G-25 Bulb from Canal Lighting & Parts – $6.99

Light #3 – Largest

Cost: $76.69 (Parts listed from top to bottom of lamp)

  • Plug: Cord Plug End in white from Color Cord Company – $4.00
  • Wire: Ivory Rayon 2 Twisted Euro Wire (20′ at $1.25/Ft) from Grand Brass Lamp Parts – $25
  • Cord Grip: Strain Relief, 1/8 IPS in clear (we spray painted it gold) from Grand Brass Lamp Parts – $0.45
  • Tapered Brass Coupling (at top): 1/8 IPS Thread Unfinished Brass 7/16″ Tapered Coupling (2 at $0.64) from Grand Brass Lamp Parts – $1.28
  • Brass Pipe (at top): 4″ Unfinished Brass Pipe with 1/4 IPS Thread from Canal Lighting & Parts – $2.80
  • Top Canopy: 3-1/2″ Stamped Brass Ball Half W/ 7/16″ Slip Through Hole from Grand Brass Lamp Parts – $6.15
  • Brass Coupling Between White Plate and Top Canopy: 1/8f X 1/4f Straight Coupling Brass from Grand Brass Lamp Parts – $0.65
  • White Plate: 5″ White Dome Canopy with 1/8″ Center Hole from Grand Brass Lamp Parts – $1.85
  • Brass Pipe Between Middle Canopy and White Plate: 3in. Unfinished Brass Pipe with 1/4 IPS Thread from Canal Lighting & Parts – $1.80
  • Middle Canopy: Blanda Blank, 5″ Stainless Steel Serving Bowl from IKEA, $5.98
  • Bottom Canopy: Blanda Blank, 14″ Stainless Steel Serving Bowl from IKEA, $14.99
  • Brass Pipe Between Bottom Canopy and Socket: 3in. Unfinished Brass Pipe with 1/4 IPS Thread from Canal Lighting & Parts – $1.80
  • Socket: E-26 Base Porcelain Lamp Socket from Grand Brass Lamp Parts – $2.95
  • Bulb: Bulbrite 40W Mirrored Top G-25 Bulb from Canal Lighting & Parts – $6.99

Other Materials:

Cost: $23.25

  • Threaded Nipples (for connecting lamp parts together): 1/8″ Threaded Nipples 1″ Long (15 at $0.10) from Grand Brass Lamp Parts – $1.50
  • Brass Nuts (for connecting lamp parts together): 1/8″ Nuts (15 at $0.05) from Grand Brass Lamp Parts – $0.75
  • Outer Spray Paint Color: Montana Cans Gold NC-Acrylic Effect Spray from Blick – $10.00
  • Inner Spray Paint Color: Krylon Metallic Brass Spray from Janovic Paint – $11.00

Total cost: “If we bought the lamps outright it would have been $2,345, but we made them for $207!”