I’ve been wanting lamps for the bedside tables in our bedroom for a while, but could never find anything I was quite happy with for our bedroom. I saw a few glass vase-type lamps I fell in love with (starting with this one at pottery barn – for $200 each!) but they were more than I wanted to pay, and I thought the cord hanging off the top of the vase didn’t look as nice as it would going out the bottom of the vase. Also, I especially loved the idea of being able to fill them with decorations, but the tops were always super skinny – an inch or so – and it would be hard to fit large-ish items inside or do any arranging. I decided that rather than spending money on something I wasn’t entirely happy with, Eddie and I could figure out a way to make a pair ourselves!
So, now what you’re here for: the step-by-step instructions to make one yourself!
- Glass vase
- Lamp shade (UNO style fitter)*
- Lamp hardware/bulb
- Glass drilling bit
- Stuff to fill your vase with! We used sand & seashells. See how I get my shells clean and shiny here!
Other optional supplies: spray paint to match lamp shade, silicone sealant, and soldering supplies.
*About the UNO style fitter lampshade: different lamp shades attach to lamps/bulbs in different ways, as shown in the picture above. For this method, you’ll need an UNO style fitter – where the lampshade rests on a flat base below the bulb. There are some better pictures of this further down.This is not the type of lampshade that rests on a spindle above the bulb.
First, I got my husband to drill a hole near the bottom of the vase for the lamp cord to go through. He used an 1/4″ glass drill bit, which can be seen on the left of the picture above. In the picture on the right, you can see about where on the vase we chose to drill the hole. While drilling, he kept the glass surface wet to avoid inhaling glass dust – and wearing a mask would be a good idea too. I wanted a vase with a nice wide mouth so I could put large-ish objects inside, if desired, and be able to arrange decorations inside easily. The ones we used are 11″ tall, the top rim is 6.5″ across, and the neck is 4″ across. I don’t know where they originally come from, but I see these exact vases in at least three different sizes at different garage sales all the time.
Next, I needed something to support the lampshade. Clear glass lamps I’ve seen at ikea and target with skinny necks had custom-made plastic tops to support the lampshades. I decided to make something similar out of cardboard – which I have plenty of on hand (free!) and doesn’t even show when the lamp shade is on. I cut out a circle the same size as the opening of my vase, then a long strip about 1/2″ thick wide. I cut a small hole in the center of the circle for the wire to go through. I then hot glued the long strip around the bottom edge of the circle to act as a lip and keep the cardboard support from sliding off my vase. Then I spray painted the whole thing white. Even though it doesn’t show at all from any normal angle with the lamp shade on, I wanted it to be unobtrusive even if you look at the lamp from straight above or down below – and spray painting it white did the trick.
Now, it was time to insert the lamp hardware. Because of the lamp hardware we got, we had to do a bit of soldering. (My husband and I met in an electrical engineering lab class – so we both know how to solder :D) There are plenty of lamp hardware options where the socket (the part the light plugs into) detaches, but the one we wanted at our store – with a flip switch on the cord itself – didn’t have this. If your lamp hardware detaches, just thread the cord through the lamp and your cardboard lamp-shade-support, then attach the socket to the cord. If not, and you’re comfortable with soldering (it’s not as hard as it sounds! Here is a good lesson), feel free to follow our lead and cut the cord, thread it through the vase and cardboard support, then solder and seal with some heat shrink tubing (all while it is unplugged, of course!). Then just screw in the bulb. We used 2 Sylvania Double Life 25W G16.5 bulbs.
I think the lamp looks beautiful as it is now, but if you want you can fill your lamp with whatever you’d like! This is why I wanted a wider mouthed vase – to be able to fit a wider variety of items inside and to be able to arrange them easily. You’ll need to pull the lamp cord out a ways so you can get past the cardboard support piece to add things inside the lamp. For now, these are beachy lamps. I put in some sand and then some shells Eddie and I have found on top (after cleaning them as described here). Then pull the lamp cord back through so there is only a little slack on top of the cardboard support, and attach your lamp shade!
Because the sand is so fine, I sealed the hole near the bottom of the vase with the cord with some silicone to keep sand from leaking out. We’ll just peel off the silicone later if we want to change the insides. If you have chunkier fillings, you don’t need to worry about it.
Cost breakdown: We found the sand and shells ourselves – free! The vases were each 75¢ at garage sales. The lamp hardware was $3 each and the bulbs were about $1 each. The lamp shades were $10 each from ikea. The lamp shades were by far the most expensive part of this project. I’d found a few I thought would be good at garage sales for about 50¢ each, but they were just not the right size to match the vases. If you find garage sale/goodwill lampshades you like or can recover, this could be even less expensive!
Total cost: $15 each
Not bad compared to the $200 each ones at pottery barn!
The great thing about these is that they could be decorated with anything you like to decorate your home with – flowers, seasonal decor, or even plants to make a neat terrarium! I’m toying with the idea of making one for my crafting desk with scraps of fabric and ribbon.
I’m thrilled with how these turned out. The clear glass vases could go in any room with the right lamp shades. I was worried that the cardboard would block the light from reaching the shells when the lamp is on, but they are actually nicely illuminated from light reflecting down off the shade. We’ve now got one on each of my husband’s and my bedside tables in our bedroom, and they look great. Plus – they’re filled with sand and shells we found together, including some from our honeymoon in Grand Cayman and our recent trip to Houston, so they’re meaningful on top of the fact that we made them together. Now I just need to get on making a headboard!