DIY Tutorials

When Things Don’t Go As Planned | Library Light Pt. 1

May 22, 2015

Here’s a little secret for you: DIY is always hit or miss. I’m not sure if everyone already knows that, but between Pinterest and the like, it seems like DIY is always a dream come true. However, more often than not, even when something goes right, it’s not exactly how the project was first envisioned. I offer up our DIY library light for example:

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That’s right. I have no image of a finished library light for you. Things did not go as planned. But as we’ve said before, this blog is about our adventures and misadventures.  Welcome to the dark side of the moon DIY.

The plan was to use the Firefly Pendant (from CB2) from our former office to DIY a version of the Finn Pendant (from Pbteen). Wednesday, while Emerson and Eleanor were taking a nap, I laid all my supplies out on the living room floor, and got to work deconstructing the Firefly light.

light 1

First, I needed to disconnect the wires so that I could remove the lights from the ceiling cap. I spent months prior to this project googling how to wire a multi-bulb pendant. Honestly, most of the information I found was vague at best. I was initially planning on buying separate pendant light kits and wiring them all together. When we removed the multi-bulb light from the office, however, I was finally able to get a good look at how the wiring was done. It was a light-bulb moment.

light 2

Bad jokes aside, that’s when I decided to deconstruct our beloved Firefly light instead of buying light kits. (We did / do love that light, but we didn’t have anywhere else to put it, so that was also a major deciding factor.)

So, how is the wiring done? To be clear, I am not a certified electrician. I am merely commenting on what I assume a certified electric did to wire this light, and then copying those steps. Here’s a closeup of the wires:

light 3.5

Each light is made up of two wires, one white (neutral) and one black (hot). All of the white wires are connected to each other and all of the black wires are connected to each other. There is an extra white and black wire (called pigtails) connected to each respective colored wire bundle. In the ceiling, typically, there will be one white wire, one black wire, and one copper wire (the ground wire). The pigtail allows you to only need to wire one wire to your ceiling rather than trying to connect all of those other wires. I hope that explanation with the picture is easier to understand than what I found on Google.

I tried to take the cap off the bundle of wires, but it had a little metal clap inside (to keep the wires from slipping), that I could not get to budge. So, I ended up just cutting the wires right at the cap.

light 4

With the wires disconnected, I was able to separate and slide the lights easily out of the ceiling cap.

light 5

Then I started wrapping the lights through the wreath form that I had purchased from Michael’s. I used zip ties to temporarily secure the lights to the  wreath form. Michael held it up while we decided how to vary the length of the lights.

light 6

When I was finished, it looked a little crazy. This is where I started to doubt that this was going to work out. Aside from the crazy bundle of wires coming up the middle, something else just seemed…off.

light 7

I thought, “Perhaps, if I add the bulbs it will look better.” Bulbs = slight improvement. “If I can cover the bundle of wires going through the middle, maybe it won’t look as sloppy.” Never really came up with a solution for that. “Maybe once I add the chains to the sides and the cap on the top it will look more put together.” Never got that far. I went to The Library and tried to hold it up to see what it would look like, but I couldn’t hold it high enough, so that wasn’t very helpful.  Michael and I talked about it for a while. He wasn’t really sure about it, either. Finally, I just laid it on the floor to be dealt with the next day.

If you’re in a situation like this – in the middle of a project and starting to doubt yourself / project – that is my number one tip: Just walk away. Not from the project completely, but just for a little while, until you can look at it again with fresh eyes. Sometimes you stay the course. Sometimes you will need to adjust.

I looked at it again, the next morning, and that’s when I saw what the problem was. It wasn’t the lack of bulbs or the messy wires, it was that the wreath form was too small; it was disproportionate to the girth of the wires. No matter what I added – chains, the ceiling cap… It was never going to look “right”.

light 8

The odd thing is in the photos, it doesn’t look that bad. In person, however, it was just no. It looked like a baby Doc Ock. Abandoning the wreath form, I went to find something thicker. I found these embroidery hoops at Hancock fabrics.


I mocked them up with zip ties just to see how it would look before I spent actual time reconstructing and painting them.


I wrapped the light through them and then showed it to Michael. We both liked it a lot more than the dingy wreath form. There was a new problem, though. The hoops had the right girth, but they were also bigger than the wreath form, which made our five lights look sparse. Oy!

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Yep. I didn’t even bother to take a picture. We could buy extra light kits to add more lights to fill out the hoops, but The Library is small. It is in a closet, after all.  We don’t need that many lights. I mean, five lights is already pushing it. I don’t want to feel like I am sitting under the sun when I am in there. Even if we got low watt bulbs, we don’t have a lot of ceiling space to work with, and the hoops might be too wide.

So what to do? New plan! What plan is this now anyway? Plan E? Despite the previous paragraph, we haven’t completely ruled out the hoops. We may still try to work with them. Right now, however, we are considering Plan E.

To be continued…

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