It's a cinch to turn a box planter into a unique light.
Pretty Planter Lamp
Credit: Laurey W. Glenn

I guess you could say that I am a victim of the "That would make a great lamp" syndrome. Whether it's a vase or a figurine, I immediately picture it topped with a shade. It stems from my first apartment, back when I needed a pair of lamps and was floored by the price tags. Instead, I bought candlesticks and turned them into lamps for a fraction of the cost.

Here's an example of how easy it is to turn an everyday item into a useful accessory.

Step 1: Select an item to transform; we chose a wooden planter. For this project, we enlisted the help of a professional, who added the hardware and also topped the planter with a thin piece of painted wood and a metal cap to conceal wiring and to give the new lamp a finished look. (Wiring costs range from $15 to $25, plus the expense of parts. Keep in mind that the more complicated the steps--drilling into a glass vase, for example--the higher the price tag.) Be sure to get an estimate first.

Step 2: Pick the perfect shade--it can make or break a lamp. Don't be afraid to try a variety of styles. Here are a few things to consider when selecting a lampshade.

  • Style: Fabric, paper, or metal--the choices are endless. What's the function of the lamp? Is it decorative or needed for reading in a specific spot? Dark shades direct light up and down; lighter ones cast light around a room.
  • Shape: Take a cue from the lamp base if you're unsure--if the base is square, try a square shade.
  • Proportion: Make sure the shade covers the harp (the hardware surrounding the bulb) and prevents a glare. If a shade you like is too long or too short, exchange the harp for a different size or attach a riser to the finial stem to raise the shade. Be sure the bulb isn't visible when you're looking eye level at the lamp.

Step 3: Top your new lamp with the shade, and choose the just-right spot to display it in your home.

This article is from the June 2005 issue of Southern Living.