Introduction: Chandelier Barrel Shade Retrofit

One downside of buying a single owner home from the 80's is that the fixtures and ancillary features (trim, moulding, etc) tend to be a bit outdated. Especially when you start remodelling around those features. This was the case with the chandeliers in our kitchen/dining room/living room. The shiny faux gold plating just wasn't our thing but large chandeliers, especially new ones, are quite expensive. After a little poking around the internet my wife came up with the idea to just cover the ugly and save some cash. My wife gets a lot of credit for this project: coming up with the idea, picking materials, and helping put it together.

Step 1: Materials & Tools

  • 2x Plastic Light Fixture Covers ($7/ea, Lowes) - These are the large rectangular covers that fit into standard florescent tube light fixtures. You'll want ones that are flexible enough to bend into a large radius.
  • 2x Large Embroidery Hoops ($7/ea, Joann Fabrics) - Size accordingly. The largest size they carried in the stores we checked was 23" which was perfect for our chandelier.
  • 2 yrd Burlap Fabric ($3/yrd, Joann Fabrics) - Burlap is a good material for this because it's loose weave passes a lot of light.
  • Spray Paint (Optional, $3, Lowes) - The underside and maybe some of the top of the chandelier, as well as the chain may be visible depending on it's location so if their color doesn't fit the new look consider painting those areas. 
  • Epoxy & Hot Glue
  • Clamps
  • Scissors/Knife
  • Ladder
  • Thumbtacks - Not entirely necessary but helpful if you want to lay things out.

Step 2: Design & Prep

The critical dimensions in play are the height and maximum diameter of the chandelier being covered. The height will control the plastic sheeting used. If this measurement is bigger than the width of the standard plastic sheet you will need to find a different source or turn the the sheets on end and cut them to the proper length. The diameter of the chandelier drives the minimum size of the embroidery hoops directly and the total number of plastic panels needed through the circumference.
When getting the fabric make sure that you have a little extra off of the ends. We ended up with the exact length and we almost had to go back and get more because the store and made such an uneven cut on the ends.

Start prepping by removing the chandilier from the ceiling. Make sure you turn off the corresponding breaker before you start messing with any wiring. With the fixture down remove the bulbs and any loose or unnecessary cosmetic pieces and clean it up a little.
Since our fixture was this fantastic "gold plated" color straight from the late 80's/early 90's I took a can of white enamel spray paint to it. The most important parts to paint were the very top and chain which are visible from the second story and the underside which is visible from below.
If you do paint make sure you do this enough ahead of time that it can fully dry before you start trying to affix the shade or rehang it.

Step 3: Form the Structure

Start by loosen the screw on both of the embroidery hoops and place one one the floor. Carefully curl the plastic sheet to fit the diameter of the hoop on the floor and slip it between the two bands. Quickly grab the second hoop and place it over the top of the sheet in the same manner as the bottom one. You may need an extra set of hands to keep the sheet from escaping while you fit the second hoop on. When the hoops are in place tighten the screws back down.

Using clamps lock one of the hoops in place and then remove the screw that was holding it. With a pick or flat blade of some sort pry off the blocks that held the screw. When the blocks are off and the area is cleaned up use a strong epoxy to glue both sides of the hoop in place. Let the epoxy completely set and then remove the clamps and repeat on the other end. While you have the epoxy out you can also glue the overlap on the ends of the sheet. This is not a structural joint so even hot glue will work well here.

Step 4: Attach the Cover

Before you attach the fabric it needs to be cut down to the proper size, or at least pretty close. Lay out the fabric so that the long direction runs right to left. The dimension in the vertical direction needs to be 1-2 inches longer PER SIDE than the height of the barrel. That's 2-4 inches of excess total. In the horizontal direction you want the length to match the circumference of your barrel as closely as possible but it's probably best to leave a couple inches of excess at first.

When the barrel has completely dried set it in the middle (vertically) of the laid out fabric at one edge. At this point you can either tack everything in place or just start gluing, either way the process is the same. Start by folding the fabric over one of the edges of the hoop and tack it in place, both top and bottom. Now turn the barrel, pull the fabric tight, fold the edge over, and tack it in place a little further down the hoop, doing both the top and bottom at the same time. Continue all the way around the hoop until the barrel is completely covered.

If you are happy with how it looks then trim any excess from the length of the cloth and start gluing everything in place. Hot glue works good here because it sticks well to the plastic and it penetrates the fabric to take a strong hold.

In our arrangement the completed shade will face a corner in one section where it can't really be viewed so we weren't to concerned about how the seam looked. Given that we simply glued the the seam together and to the barrel. If this is not the case for you then a more aesthetically  pleasing solution might be required. You could fold or overlap the edges and glue them carefully or maybe try using some sort of thread or twine to stitch the seam. Similar to what you see in some leather work.

Step 5: Finish and Hang

My initial thought for a method for supporting the barrel on the chandelier was to attach a lightweight wood frame, in a similar design, to the hoops but I didn't have the right materials so I improvised. Using the extra material from the cover, I created a sort of reverse sling and simply glued it to the inside of the barrel and hoop. It's been several months and it's still holding fine so it seems to be a viable option if you don't have the material for a rigid structure.

The strips of the sling are "woven" to spread the load equally across all the attach points and are also decently wide for the same reason. Be careful when gluing the strips in place, keeping them as close to the hoop as possible so they don't show through. Since the strips are not rigid and the material stretches slightly make sure that they are pulled tight and set slightly below the top of the barrel.

Once the sling is finished and died it's time to hang everything back up but before that it's probably best to put the bulbs back in unless you have easy access to them from below. Rewiring the chandelier can be a little tricky with the big shade attached and you may need someone to support it while you work. Remember to turn off the breaker before rewiring!  Once the it's rehung and rewired adjust the shade so it hangs straight, flip the breaker, and turn on the lights.

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