8.21.2011

diy drum shade

our oak park apartment has so much architectural charm, especially in the dining room, with the original picture molding frames around the room, the large windows and the french doors that separate it from the kitchen.  

one of the less charming modern elements of the space was the builder-grade "chandelier".  when we moved in, i was not a fan of its brushed-nickel, swirly-white-glass octopus-armed style.  the light this thing put off was overly bright for what's supposed to be an inviting stay-a-while kind of room, even when using the dimmer switch.  buying a new chandelier for a rental apartment would not have been beyond my usual scope of decorating madness, but instead, i came up with a plan to diy a giant drum shade that would utilize but hide the existing fixture.  here's that cheap looking eyesore:

when lit, the downward-facing light bulbs glare in the eyes.  ugliness also glares in the eyes.
the first thing i had to figure out was how to create the skeleton for the shade.  given the large diameter of the light fixture, nearly 24" even with the glass shades removed, i needed something something circular that would be both large and lightweight.  quilting hoops were just the ticket - preformed circles made of balsa wood.  as it turned out no local stores here had large enough hoops in stock, so i ordered two sets online that looked like this: 


quilting hoops are composed of two rings: one solid inner ring and another larger outer ring cut with an adjustable brace that allows the fabric to be tightly stretched between the two rings.  to prepare the hoops for my drum shade skeleton, i used one inner ring as is and broke off the blocking pieces of the two outer hoops that hold the bolt and wingnut and then glued and taped the separated ends together to make fixed-sized circles.

for the shade itself, i had had some fabric for at least ten years (which i bought from denver fabrics, a fabulous independent shop whose existence makes me question why chicago's fabric store selection sucks so much) and i knew it would be awesome for my purpose with its small colorful pattern.  

magenta, gold, and blue.
after preparing the quilting hoops, i measured out the piece of fabric i would need to wrap the circumference of the hoops.  turns out the fabric i had wasn't long enough to wrap the entire thing in one go, so i had to join two equal sized pieces of the fabric, which meant that instead of having one seam, i had to have two.  i also had to determine how tall i wanted the shade to be.  since i was going to hang this shade over top of the existing fixture, i had to ensure that the light bulbs weren't too close to any of the fabric and that there was plenty of room for the heat to escape all while keeping the overall size in proportion to the room.

measuring out both the length of the fabric and the height of the overall shade.
i did a test run of the shade, temporarily stapling the fabric to the hoops and haphazardly attaching it to the fixture chain.  as you can see here, it looked rather disastrous.  wrinkly and wobbly and, of course, the underside of the ugly chandelier was still visible.

test run.  um, not the look i was going for.
to give the fabric some much needed structure, without having to add more wooden pieces to the skeleton, i ironed on medium weight fusible interfacing to the wrong side of the printed fabric.  this simple solution worked perfectly to stiffen the sides of the drum shape.

now that i was sure the fabric would hang properly with the addition of the interfacing, i used fabric glue to permanently fasten the fabric/interfacing to the outer quilting hoops and clamped it all in place with binder clips while it set up.
fabri-tac glue is stringy and messy but very strong and permanent.
i also knew that i didn't want any of the existing fixture visible (except for the chain), so i had to create a cover for the bottom.  this step was as simple as taking basic muslin fabric and stretching it over an inner hoop and gluing it all up.  

the bottom of the shade, drying.
the next step was to figure out exactly how to hang the drum shade over the top of the existing ugly one.  i bought very small eye bolts and s-hooks and picture hanging wire and strung an x shape at the top of the shade.  the sharp tip of the eye bolts easily pierced this soft balsa wood which meant i didn't have to use a drill or any special tools.

detail of the removable and adjustable hanging system.
it took a bit of finagling and test runs to get the length of the wires equal and proper.  you can see here that the shade itself still looks a little crumpled, but before hanging it for the last time, i ironed out the wavy spots.

looking through the top of the shade with its hanging system and bottom cover in place.
as i mentioned earlier, i took off the glass shades of the original fixture in order to decrease the circumference of the light.  to hang the finished drum, i strung the wires over the top of the  fixture and hooked the s-hooks into the eye bolts.  the shade stays put just by being balanced and is not tightly affixed in place, which means that if it gets bumped, it gets off-kilter but seeing as it's hung over a dining table, bumping into it isn't really a problem.

the shade strung over the existing fixture.
here is the drum shade all completed.  the bottom muslin cover is just held in place by tension and easily pops out if i have to change a bulb (or dump out accumulated dead insects).  the magenta and yellow of the fabric does soften the light and gives off a warm and cozy glow.  the finished shade is about 24" in diameter and about 16" high.  being so big, it is something of a statement piece, but i feel the dining room is large enough to accommodate its size.

thar she blows!

i made this shade only two months after we moved in so you can see that the drum shade has lasted well and hasn't burned up or fallen off in the intervening two years.  here's the dining room a month ago:

drum shade in situ.

now that we're packing this place up in preparation for the move, i'm taking the fabric shade down and replacing the glass shades.  i hope to be able to reuse the drum shade in our next place.  if it turns out that this one isn't the right size, at least i know now how to make another one easily enough.














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