before & after: ariel’s lamp terrarium + lia’s lamps

I have a weakness for this type of prism light, and I was really excited when the first repurpose project using a similar style came our way last year. This chandelier-turned-terrarium from Ariel is so clever, and I love its dramatically large scale. Not only do the paned panels recall the look of traditional terrariums, but the piece also includes a convenient door — originally for changing lightbulbs — which is perfect for the occasional rearrangement of the plants and rocks. I don’t know why I never thought of this idea before, but I’m certainly on the hunt for one of these now. Thanks for sharing, Ariel! — Kate

Have a Before & After you’d like to share? Shoot me an email with your images right here! (Low res, under 500k per image, please.)

If you visit thrift stores with any regularity, you know that brass or “faux” brass lamps are a dime a dozen. I love their shape, but sometimes the shiny brass can be a little overkill. Enter this amazing project from Lia Fagan, vintage upcycler extraordinaire. She found these lamp bases and shades at different thrift shops for a steal, then decided to unify the two with a coat of paint and an amazing tribal-print fabric.

The bold textile is perfect for the dramatic scale of the shades, and I love the cream bases. For how little they cost, these look like brand new designer pieces, which is a testament to Lia’s skills. You can see more of Lia’s revamped designs, including tons of great lamps, on her site Mod Pieces. Amazing work, Lia!

  1. hena tayeb says:

    the terranium looks great

  2. Emily says:

    Oh! That terrarium lamp is a dream!

  3. Please Note says:

    These might be my favorite before & afters yet! I love that terrarium! What a fantastic idea!

  4. Loving the second lamp-makeover a lot…I’m going to use the idea for a pair of long neglected brass lamps lying in my basement!! thanks for sharing, Grace!! xx meenal

  5. The terrarium is so inventive. I love the unusual shape. I have a lampshade I’d like to do a fabric shade for – any great how-tos?

  6. btw- that white painted chest/trunk in the first image is giving me a lot of ideas!! xx meenal

  7. Josie says:

    Sorry but an ugly lamp is still an ugly lamp. The shade is better but the base? ?? A little paint isn’t going to change that.

  8. Lauren says:

    awesome work! very creative.

  9. Diana says:

    That terrarium is amazing!!! I will now be on the look out for similar pendant lamps. How could would it be to hang it up, too!

    1. Jonathan says:

      I have the same chandelier but larger. It is at a friend’s lamp manufacturing facility. It had a double row of candle sticks. Its still up in the air on whether to hang or not. The bottom may break, the design is to have the weight stress on the top. I’ll attach a pic. I found at goodwill had the wild hair to make one. I feel better now that I see someone else had the idea. I am planning on a different design of the plants. Will send pics when completed.

  10. Heather says:

    I love all things terrarium too! Why am I obsessed with minature landscapes captured in glass?

  11. Love those lamps! The fabric choice for the shades is so perfect.

  12. I love the shades on those lamps! I’ve been trying to decide what to do with a shade on a lamp in our library because I can’t find one large enough. I’ve been thinking I might cover it, but the idea of pattern didn’t occur to me!

  13. The terrarium is a great idea – I see those 80s glass shades at thrift shops all the time.

  14. Lia Fagan says:

    Stephanie – I don’t have a formal how-to available, but I basically just make a pattern out of craft paper by tracing the shade, then use the pattern to cut out the fabric.

    I hem all of the edges and then attach the fabric to the shade with spray adhesive and fabric glue.

    Hope that helps!

  15. Refinishing lamps is one of my favourite DIYs. It’s so easy, too!

  16. Sue says:

    The lamp terrarium is brilliant!

  17. Eva says:

    both projects look amazing! both would just fit right here in my living room.
    where’s the fabric from that you used for the lampshades?

  18. Emily says:

    That terrarium kills me. Time to go thrifting!

  19. Sherry says:

    I did the same thing as the terrarium this winter with the same type chandler but sealed in. It was hard but I love my moss terrarium.

  20. Lia, thanks so much for the information! Love your site.

  21. my habitat for humanity re-stores always have tons of these huge brass lantern/chandeliers. it would be cool to take two of the same size and use them on either side of a buffet or sideboard. very neat idea!

  22. Jen says:

    What a fun project! The lamps turned out adorable.

  23. Lia Fagan says:

    Eva – I bought the fabric from a local retailer… I don’t even know who the designer is… sorry.

  24. Laguna Dirt says:

    two amazing projects! such creativity and resourcefulness! yippee!!!

  25. Erica says:

    Lia, I’m a huge fan of your site. I found your shop on Etsy a while back and was completely inspired. These lamps are awesome!

  26. Kristi says:

    I adore these bold lamps! I’m so inspired to go about scrounging through yard sales and flea markets for such jewels waiting to be transformed! The question is, can I be as visionary about a piece as this creative person was?

  27. Kim says:

    Thanks for the description on how to recover the lamps Lia! I have to say though, it would make a great DIY tutorial for DS*, maybe we will see that one day?!?!

  28. Donut Girl says:

    man, i passed up a perfect terrarium lantern at a second-hand store today b/c I reasoned that I would have nowhere to put it… I’m having regrets!

  29. slyfox says:

    Wow! These are definitely my most favorite before and afters yet. Thanks for sharing! It’s amazing to see how love and hard work can produce such beautiful, unique pieces.

  30. Kimberley says:

    I am so impressed by both of these! A question about the lamps: what kind of paint would you use for that kind of surface?

  31. sarah says:

    love the terrarium lamps so much. will definately try something like this in future.

  32. Novi says:

    The terrarium idea is awesome!

  33. Susan Smith says:

    I used a similar off white light I got for 3 bucks, my husband removed the bottom portion with a heating tool, and we placed 3 battery candles inside. It reminded me of a cheap version of the conservatory cloche at RH. These lights are very well made with beveled glass.

  34. Seo 123 says:

    A terrarium could be any type of enclosed area that is used for keeping plants or small animals. Thus, a terrarium could be a glass tank, a plastic bowl or even a mug, depending on the space requirements of the plant or animal.

  35. FM says:

    The original brass lamps were nice, all they needed was a different lamp shade.
    They looked horrible painted.


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