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we like it wild: recycled fixture planters

by StudioChoo

While browsing the aisles at our local salvage yard, we wandered into the lighting section and happened upon a huge selection of inexpensive paned glass ceiling fixtures ($2-10$). We had just seen this great tutorial and a bulb went off (he he) to use these abandoned lights to make greenhouse style planter boxes. You could create a much simplified version by just resting the gutted glass on top of a wooden slab, but we wanted to create a more custom look. You’ll need some woodworking skills, tool access, or someone with a workshop to help you put this project together!

CLICK HERE for the full project how-to after the jump!

Our directions are for a six-sided fixture but can be altered for whatever shape you find. Keep in mind that the more complicated the shape is- the more difficult it may be to make the planter box! There are a lot of six and eight sided ones out there, but we also came across some beautiful square and pyramids too. If all the sides are the same size it is much easier to figure out a formula for measuring the wood. Also be sure to look at the light “guts” of the fixture to make sure they can be taken apart. Sometimes the base of the fixture is welded onto the glass frame and can’t be removed without cutting. All of ours came apart with a few screws and a snipping of wire.

What you’ll need:
**Your project/measurements will vary from ours depending on the fixture and wood you choose for the planter base.
Glass paned light fixture
Wood (larger piece to make the base and long piece for the sides)
Wood Glue
Table saw
Miter saw/ miter box and hand saw
Finishing nails

1. Start by gutting the light fixture so just the glass paned piece remains.

2. Next, trace the shape of the glass piece onto the wood for the bottom of the planter. The cuts will be made inside that traced line by ½ the thickness of the wood used for the sides. This will allow the glass piece to sit on top of the sides of the planter. We used ¾” wood for our sides, so we measured in 3/8” (half of ¾”) from each line of the tracing and made our cuts there. At the end of this step we had a flat wooden hexagon shape with 3” long sides. It should fit completely inside the glass piece.

3. Now that the bottom is cut to the shape of your fixture determine how tall you want the sides of the planter box.  Cut a long piece of wood to the desired height (we made ours 5” tall). This long piece will be cut to create the angled sides of the planter.

4. Next, use a protractor (or simple math) to determine the angles of your shape. All side angles should add up to 360. Divide each angle by 2 to determine the angle at which the sides will be joined. Our hexagon base was made up of six 60 degree angles; so we divided that by 2 and set the miter saw to 30 degrees.

5. Measure the length of a side of the hexagon base (ours were 3”). This measurement will also be the interior length of the sides of the planter (since the cuts are angled out they are slightly longer at on end).

6. Take your long piece of wood and make your first angled cut on one end. Measure over from the interior of that cut by 3” (or whatever your side length is) and mark it. Flip the wood and make your second cut. (You’ll know your cuts are correct if they are trapezoids, not parallelograms.) Continue measuring and flipping and cutting until you have all six sides cut.

7. As you cut your sides begin to fit them together in the way they will be attached to the hexagon bottom. This is a good time to sand/cut any excess if they aren’t fitting just right.

8. Once you have all the pieces cut it is time to glue the edges together. We used a nail gun to tack pieces in place with finishing nails. Let it dry overnight and paint/stain however you’d like. Put a plastic liner in the bottom to protect surfaces from leaks and add your plants!

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  • OMG – this makes me want to go out and buy a table saw and mitre saw just so I can makes these!!! I wonder if I can figure out how to make them without the expensive power tools. . . ?

  • These are so beautiful! Now that terrariums are in the trend, I see them almost everyday. THESE, however, are some of the more innovative pieces. Studio Choo has such a wonderful sensitivity to nature. Always!! Thanks for sharing!

    Michelle, you could totally do this without expensive power tools! All you need to do is find a simple shape lighting fixture–square or circle–and find a pre-cut piece of wood that size for the bottom. Most hardware stores will cut larger wood pieces down to size for you, too. Good luck!

  • As design sponge has begun to cover power tools, the bases can be made with a basic circular saw. (maybe someone will post the link because I am experiencing frustration with that.) It can be adjusted to the correct angle and used with a straight edge to achieve the miter joints. Just be sure to use clamps when cutting small pieces and keep a firm grip on the saw. Proceed with confidence and caution.

  • I am thrilled to see this post as I just picked one of these up from my local Habitat for Humanity ReStore and had no idea what to make with it… just loved the geometry!

  • Those are stunning! What a perfectly beautiful way to breathe new life into old light fixtures! I have seriously got to find my local salvage yard and start hunting for treasures! =)

  • holy. cow.

    i JUST replaced all of my icky 80s light fixtures last weekend (read: EXACTLY what you’re using) and now they’re sitting in the kitchen awaiting a recycling. hellllloooo weekend project! GENIUS!


  • Hate these as light fixtures, LOVE them as terrariums/planters! This is why I love design*sponge…creative uses for items that would otherwise end up in the trash!

  • My friend sent me this as she knows I have an unhealthy obsession with terrariums, and I gasped out loud. A-mazing.

  • Amazing idea! I have been searching thrift stores for containers for terrariums… will be on the lookout for old light fixtures, too! These look so chic!

  • WOW! finally a use for my ugly light fixtures that didn’t even sell in the last garage sale!!! can’t wait to try this!!

  • Once again the Design Sponge team has got me thinking. You could probably also use some of the screw on light fixtures that have flat bottoms. I know I have some in the basement that now I will have to go and pull out to add in my sun porch with my chicken and hens and then add to my blog as soon as it is done.

  • Omg! I can’t believe the nostalgia I’m feeling! Seems every where I go online there is so much from the 70’s and now it is “in” again! All I need is a stretcher set to pull huge prints taught to hang on a large wall! :-D

    Avacodol Green, Harvest Gold, big yellow and orange flowers on table cloths (I still have one! LOL!) Wrought Iron, and TERRARIUMS! YAY! LOVE IT!

    I had so many in every sort of container, many lounging in macrame hangers, but you clever peeps have come up with things we never thought of! GOOD SHOW!

    And thanks ‘laguna dirt’ for the art+nature site; quite amazing!

  • I actually made something almost exactly like this before I stumbled on this site. I love that other people are doing this. I actually made mine more tropical and moist so it would serve as a moss garden. I have been loving it! I need help figuring out how to close the opposite open end. Been thinking of using epoxy and plexiglass and cut thin strips of brass sheet to trim, so it matches the rest of the frame.