diy projectsDorm

Dorm DIY: Clothes Hanger Chandelier

by Maxwell Tielman

When I was an undergrad in college, I often found myself wishing that design blogs and magazines had decorating tips for my particular lifestyle. That lifestyle being living with no money in a veritable shoe box with poor air conditioning, loud neighbors, communal bathrooms and a suspicious smell. Although I perused various design websites on a daily basis, bookmarking things for my future “dream home,” I couldn’t find things to use in the present moment, things that would help me transform my decrepit cinderblock dorm room into something even remotely homey. So all you freshman design aficionados and first-time renters with work-study jobs: This series is for you. Over the next several weeks, this column will feature cheap, quick and shockingly easy tips for brightening your dorms, apartments and general student life. Horrible posters and ratty dorm furniture be gone — Design*Sponge is going to college!

Our first DIY is sure to brighten up your midterm study sessions! Dorm rooms can be pretty depressing places, but even they can be made magnificent and regal with the right touch — like a shimmering chandelier (that happens to be made out of metal clothes hangers and duct tape). Although we would never encourage purchasing wire hangers (haven’t you seen Mommie Dearest?), sometimes you just end up with one — or several hundred. If this is the case, you’ve already got most of the supplies for this low-budget project! So get the rest of your supplies together and join us after the jump! — Max

Alright, now that you’ve gathered your supplies — many of which you probably already had (isn’t decorating fun?) — it’s time to start! Here are the directions:

1. Take your wire hangers and, one at a time, unwind the hook section so that it’s completely separated. With two pliers (or your hands if you’re Superman), straighten the bends in the wire by holding a plier at either side of the bend and bending in the opposite direction.

2. Once each of the 10 hangers is completely unwound and straightened, bunch them so that all of their hooks are together and pointing in the same direction.

3. Holding your bunch of wires in place, start rolling strips of duct tape around the bunch, beginning near the hooks. Work your way down until about 1/2 of the wire bunch is covered in duct tape. We used alternating strips of neon pink and metallic silver tape for some added snazziness. Colored duct tapes can usually be picked up at any art, craft supply or hardware store.

This is kind of what it should look like at this point (minus the string lights — we’re not there yet):

4. Now, take 5 of your wires and bend them so that they curve gently upward. This will be the first tier of your chandelier. If your wires are looking freakishly long and this isn’t to your liking, use a wire cutter or the wire cutter section of your pliers to trim off the excess.

5. With the 5 remaining unbent wires, continue duct taping for about another 6 inches (give or take, no need to be precise).

6. Bend the rest of the wires upward in a similar fashion. Position the bent wires so that each is pointing in a different direction around the circumference of the wire bunch.

This is kind of what it should look like at that point:

Admittedly, it will look like a wonky Dr. Seuss contraption at this point, but have patience! You’re almost done!

7. Take all of the light bulbs off your string lights and place them in a bowl or similar vessel. This step is incredibly important if you don’t want to end up sweeping broken glass all night long when you should be doing homework. Or partying.

8. Tape the side of the cord with the two-pronged plug near the top of your chandelier.

9. Spiral the cord down along the shaft of the chandelier until you reach your first tier. Then wind the cord around each wire of the tier, to the tip and then back to the center. You can hold the lights in place by using the clips that are often attached t0 each light. Repeat on the second tier, then hide the plug somewhere in the middle.

10. Put the light bulbs back on!

11. All that’s left is to hang that thing! Screw a simple ceiling hook (available at most hardware stores) into your ceiling to latch the hooks onto. Then plug your extension cord into the lights and run it along the ceiling and wall with some of your handy-dandy duct tape!

12. BAM! DONE! INSTANT CLASS! Now it’s time to impress all your roommates and friends with your ultra-swanky chandelier!

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  • SO excited for this series. I just graduated and got an actual job, but I spent years living on minimum wage (or less!) while in school. I can totally relate to you, Max. I thought I’d never get past the days of staring longingly at online design blogs, walking past Anthropologie with the sads, and finding change in the ripped-up couch cushions to buy the September Issue of Vogue. Much love.

  • I love this idea, but I’m not allowed to hang lights in my dorm room. Make some more dorm-rule friendly things, please

    • rani

      most dorms allow people to plug in lamps- this is no different. you don’t have to hard wire anything. can you be specific about your rules? it sounds like they may be stricter than most.


  • This is a great idea for a series! I am no longer a collegiate, but when I think back to my rooms in college I shudder. How could I focus and study in such an environment? I definitely could have used some simple cheap diy!

  • This is a great idea. I was thinking I could do the same thing, but flip it over and attach to a post outside to create lit “trees” in the yard for outdoor entertaining.

  • Brilliant! This is such an awesome series! We did a fun diy project (how2home.wordpress.com/2012/07/31/how-to-decorate-chopsticks/) to spice up boring flatware/chopsticks.

  • I love the idea of college-inspired DIY. I felt the same way, that there is never anything that fits my lifestyle on most design blogs. Now there is!

  • Although my studenty days are behind me, this series makes me happy! So often it seems like the design world likes to conveniently forget all people’s budgets, but that really doesn’t need to be the case. I’ll be excited to see what you come up with :)

  • As a college student, I really appreciate this series SO MUCH!
    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  • NICE!!! For the year and a half I lived on campus, my dorm room was decorated 100% like a home. Moving everything out was a total pain in the rear as I watched everyone else saunter out with a couple of duffel bags, but it was worth it to feel like the communal space was my own. One of the tricks I discovered was that I could draw on the high gloss painted walls with dry erase markers to make a mural. I left it on for an entire semester and it came right off with windex when I moved out!

  • the holiday of sukkoth is coming up next week. i’m going to make this for my sukkah ( a tempory house structure we build in the backyard for the holiday!)

  • I CANNOT BELIEVE THIS!! I have been a fan of you guys since I was a freshman in high school, and this is my 5th week of my freshman year at college!! Please keep this column going, and stay wonderful!!

  • Hi Grace,

    The main problem would be screwing things into the ceiling, which is really not allowed at my school, and a little bit hard to do as a college student. I just checked my rules, and I think the lights are allowed. Do you have a suggestions for hanging?

    • Rani

      You’re in luck – you don’t need to screw this in. Just use a heavy duty 3M adhesive hook. They make them that hold up to 30 pounds I think- get that one, affix to ceiling and hang the chandelier from that :)

      When you move out just peel off the hook and you’re set- just make sure the hook is adhered properly before hanging the chandelier.


  • I love this blog! This DIY stuff is the best! I am begging rents to let me spray paint a chain fence gold for a headboard and use chalkboard paint on the walls