Ever shop for decor, find something you love, suck in your breath when you see the price, then immediately try to figure out how to make it yourself? If so, you are my people.
Enter a $400 flush-mounted capiz shell chandelier that I saw online. I’m already over budget on this bathroom reno, so, uh, no. And anyway, I didn’t actually want to install a whole new light but instead wanted something to vamp up the recessed light over where my new tub will go (hopefully soon, since the tub is currently sitting in my bedroom).
I’d earlier made a chandelier from wooden beads that hangs in our stairwell, so I was fairly certain I could use similar tactics to “dupe” this capiz shell chandelier.
Searching Pinterest, I found a few people who used wax paper and laminate and circle punches and their oven to create faux capiz shells. …But that seemed like a lot of work. Maybe it would be a bit cheaper than buying actual shells, but the labor involved didn’t seem worth the savings. So, I searched Amazon and found a pretty good deal on capiz shells that already had holes in them for stringing together. I ended up buying 2 packs of 100 each to get a full look for my chandelier. The other materials – clear fishing line, U bracket clamps, and a Euro fitter lampshade ring – I already had, but if you have to buy everything this whole project still costs under $100. And it only takes a few hours. Win win.
(As an advertising affiliate and Amazon Associate, I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases. But it doesn’t cost you anything extra and helps me keep up my site!)
“What the heck is a Euro fitter lampshade ring?” you may ask. I only know because I searched Google for what I used so I’d know how to describe it here. LOL. Basically, it’s the metal ring that’s the top of a lampshade, but the kind where the metal center section is lower where it fastens to the lightbulb. I wanted this kind so that I could hang shells in the center but also have them be lower and not right against my recessed light. There are all kinds of cool lampshade rings for DIY lampshades that you could use to get different shapes, but this is what I had already that fit my needs.
Optional Step: I spray painted my ring so it matched my main bathroom light fixture. (See that project here.) If you’re going to paint yours too, obviously do that before you start attaching the shells. I also painted my U bracket clamps to match the white of my ceiling so they would blend in. Painting these isn’t a necessary step, but I think it looks nice. 🤷♀️
Step 1: Plan. You could string together shells willy-nilly for a rustic look, but I wanted some uniform length to my chandelier. And I wanted my center shells to hang shorter than my surrounding shells. A lot of people prefer the other way around for a longer chandelier, but I wanted mine to be fuller and not hang too far from the ceiling.
Since my lampshade ring was divided into 3 sections, I planned on creating equal numbers of shell strands to hang from each section. I decided on 5 shells for each strand hanging from the outer ring, then 3 shells for each strand hanging from the center. I had about 200 shells to work with, so I ended up with 33 strands of 5 and 11 strands of 3 (I did have a few broken shells, but I figured that was pretty fair considering how fragile the shells are. Count your useable shells first to be sure you have enough for your plan!)
Step 2: Create a test strand of shells. I started by making 1 whole strand to check my plan. I tied on my bottom shell by simply looping the fishing line through the holes and then making a double knot. I cut off the excess string from the knot, then I pulled out more line for the rest of that strand (another 12 inches or so) and cut the other end.
From there, it was easy to add my 4 other shells one at a time by weaving the fishing line through the shells’ holes. I first thought I’d have to tie on each shell, but they catch on the fishing line nicely and stay put. I spaced mine so that they overlapped slightly, but you can space them however you like the look.
Once I had this 1 strand done, I tied it onto my outer ring to see if I liked it. (It helped to have a good amount of fishing line to work with when tying it onto the ring, so keep that in mind when you cut your strand lengths.) I double knotted that end by looping the line around the ring and tying the line back around itself where it weaved through the shell holes. Then I cut off the extra – much like with the bottom shell.
Holding up my whole thing, I liked how the shell strand hung down, I liked the spacing of the shells on the strand, and I liked the overall length. So, onward!
Step 3: String together the shells. I found I could work fastest and most consistently by doing each step at the same time for each strand. So, first I cut all my 5-shell strands to the same length, about 12-15 inches. Then I attached each bottom shell to start each strand. Then I strung 4 shells on each strand. I set these in 3 piles – 1 for each section of my ring – to keep track of my system. (I ended up with 11 strands for each section of my outer ring.)
Once I had my 5-shell strands done, I moved on to stringing together my 3-shell strands. These I could cut a little shorter, probably about 10 inches. I attached the bottom shell same as before, then strung on the other 2. These I put all in a separate pile.
This step is obviously the time-consuming part, but it goes pretty fast once you get the hang of it.
Step 4: Tie the strands to the ring. I took some 5-shell strands first and tied them onto my outer ring, just like I’d done with my test strand. It was easiest to rest the whole thing on top of a few stacked paint cans – you could use a narrow box or tall vase or whatever. With the lampshade ring elevated, I could tie on each sections’ strands and let them hang a bit rather than lying the ring on the table and getting the shells tangled. I did one on each section at a time to keep the whole thing balanced.
Note: The fishing line can slide around a bit so that you can adjust the strands’ spacing along your sections. I did this as I went just to see what would look best, but save the final positioning for once it’s on your ceiling since they’ll slide around on you before then.
Once I had some of the outer 5-shell strands on, I took my 3-shell strands and tied them on by looking down from above and tying them onto the center/inner part of the lampshade ring. There might’ve been an easier way to do this, but I made it work. 😜
Step 5: Mount the chandelier! Standing on a chair, I held up my chandelier with the recessed light centered as best I could. Then I marked with a pencil where my U bracket clamps’ holes should be – planning for 1 clamp for each of my 3 sections. Next I lowered the chandelier and set it carefully aside. Back up on my chair – this time with my 4-year-old assistant handing me clamps and screws – I used my drill to loosely screw in 1 screw per clamp. Climbing back down, I grabbed the chandelier and lifted it back up with me. I wiggled the loose clamps around so the chandelier’s outer ring would rest in place, and it hung on the clamps well enough that my assistant could hand me the remaining screws to secure the chandelier in place.
Or… If you have a taller sidekick to hold the chandelier in place, you could screw in the clamps all at once. 😂
Anyway, once the chandelier is mounted, then it’s time to slide around your strands to adjust their spacing however you like.
And that’s it! A whole new, fancier look for my recessed light.