Since there was no way I was going to run a cord from an outlet, up the wall, and across the ceiling, I needed to find a way to get a light over the table without wiring. And yes, I could have had an electrician completely rewire the room, but I didn’t want everything torn apart either.
So, the only real solution was to use battery-operated lights and/or non-wired light bulbs. Preferably with a remote. I’ve seen a lot of DIY-ers use these for wall sconces and extra lighting, so I figured they’d work for a light fixture too.
But what kind of light fixture? My husband and I liked the idea of a long, beam-esque fixture hanging over our long table, so I looked at some really cool examples online. I love and support creative sellers on Etsy, but there was no way I was going to pay $400+ for the kind of fixture we wanted, considering we didn’t need the “real” thing with wiring anyway. Pretty quickly, I realized there was no reason to buy a light fixture at all since I didn’t need wiring.
Next question: How could I make my own beam light fixture? 😜 One thing to consider was weight – we didn’t really want some huge heavy fixture since it would be hanging just from drywall. That meant that a real wood beam might be a problem. So…
Remember how I made faux-faux wood beams for our guest room? I used the same idea here, except that I used a real piece of wood for the bottom side of the light fixture “beam” so that it definitely wouldn’t bend under the slight weight of the bulbs. I gathered supplies based on the light fixture examples we liked, and then I got to work.
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Step 1: Cut and assemble beam sides. Like I said, one side of my beam was made from a piece of wood. I had a 3/4 inch piece of plywood that was 4 inches wide and 32 inches long, so that was perfect. This would be my bottom side. For the rest, I used 1/2 inch foam board to complete a long rectangle box. I cut 2 sides at 6 inches high and 32 inches long. To make the ends of the beam, I made 2 little rectangles that were 6 inches high (like the sides) and 5 inches long (to cover the 4-inch bottom board and the two 1/2 inch sides).
For the top side, I ended up using 1-inch foam board because I considered making it the bottom at first, but you could use 1/2 inch after all. This top piece I cut the same as the bottom board – 4 inches wide and 32 inches long. It worked great in the end because I could squeeze this top piece down in place once everything was assembled, and it doesn’t show over the taller sides and ends.
With my pieces cut, I took them into my workshop and made sure they lined up correctly. After this double-checking, I took the same adhesive I’d used to make my faux-faux ceiling beams and used my caulk gun to spread the adhesive on the sides of my bottom wood piece. Then I held the foam sides in place and pressed them on. This Loctite adhesive grips immediately, so that really helps. I then moved to the ends right away and spread adhesive on the ends of my side pieces, held the little rectangular end pieces in place, and pressed them on. You have a little time to wiggle and get the placement just right before the adhesive totally sets up, so I could get my corners just right.
I left the top piece off, so that was it for assembling the beam/box for now.
Step 2: Paint and stain. After the adhesive was dry, I took a light brown paint and covered the whole thing in a single coat. This doesn’t have to be perfect since you’re putting stain over it, but I especially made sure to cover any writing on the foam.
Even with just this paint on, it starts to look a lot more like real wood! As with the ceiling beams I’d made before, I found that scratches and dents in the foam looked pretty great – like aged wood. (If you want a really rustic look, you can purposefully dent and scratch even more before you paint.)
I made sure to paint the insides about an inch down just to be sure nothing would show once the top piece was in place. I also painted that top piece separately and painted its sides in case any of it showed later. Lastly, I flipped the whole thing over and painted the bottom.
Once the paint was dry, I took some leftover walnut stain that would match our dining room table. Using a silicone basting brush, I brushed on the stain. This little brush works GREAT to create wood grain lines over the lighter brown paint.
I went over the whole beam/box, edges and all, streaking the stain on to create a wood look. Again, I also did the top piece separately. This stain takes a while to dry, so I left it overnight.
Step 3: Screw in hooks for hanging. After a lot of deliberation, I decided to hang this whole thing from the inside so the bottom board would do all the “heavy lifting.” With the top piece off, I could reach down and screw in an eye hook at either end of the board, centered evenly. I predrilled smaller holes to make this easier.
Step 4: Plan light placement and drill holes for “wiring.” Next, I flipped over the beam so that the real wood side was facing up. I planned to have 3 puck lights stuck right on the bottom board, but I wanted 2 bulbs to hang down from the beam too. I wanted to visually check my spacing, so I set the puck lights on the board and lightly marked with a pencil where I liked them. (I didn’t put the puck lights on yet because I didn’t want to damage them from turning the fixture over.) Then I measured between the puck lights and marked where 2 holes needed to be so the 2 bulbs could hang down.
For these hanging bulbs, I took an old electrical wire and cut 2 pieces about 20 inches long (this was overkill, but I wanted wiggle room). Then I took a drill bit that was just bigger than the wire, and I drilled my 2 holes where I’d marked on the bottom board for the wires to hang through.
Next, I tipped the fixture on its side so I could get to the inside and outside. I ran the cords through my new holes and, on the inside of the box, tied knots at equal lengths so the wires wouldn’t fall back through the holes.
I left about 6 inches of wire hanging on the outside. And for these ends of the wires, I needed to attach the light bulb bases. I bought bases that would work for E26 or E27 bulbs, so they’d give me a lot of options for wire-free bulbs in the future if I wanted a different kind of bulb. (There are a lot of options out there, many remote controlled.)
Anyway, I took these bulb bases, unscrewed the tops, and ran the wires through the tops. Then I tied little knots to the insides to hold on the tops. I thought about glueing them in place, but they stayed on just fine this way. Then I screwed the tops back onto the rest of the base.
By flipping the fixture back over and setting it along the edge of my work table, I could check the lengths of my hanging bulb bases. Fortunately I’d tied all my knots evenly and they hung at the same length. I tugged on them a bit and found that my knots all held too. 👍👍
Side note: You could hang as many bulbs as you like, even skipping puck lights entirely. It would add even more light to use more hanging bulbs on either side, and hanging them at different lengths looked pretty cool in some examples we saw online. There are lots of options!
Step 5: Add the hanging chain and top piece. I’d seen examples where people used rope to hang the fixture, but I liked the chain look better. I bought a 6-ft chain with connection locks on either end, and this worked great, plus it wasn’t too heavy. First I attached one end of the chain to one eye hook, and then I held the chain up and visualized how far I wanted the chain to hang from the ceiling. Once I liked the amount of chain for hanging, I used the other connection lock to secure the chain to the other eye hook.
This next part probably could’ve used technical measurements, but I rested my top piece of painted foam along the top edge of the fixture while simultaneously holding up the chain like it was attached to the ceiling. Then I marked on the foam where it looked like the chain needed to cross through on either side.
Setting the chain down, I took my top piece and drilled 2 big holes where I’d marked, making sure to center my holes at either end. This chopped up the foam a bit, but I took some black paint and quickly touched up the holes. (And this is going to be along the top facing the ceiling anyway, so it’s not even visible.)
Once my holes were ready, I unhooked one end of the chain so that I could weave the chain through my holes. From the connected end, I ran the chain up through the top piece’s hole at that end, then left a lot of slack before running the chain back down through the top piece’s other hole. From there, I took that end and locked it back onto the other eye hook inside the fixture. There was some extra chain, so I ran that back up through the hole and left it hanging loose for now.
Finally, I gently pushed the top piece into place inside the surrounding side and end pieces. I thought about adding adhesive to the top piece, but it stayed in place nicely even when I tugged the chain. If your top piece is looser, you could add adhesive to keep it in place.
Step 6: Add any decorative touches. To be honest, I forgot this step until the whole fixture was already hanging, but it would have been a lot easier at this point! 🤦♀️ I used little 1-inch corner brace brackets that I had leftover, and I spray painted these black, along with their little screws.
With the paint dry, I warmed up my hot glue gun and spread glue on the insides of the corner brackets. Quickly, I pushed them in place at the corner ends of the fixture. Then I just pushed the screws through the holes into the foam, sticking them in the glue too. These went on very easily and added a cool industrial touch to the fixture.
Step 7: Add the light pucks and prep bulbs. I found pucks that were already black, but I couldn’t find any rechargeable bulbs that didn’t have white bases. These white parts looked a little off with everything else black, but I quickly fixed this by painting over the white parts with black paint. (Just be careful along the actual bulb, maybe using painters tape for a clean edge if you need it. It also might depend on your kind of bulb, so be careful what you’re painting.)
Anyway, I flipped over the fixture and found the marks I’d made earlier for the pucks. The pucks came with adhesive circles, but I decided to screw the puck bases in place just to be sure. They only required 2 little screws each, so that was easy enough. Once the puck bases were on, I added the batteries and twisted the lights to lock in place.
I decided not to put in the bulbs until the fixture was actually hanging, but basically that was it! Holding my breath, I tested it by holding the chain up and shaking the fixture a bit. Everything held! And it was SO light – maybe 5 pounds!
Step 8: Hang fixture and add bulbs. I measured to find the center of our room over the table. Once I had that, I made a mark on the ceiling. Then I got a drill and made a hole to insert the hook’s anchor. This was a HEAVY DUTY hook and anchor, so I was confident it would hold my 5-pound fixture. 😜
It took a little adjusting to secure the chain so that the fixture was level, but it worked! I also hung the extra bit of chain to add a different look to one side.
And finally, in went the bulbs.
This ended up looking great and adds a lot of light over our table! It cost me less than $100. And, it only weighs about 5 pounds, so it’s easy to hang and won’t rip a hole in my ceiling. There are so many different ways you could hang bulbs and wrap the beam with electrical cords or chains or rope or decorative leaves – I’d love to see how you customize this project yourselves!