The Terrarium

I love thrift stores. I love the hunt and the sense possibility and the deals. I love having objects that carry their own history, that have been in lives before they’ve come into mine. I have a circuit of three near my house that I like to stop in on a weekly basis and  a mental list of places I like to visit when I’m in the neighborhood or up for a trip. Mostly I’m in it for the housewares– a pyrex bowl dug from the bottom of a dusty box or a handworked needlepoint canvas from the 70s, be still my heart! If it needs a good scrub or a coat of paint before you can see it’s full potential, it’s right up my alley.

I was in one of my regular haunts yesterday when I spied this monstrosity.


It hung from the ceiling on its wired gold chain with streaky glass and swaddled in plastic, and I had to have it. I don’t think the picture really conveys just how big this light fixture is. It’s huge. Massive. Giant. The woman at the counter put it in the only bag that it would fit, a large black trash bag, and I wrapped my arms around it and carried it home balanced on my hip like a toddler. A sticky, fragile, boxy toddler that rose above my head and obscured all peripheral vision on my right side.

20140909-181132.jpgUnder the plastic bags and bubble wrap was this gem, a bright and brassy candelabra. As lovely as it was, I took out my tools and made short work of gutting it all.

20140909-181148.jpgBefore I started, I was worried that pieces might have been soldered together, particularly the bell-like canopy at the top, but with a little elbow grease and after snipping the wires, I was able to unscrew everything else. Within ten minutes, all the pieces were strewn across the dining room table. I added stones, soil, and a plant that needed re-potting and it was even better than I first imagined:

A terrarium made from a light fixture

A terrarium! A ridiculously large, oversized terrarium. I’m in love.

DIY terrarium

Faceted terrariums have been popping up in design blogs all over the place over the last year, and I’ve wanted one of my own for so long. They’re pricey, though. Even the little guys run in the $30-$40 range. I’m really excited to have figured out a DIY. The light fixture was $30, which is more than I’d usually spend on a thrifted home good, but compared to what a new terrarium of a similar size would have cost, the homemade version was a steal.

DIY terrarium closeup

Other than removing the hardware, the only other modification I made was to remove one of the panes of glass to be able to access the plant. If you do this, you should probably get a glass cutter. Or tape the pane so it breaks in one piece. Or put a cloth on the top so shards don’t go flying. Definitely at least one of those things. I recommend all. I don’t recommend the approach that I took, which was to find the one that felt loosest in its frame and smash it with a hammer. I wasn’t thinking! In my defense, I did wear goggles and put it on a blanket, but there was a preventable amount of glass clean-up involved.

DIY terrarium closeup

I’d picked up the plant on a whim in July, and it’s been thriving in this window, so I hope it grows wild, spilling out the front and climbing up the glass wall.

Plants in the window

I’m so pleased with this! It adds so much to the window, and it was such an easy transformation from something so dated to something completely new. I’m hoping to find similar lights and create a little faceted terrarium army marching across the sill.



  1. raeraesketchaday · · Reply

    Love it! I am inspired 🙂

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