The Intentional Apartment: Make This Bar Light for Only $38

Give your apartment some modern mood with this simple build.

Do you know why the term “mood lighting” exists? Because, simply, the lighting of an environment – the intensity, the color, the direction – play an incredible role in how that environment feels. Imagine a room lit by candles: dim, yellow light flickering on the walls and ceiling, causing dark shadows. What about a doctor’s office? Bright, white, consistent light with little shadow. Imagine a fancy restaurant. Now every Burger King you’ve been to. Swap the lighting styles in those two places and you’d have vastly different experiences, for better or worse.

Now think about your living room. If you live in a standard apartment you probably have a hanging light in the dining area, maybe a fluorescent light in the kitchen, some ceiling lights in the halls that look like their from ’95. You added an Ikea floor lamp or two.

Sound about right? This lighting was installed for function not aesthetic, and it performs admirably. It fills your place with light so you can see where you’re going, what you’re reading, and whatever else. Unfortunately, when it comes to relaxing or entertaining, this same light scheme isn’t optimal.

Continuing on our industrial apartment redesign project, (See our DIY Pipe Table, Restoration Hardware inspiration, vintage wood-framed map) here’s a smart and cheap way to introduce a better mood to your place.

This type of wall light is known as a sconce and this style specifically is a barn light. (Which we’ll be using as a bar light.) The problem with anything related to making your apartment nicer is the expense. Those lights above may be the nicest lights available but spending $200 on a decorative mood light ain’t happening.

So instead, in Primer fashion, we’ll make our own for super-cheap. Even better, this project is dead-simple – no special knowledge or tools required.

We’re going to make our industrial barn light sconce out of 3 pieces of piping, a clamp work light, an appliance plug, and an “Edison-style” light bulb. Total cost: $38.31.

Eat that, expensive light people.

All of these items are readily available at your local Home Depot/Lowes or hardware store. Or to order online, click the Amazon links below.

Assembly in 7 Simple Steps

  1. Screw the 10 inch pipe into the flange, then screw on the elbow.
  2. Remove the clamp from the light, and cut the plug off of the end.
  3. Run the wire up through the elbow and out the end of the flange, pulling all of the excess wire with it.
  4. Attach the new plug to the end of the wire following the included instructions. This is as easy as wrapping the two wires around screws.
  5. Hang the light where desired using the holes in the flange with screws and wall anchors. I only used 2. Use the pressure of the flange and the wall to hold the clamp light tight against the pipe.
  6. Insert the Edison bulb.
  7. Drink an Old Fashioned.

If you make one or have improvements, show us in the comments!

finished diy light
finished diy light

Andrew is the founder and editor of Primer. He's a graduate of American University and currently lives in Los Angeles. Read more about Primer on our About page.

  • max

    your apartment must be so cool…

  • Tom

    That is so money.

    One possible modification once you have the light up: if you don’t like the look of the cord hanging out, you could buy a cord cover (or something sort of flat) to run down your wall that covers up the cord…and paint it the color of your wall if need be.

    • Michael

      Great idea, any others for hiding the cord?

      Judging from the pictures of the expensive bar lights, hiding the cord makes a big difference

      • jbu92

        wouldn’t work for an apartment obviously, but for like a man-cave-
        clearly those $200 aren’t lamps, which is basically what this build really is- a wall-mounted lamp. So if you really wanted to hide the cords, install a wall box and actually make it a light fixture.

  • Ricardo

    (use more piping to hide the chords…also, it will look EVEN COOLER on your wall)

    Another reccomendation: This is a GREAT flea market project. You can find everything there pretty easily at a flea market for likely a few cents per piece, and the parts you find will likely have a seriously cool patina on them, too!

    • Michael

      Can you elaborate on hiding the cords? Not sure how to do it exactly

  • Jim

    In the first picture (in the heading) the lamp looks pretty high up. Do you have to stand on a chair to turn it on or are you pulling out the plug from the wall when not in use?

  • Will

    You could spray paint the clamp light a shade which matched the pipe or could use an off white barrel shade for a mixed modern/antique look.

    • Michael

      Do you need to use any particular kind of paint given the heat of the light?

  • http://www.jessydiamond.com/ Jessy

    I like the idea, but I don’t really know where I could put it.

  • TJ

    This is a really cool idea. What would you think about putting on over a bed to use instead of a lamp on the nightstand?

    • Ry

      only if you turn it upside down

    • http://www.primermagazine.com/ Andrew

      You could do it upside down, have it off-center so it’s not directly above you, or put in a lower watt bulb so it’s not too harsh.

  • ike

    Is that a picutre of a target framed on the wall?

    • http://www.primermagazine.com/ Andrew

      sure is! $.50 + frame.

      • Max

        That’s brilliant. My buddies would love that idea.

  • Tom

    A friend says he would put a little clear silicone where the elbow pipe and lamp socket meet…and not rely on the tension of the cord to hold the light tight.

    • http://www.primermagazine.com/ Andrew

      Or a dap of hot glue if you already have it, but honestly the tension from the flange/wall is enough. It takes a bit of effort to move it even pulling on it.

  • Jay

    As always, great job, Andrew. I love this site.

    • http://www.primermagazine.com/ Andrew

      Thanks Jay!

  • Michael

    I just made one of these today. It cost me about $24 and it looks great. I will definitely be making at least one or two more and then on to the coffee table!

    • Michael

      I kinda just threw it up on the wall to see if I really like it and I do. I am going to be repainting and re-decorating the living room so this is going to look great. I have it right by the front door so I can click it on once I get in the door. I did not get the Edison bulb (forgot) so I just used what I had laying around. Great idea, please keep them coming.

      • http://www.primermagazine.com/ Andrew

        Nice!!! Thanks for sharing the photos!

  • Devil Nuts

    This was a brilliant idea. I took some of your parts and made my own. Granted it cost a bit more but the results are the same. I think total parts mine came to 60 dollars.

    • http://www.primermagazine.com/ Andrew

      I love the look of it, great work! Thanks for sharing.

    • http://www.primermagazine.com/ Andrew

      Where did you get your shade?

  • Robert

    i’m not particularly handy, so forgive me if this is a stupid question, but why do you need to take off the pre-existing plug off the lamp and put on a new one? Just aesthetics? or is there a practical purpose?

    • http://www.primermagazine.com/ Andrew

      The plug is too big to fit through the pipe. Sizing up on the pipe to fit would take you past an inch, inch and a half maybe, those are big and expensive pipes.

      • Robert

        Ah. Makes sense! I found this site tonight and i’m now engrossed in finding a map for the wood framed map.

        • http://www.primermagazine.com/ Andrew

          Welcome! Glad you could join us!

  • Ana Maria

    how would you ‘hardwire’ this lamp?

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  • Bastian

    Nice lamp, would love one of these. I’m just wondering how you attached the bulbholder to the pipe. Can you explain a little?

    Greetings from Germany

    Bastian

  • mike

    I’m late to the party, but you can buy this for the same price or cheaper ready made. If you want to cord & plug connect it, you would just have to add a lampcord. http://www.homedepot.com/p/Aspects-Farm-and-Home-1-light-14-in-Silver-Yardlight-with-reflector-YL106-4/202814098

    I know I can find this locally at a farm supply for less that $20 as well. This isn’t counting the $8 bulb though.

  • dg

    drill a hole in the wall where you want the light, then drill a hole directly below. tie a string to the end of the cord, get some fishing weights and put them on the end of the string. feed the string through the top hole and then let it drop behind your wall and pull it through the other hole near the ground. it seems tough but its really not. just dont drill your hole on a stud and make sure your walls are stud walls not cinder block or something.

    • dg

      also get some bronze spray paint if you want the lamp to be the same color as the pipes

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