Sunday, October 21, 2018

Our Magical Twinkle Light Ceiling, And How We Did It!

For our next project, John and I did something ridiculous and utterly magical to our living room ceiling:


I wasn't prepared for the reaction I got once I posted this on Instagram, though; turns out you guys like twinkle lights almost as much as I do! You also demanded a tutorial, so I'll do my best here with the few photos I took along the way.

First things first: you need a ceiling you can staple into (so hard plasters are out) and LOTS of lights. We used this set from Amazon: for $38 you get 1,000 lights on over 300 feet of a lovely clear/white wire:



 It doesn't actually arrive in a giant tangled ball, don't worry.

Other than the lights, all you need is a ladder, a staple gun and at least 800 staples. (We also spray-painted the tops of our staples white before using them, but that's optional.)

To begin, move any large pieces of furniture out of the way, so you have room to move your ladder.

Next you may want to unspool all 300 feet of lights onto the room's floor, just to make sure you have enough to cover the space:


This wasn't very helpful for us, though, because we ended up running out faster than we expected anyway.

In fact, our magical swoopy flourish was a happy accident: we originally thought we would randomly place lights over the entire ceiling. When we realized we didn't have enough for how tightly we were installing them, though, we changed the design to what you see here.


Now let's talk install. 

If you're planning a shape like we did, and if your ceiling allows it, outline the shape first with blue painter's tape:

 This will give you a guideline to work inside.

If your ceiling is too rough for tape, you can try stapling string up there instead - or just have a person on the ground with a laser pointer to guide you.

Important: even though it would be easier, you do NOT want a grid work of lights; any kind of pattern spoils the magical effect. So to keep it random, try to arrange your wires in a giant Cornelli Lace pattern:

(My two blog worlds are colliding....)

 Here's how that looks on the ceiling:


I should probably mention this looks a lot less magical during the day. Ha! (Fortunately we're usually only back here after dark.)

Keep the lights ON while you're installing, ideally in a darkened room:

 

It also helps to have a second person on the ground at all times keeping an eye on the pattern. (And give them a laser pointer; it'll save everyone's sanity.) Step back and check your work often to make sure you're not making the pattern denser; it's very easy to pack more lights in as you go (HEED MY VOICE OF EXPERIENCE), so err on the side of looser loops.

As I'm sure is obvious by now, this requires some fairly extensive hole-poking into your ceiling, so be prepared for spackle & paint repairs later when/if you take it all down. We had to rework our beginning section a bit, so here you can see some of the chipped paint from the staples we moved around:

 The amount of damage will depend on your ceiling. We have soft foam tiles that already have a perforated texture, so they're somewhat forgiving - but I'd guess a popcorn ceiling would hide a lot of sins, too.

A few more install shots:

All told this took us two nights' work, mostly because of our hasty re-planning session and having to redo the beginning 6 feet or so. Oh, and this room is about 16X20, so I hope that helps you visualize how far the 1,000 lights will get you.


And that's it! I hope this inspires a lot more Christmas lights on ceilings out there. This is one of those things we all dream about as kids, but usually forget about once we're adults. But hey, if you own your own home, then that is YOUR place. So go ahead, screw up the ceiling paint a little. Paint that crazy color. Do stuff that makes being an adult worth it from time to time. Life's too dang short to always worry about resale value anyway, am I right? :D


25 comments:

  1. Love this! And I love that final sentiment. The number of times I have seen people make decisions for their own house based on the thoughts of imaginary future people is infuriating. And then they recommend I do the same. No thanks. I'll live in my own house, thanks.

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    1. my husband does this too. I reply, "WHO ARE YOU SELLING MY HOUSE TO?"

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    2. We ran into this with our realtor on our first house. So our joke became "when the REAL owners show up". We still make this comment when making decisions on house stuff -- "do you think the REAL owners will like that".

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  2. I love this! And I completely agree on your final sentiment. One of the joys of adulthood is occasionally realizing that you really CAN do something just because you want to.

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  3. When I bought my first house I painted the living/dining room a color called "Swiss Chocolate". Everyone said I couldn't do that because Resale Value. But look! The whole time I lived there I had chocolate on my walls!
    I love Kelly above's joke about The REAL Owners.

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    1. Of all the things to worry about, paint color seems absurd. I've lived in my house 8 years and I've painted it at least 4x. I can always repaint in blergh if I need to sell one day. And as someone who has been involved in real estate, colors tend to sell better anyway...they might not appeal to everyone, but you don't need everyone, you just need one person to love it. :)

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  4. It looks like the Cave of Two Lovers from The Last Airbender!

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  5. ARGH, I love this so much! Curse my hard plaster ceilings! Some day when we design our own house, I'll just have twinkling lights built right in. Yes!

    KW

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  6. Ooh, pretty! But we're renters, so it's out of the question. I guess if we were really determined we could use hundreds of clear/white Command hooks though. They do make little grippy ones to hold electrical cords. Hmm, that bears thinking about, actually.

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    1. I did that in my dorm room! It took a while but it was really pretty.

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    2. what about masking tape? not as permanent, but good for a while....

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  7. OH MAN! My basement needs this...it also needs some waterproofing but after that is done, THIS. Thank you for doing this and sharing!

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  8. When I was little my mom tacked Christmas lights to the ceiling with purple chiffon over it to hide the wires - it gave a soft, pretty, galaxy effect and I loved it so much! Definitely on my list of things to do if I have my own kid one day!

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  9. For renters and others who can't poke holes in their ceilings, there are these:

    https://www.walmart.com/ip/Great-Explorations-Glowing-Star-Explosion-735-count/5007599

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  10. Jen,

    How did you wire this electrically? Great idea. Maybe someday...

    Maureen

    P.S. It was great to see you in Pittsburgh!

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    1. Oh! It's not wired permanently; it's just plugged into the wall, with the wires running up to the ceiling in the back corner. This way we can also put it on a timer. :)

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  11. This is great! I love this idea.

    I'm loving these comments above!! Unless you are actually currently flipping a house to sell as soon as you are done (like I am) then I would never worry about what a future owner might think. I guess it's a little different for me though, because I know I'm not staying in the house that I am living in. I did, however, go way off scheme and painted a guest bathroom burnt orange and white, pretty far off from the color scheme used in the rest of the house *shrugs* Oh well, I like it :)

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  12. Oooh! (jumps around in excitement while trying to think of something else to say other than an exclamation of delight.)

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  13. I project twinkling laser lights onto my ceiling. It is beautiful and I guess will save the house for the next people. Though I plan to die here, so they may not want it.

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  14. Jen, I don't mean to tell you how to live your life, but I was strolling through the streets of Mexico City while they are getting ready for Day of the Dead (Dias de los Muertos) and suddenly thought...thi is something the Epbot Lady (because I pretend like I don't know your name or everything about you in an obsessive manner) would really love. The colors are crazy! Alebrijes (magical monsters that are neon colored and gorgeous), golden/orange marigolds everywhere for the ofrenda for the dead, sugar skulls and calavera (which are morbid to some, but absolutely gorgeous), and the sheer (shear?) amount of photos of family members who have passed. It's just amazing and seems like something in your wheel house. I guess you can see some of this stuff in Pixar's Coco but just google Dias de Los Muertos and absorb the colors. Maybe it can inspire you or cakes or something.

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  15. I like both the swoopy magical flourish and the more diffuse pattern when you spread the lights out on the floor. I think either could be a wonderful effect.

    When you do something like this, is there a trick to making sure you don't accidentally put a staple through the wires themselves (which I assume would be dangerous, or at least damaging)?

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    1. Not really a trick, but be sure to position the wire right in the middle of your stapler, so the prongs straddle it to either side. If you use this particular strand of lights it's pretty easy, since the wire is thinner than typical Christmas lights.

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  16. Is that what the pattern is called? Apparently my go-to doodle pattern has a name to it. This is absolutely lovely!

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  17. Ooh, if I ever do this, I'm going for a Golden Spiral -- Fibonacci numbers rock!

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