ByPatti Roth

Sep 2, 2021

Some upcycling projects evoke a smile. For example, old-fashioned rotary phones are re-imagined as decorative desk lamps. Other upcycling projects dazzle, such as perky pendant lights with porcupine-like spikes formed from tight rolls of recycled paper.

Innovative artisans and upcycling enthusiasts from around the world are repurposing a wide variety of potential discards into interesting lamps and light fixtures. Some are functional and unfussy. Others are works of art. Lots are delightfully whimsical.

All of them demonstrate the delicious potential of upcycling, and ideally reducing waste.

Deodorant Re-do

upcycled deodorant solar bike light
Photo: Sudhu Tewari, Instructables

On his Instructables page, Sudhu Tewari provides his do-it-yourself version for a portable solar-powered light using an empty plastic deodorant tube. He describes his design as an easy hack for a homemade bike light. It also features a solar panel reclaimed from a garden light.

“I love reusing discarded things,” Tewari says. “It gives me great satisfaction to be able to reuse something rather than sending it to landfill.”

Paper Pendants

Recycled paper lamp shade
Photo: Verdepumo, Etsy

Pendant lamps from Verdepumo Etsy shop sport a spikey sea urchin vibe. They’re entirely handmade with recycled paper.

“Working with recycled paper is a way to turn garbage into poetry,” says Verdepumo shop owner and designer, Mery Spilotro of Italy. “To learn to have a new look. A look full of opportunities.”

Other recycled paper lighting projects:

  • Etsy vendor Formma from Vilnius, Lithuania, builds handmade lampshades with recycled cardboard
  • Cardboard lamp DIY instructions from Nordwerk Design on YouTube
upcycled cardboard lamp shade
Photo: Formma, Etsy

Dialed In

Vintage rotary phones are rolling out as desk lamps from a variety of artisans and do-it-yourselfers. While designs vary somewhat, usually the phones-as-lamps feature hovering handsets as the light source.

upcycled vintage phone lamp
Photo: WroughtIronFamily, Etsy

Examples include:

"Phamp" upcycled phone lamps
Photo: Dubchinsky, Etsy

“I generally don’t like seeing nice things go to landfills, especially if there is a fun way to give them a new life,” says Gosha Dubchinsky. “ With my Phamps, I take pieces of history, really cool looking artifacts from the past and upcycle them to give them a  future and let them light up people’s homes and faces with smiles. I think that a lot of things that we actually need have already been produced in the past and are just waiting for us to find them.”

Light Wine

wine bottle chandelier
Photo: Industrial Lightworks

Industrial Lightworks upcycles empty wine bottles into lighting fixtures, including a chandelier with 11 bottles dangling from worn-and-weathered reclaimed wood.

“It’s a beautiful process to use something that was intended for a different use and turn it into something amazing and unique,” says Tara Stemper, who owns Industrial Lightworks with her husband. They use as many upcycled materials as possible in each fixture they create, she says. “We feel we are doing our part in taking care of [our] footprint and helping to reduce others’ footprints as well.

“We are always looking for new ways to use old materials. It’s a fun challenge and our customers love us for it. We use old doors, all different types of metal, reclaimed barn wood, antiqued tins, repurposed funnels, wine bottles, metal filaments, you name it, we’ll give it a try.”

For do-it-yourself bottle lights:

Under the Hood

Reclaimed Industrial Pendant Lights
Photo: Weathered Finishes

Sporting a sleek, elongated, and polished profile, Reclaimed Industrial Pendant Lights from Weathered Finishes in Arizona are designed using upcycled auto parts.

The aesthetically pleasing pendants are degreased and upcycled engine filters from trucks and other heavy equipment. “These fixtures are what we like to call ‘perfectly imperfect’ and are truly one of a kind,” the Etsy page states.

Other Upcycled Lights

Upcycled binocular pendant light
Photo: WroughtIron Family, Etsy

Ready to buy:

Upcycling instructions:

Featured image courtesy of Tim Gouw, Pexels

By Patti Roth

Patti began her writing career as a staff writer for the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Still based in Florida, Patti serves as editor for Fort Lauderdale on the Cheap. She regularly writes about environmental, home improvement, education, recycling, art, architecture, wildlife, travel and pet topics.