Glowing Outdoor Orbs

O.K.  Get ready for it … this one’s a doozy.  Doozie?  Doosey. Druzy?  No, that’s what rings are made out of. It’s a humdinger. It looks high end with a side of huge impact, It costs next to nothing, And even if being “handy” to you means replacing your regular lightbulbs with eco-friendly ones … you’ll be able to  do this in 3 minutes flat.


This landscape lighting costs next to nothing and looks GREAT. Not, Gee it looks great for how much it cost, great. I mean REALLY great! width=     That’s right.  Some old glass shades, some old (outdoor) Christmas lights and BAM.  You’re a backyard badass.

In my attempt to make my backyard a teensy bit more contemporary than my 170 year old house I ran into a few problems.  Outdoor lighting is EXPENSIVE.

If I’m gonna shell out a whole whack of cash for something in my backyard it’s gonna be on a tenderloin for the BBQ.  Or a better BBQ.  Or a talking parrot who refers to me as Princess Leia. It isn’t gonna be for lighting if I can help it.

So while perusing the local second hand store I came across some truly unfortunate stains on the carpet AND these ubiquitous opaque glass shades.  You’ve probably thrown a few out in your lifetime.  Stop doing that.  Stop it right now. Because as you can see, all you have to do is shove some old mini lights in em to create an outdoor light that even a magazine Editor in Chief will comment on.  (Thank you Eric McLaughlin of Style at Home magazine for noticing my glowing orbs)

And here’s the best part!  You know those stupid, anger inducing mini lights you have shoved in your basement?  The ones where only half of the string lights up?  Yeah, um … this is a perfect use for them.  PERFECT!

at night

during the day


Just stick the glass shades anywhere you want and stuff them full of mini lights.   Attach an extension cord if you need to and hide it under your garden dirt or mulch.  I have my lights on a timer so they come on every night at dusk.

They look beauuuuutiful. And it wasn’t a fluke that I found these in a second hand store.  Every time I’ve gone into a second hand store I’ve noticed these shades there.  Goodwill, Salvation Army, random Bible Stores … they’re always in there.

Flea markets have them as well!  They’re usually around $1 – $3 each.

sign-up-yellow   If you don’t have a second hand store near you, you can order these shades on Amazon for cheap. $4.99 each for a 6″ shade or $9.50 for an 8″ shade. . You can also get them at regular old hardware stores. But they’re about $10 – $15.  And it would be stupid to spend $10 – $15 when you can spend $1 – $3.  Right?

Plus reduce, reuse, recycle and all that crap.  But you know that from changing those eco-friendly lightbulbs, right? And if you think the glowing balls look good like this, in the middle of a summer backyard … wait’ll I show you  what you can do with them in the winter! It’s fantastic!

Trust me.  Princess Leia wouldn’t lie to you.

p.s.  Look here to learn how to turn these same glass shades into a birdfeeder! and Look here to learn how I used them in the winter!


  1. Heather says:

    I found your site when i saw your fantastical house in Style at home. We’re moving into our new house next week, and i’m having the opposite problem as you, new build = almost no character.

    There are 3 main reasons i heart your blog.
    1.Your style is very similar to mine Modern + Antiques = totally rocking my world
    2.Hailing from winnipeg means i’m freaking cheap, so your tips are magnificent for me.
    3. I love the feeling ,and bragging rights, of making something that looks expensive from next to nothing.

    Sorry , a lot of rambeling for me to tell you I LOVE these outdoor lights. My front steps are going to be FULL of them.

    also, wondering where you got the woodcutters chopping block you used to make your side table, i’ve been looking but they’re hard to find.

  2. deborahinps says:

    This is a terrific idea!
    I’ve used Christmas lights in a large glass vase but never thought to use them outdoors…I’m off to make my yard all fancy like 🙂

  3. Shauna says:

    GET OUT!!!! Those are soooo cool!! I’ve always looked at those lights at our restore and thought… HA…I’ve gotten rid of a few of those…ha ha…poor sucker who buys them!! However, upon seeing how cool that is I feel like a major dork. I will now go back to restore this week to buy some… I’ve got some cool ideas for Halloween!! Can’t wait to see the winter pics!

  4. Julie shinnick says:

    oooo ahhhh those are FANTASTIC!! How did you know that we have just spent allllll our money on a new verandah and I was thinking how I could light up the area for next to nothing? You are a genius! AND psychic! Thanks Princess Leia!! xxoo

  5. Vila says:

    Great! Thanks for the tip! I was actually staring for hours in one local issue of Design magazine where they had similar glowing orbs floating in water…this is like a dream come true 😉 anyhow, can you by any chance explain the timer setup? Thanks!

  6. Karen says:

    Hi Vila. To set anything up on a timer outside, all you have to do is buy an outdoor timer at a hardware store. You plug it into your outdoor electrical outlet and then plug the item you want to come on and go off at a certain time into it. There’s usually a dial with pins on it to set what time you want it to go on and off at. Cheaper timers just work with dawn and dusk. You plug the item into the timer and it automatically comes on at dawn and goes off at dusk. The cheapest outdoor timer will probably cost you $10.

  7. LOVE this idea, thanks for sharing!!!

  8. Zina says:

    Kewl. Now please come to England and my new flat and show me how to get a plug for power out to my deck. Well, hang on, that won’t work, really, because they tell me that our tame electrical systems are dangerous enough but are piddly stuff compared to the electrical systems in the UK, so most electrical work is best done by a licensed electrician.

    So…I’ll use this tip once I get power out to the deck. On the other hand, waitasecond, I saw battery strings of mini lights and some frosted light covers at the pound store…hmmm…

  9. Jeanne says:

    What a great idea! And, I several strings that only half light, perfect.

  10. Sherry (BTLover2) says:

    Another brilliant idea! I can’t tell you how much I adore your backyard and everything you’ve done to it. Orbs, ponds, fountain, etc. GORGEOUS!! You really are talented beyond words…

  11. Shelly (FlagirlinTN) says:

    OK, this idea is just crazy smart. The “why couldn’t I think of something so clever and cheap?” smart. I am DOING this..
    Mostly thank you for a post that doesn’t make me laugh so hard I pee. It is getting increasingly hard to make up reasons why I change clothes at work.

  12. Karen says:

    Hah! Um … thank you??? I think. – Princess Leia.

  13. Maggie says:

    Humdinger? I should say so!! I love this idea. Totally going to do this, you brilliant woman! Have a question….where did you get the planter you are using as a table? Thank you for sharing all of your wonderful ideas!

  14. Karen says:

    Hi Maggie. Glad you like the idea! It’s always the simplest things, isn’t it? If you’re talking about the black cylindrical planter with the glass top (in between the 2 chairs in my backyard) … phew … I got it at Homesense. Which if you are American is the equivelant of Homegoods. Had a few nicks and blemishes so I got it cheap.

  15. Maggie says:

    Thank you!

  16. Brittany says:

    WOW! Pretty much pure genius!! I’m going to use this idea for the New Year’s party I am throwing… it looks like it would be a nice way to decorate a stage!

  17. Lita says:

    So about that outdoor outlet.

    Saying you don’t have one, Aand you wanted to install one….what would be the best way of going about that?

  18. Fab! You haven’t had any problems with moisture, have you? Um. Not in general, but with the project and the lightbulbs and whatnot.

  19. Jane says:

    Karen, love your fountain. How did you do it?

  20. Karen says:

    Hi Jane – thanks! I think (hope) you’re talking about my waterfall. You can see my entire backyard makeover, including building my pond here! I basically built a waterfall that surrounds my half of my pond using leftover pieces of slate. My backyard was slate, but most of it fell apart and crumbled over the years. The pieces that were still O.K., ended up as a surround to my pond and a couple of waterfalls. If you look at the other post I’ve shown you you’ll get an idea of how I did it! If you need more detailed info lemme know … karen!

  21. Jane says:

    So basically, dig a pond and line. Build up slate wall at side for water to hurtle over. But does it come from the top out of a planter, fall in, and recirculate up?

  22. Karen says:

    The pond has a pump in it. To this pump I have a hose attached. This hose then has a splitter, which turns one hose into 2 hoses. Each of these hoses runs out of the pond to the top of each of my waterfalls. (one hose per waterfall). The hose runs out the top of the slate waterfall and is concealed by more slate on top of it. It is just a continuous, recirculation of the pond water. That’s basically it. !

  23. Jane says:

    How do you get the water to fan across the slate so nicely?

  24. Karen says:

    The slate is on a teeny bit of an angle (towards the pond) and the water is coming out of the hose at the perfect rate. If you do this yourself another trick is to stick a small rock in front of the hose. Vary the size and shape of the rock to vary the way the water comes out. (I didn’t need the rock, but it’s a trick that I know works) Another tip … the faster the water comes out of the hose (due to the strength of the pump) and the further it has to fall before it hits the pond, the louder it will be. Good luck!

  25. sera says:

    I so completely love this! Now I just have to dig out my old xmas lights… do you actually use your basement as the staging room for all the stuff that you might use someday? like dead xmas lights and old prosthetic legs?

  26. Karen says:

    Hah! Well now that you mention it, yeah … I guess my basement is a staging room.

  27. Vila says:

    Thanks a bunch! Would you believe that in this part of EU they never heard for such timers 🙁 … I went to a couple of DIY shops and the only thing I can find was some expensive variants of the timers used for professional lighting… darn! What I actually did is: I went to a china town and bought those Xmas lamps with built-in timer. This works nicely so far and in my basment I found transparent glass shades and it doesn’t look bad 🙂 The problem I encountered is that the power plug and the lamp’s cable were not long enough, so I did some cutting/cable extention/duck tape insulation et voila… :))) Needless to say that I want to be just like you when I grow up, lol!

  28. sera says:

    that’s it! I’m kicking my husbands crap out of MY staging room!

  29. Pam'a says:

    I have, on occasion, run an extension cord out a window to accomplish outdoor electrification. Just shut the window on it and it’s fine. Probably not a good idea to leave it there for decades on end, tho.

    Worst case, candles in Mason jars!

  30. Anemone says:

    Ok…I dont have a backyard… YET…. or much of a front…

    but when i do which isnt long again…

    pretty glowing orb lights…are going to be the first lights i install.

  31. Erin says:

    I heart you. I heart your blog. AND I heart your ideas. Just wish I had a Yard now…..

  32. Karen says:

    🙂 🙂 🙂 Thanks Erin! I think you’re pretty special too. – karen

  33. Alisha says:

    This is YOUR backyard? *jealous face* I’ve been seriously coveting this backyard awesome since Design Sponge posted it. I’m just discovering your blog today and I’ve already peed a little … about 6 or 7 times. Just sayin’. 🙂

  34. DzynByJules says:

    OMG! I thought I was the MacGuyver of cheap/inventive decor, but I tip my tiara to you, AGAIN!!! I am TOTALLY inspired, AGAIN! Twice in one evening! I’m speeding over to the Goodwill tomorrow, Mach 2 with my hair on fire, to scoop up all the orbs I can get my hands on! Now I have an excuse to break into my bins of “I can’t throw out these partially good tangles of lights, cause I know I’ll find the PERFECT use for them someday” random Christmas stuff, now I know I didn’t save them for nothing! My husband will be thrilled! YOU ARE THE BEST! I’m going to line the garden beds of my front walkway for Halloween with this over the top outstanding idea! SQUEALS!!!!!!!!! Thanks again Karen! Jules

  35. Terry says:

    Happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian neighbor. You look like I do when fully involved in the kitchen, pie-baking, roast beast basting, and so forth. Ain’t it great?!

    Now, on to that pesky ingrown toenail…cit a small “v” in the middle of the offending nail, The toenail will grow towards the center leaving you with a pain-free toe. It takes a little while but it always works. You may just have to do this every so often. OK, enough pre-table T’giving talk. Do you make stuffing? What kind? What veggies are you making. Oooh, this is so exciting because it makes me want to get into the good kitchen and start thinking, doing and turning out great food. Best of Luck and thanks for your sharing!

  36. Terry says:

    Oh, fiddlesticks! I should have put this “cooking, baking and toenailcure on the place for kitchen, not the orbs! Sorry.
    The orbs look beautiful and night and during the day they add that certain je ne sais quois that is so attractive and the whole effect, day and night, puts me in mind of the little gnomes and garden fairies that help us in making our gardens grow–and, dast I say here–glow? Ooh,may have stretched that one a bit. Nevertheless, they look just fine and are, at once, relaxing and inspiring. Thanks!

  37. Jenn says:

    Did you do your winter photo shoot?

  38. Ali Winter says:

    Shut the front door! These are SO fantastic! I saw a 2 pack at costco for considerably more than $3. Great Idea, I love thrift store shopping.
    I found your blog through Pinterest, great way to get your stuff out there!

  39. Karen says:

    Ali – Thanks for the comment. Feel free to Pinterest any of my stuff. 🙂 I have NO idea how to Pin things. I can barely, *barely* manage StumbleUpon. ~ karen!

  40. Judy says:

    How about using the battery operated mini lights??I’ve done those in wine bottleswith greenery around& on top!!

  41. Karen says:

    Judy – Give it a shot! You’d just have to make sure you got strong enough lights that would glow through the opaque glass and I’d probably do something to ensure the batteries were waterproofed if you kept them outside. Put the battery pack in tupperware or something. 🙂 I like the plug in lights because I know they’re meant for outdoor use and I can put them on a timer. ~ karen

  42. Robin Jensen says:

    I’m so doing this! Also, You are hilarious!!

  43. Karen says:

    Thanks Robin! Check out this as well for the winter … . The possibilities are endless really. ~ karen

  44. Rosanne says:

    Well I’m only a year late, so I’ll try this fab idea this summer. I thought the moon was so bright last year, turns out, it was all the orbs alight because of you. I love this, especially the part where you say “reduce, reuse, recycle and all that crap”. Bah!!

  45. theaxx says:

    this is ingenius!! i love it! ha!


    Spoonful zine.

  46. Karen says:

    Thanx theaxx! – Here they are again in a different setting outside, and if you watch the video in this post .. you can see how to use them in your house! Their uses are never ending! ~ karen

  47. FABULOUS!! GREAT idea. I stocked up on those mini lights for $.37 each after Christmas at Walmart. I didn’t know why.. NOW I DO! Thanks kristy from my crafty thrifty diy blog

  48. I forgot to mention i LOVE your writing style! You are a very talented writer. Thanks for the entertainment and crafty ideas at the same time!
    Kristy of

  49. Karen says:

    Thanks Kristy! I love writin’ so I appreciate the compliment! ~ karen

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