Glowing Orb Landscape Lights. A 5 minute, $5 DIY.

The easiest, cheapest landscape lighting hack ever.  Set a few of these glowing outdoor orbs in your backyard and they’ll have more impact than installing an outdoor kitchen and an infinity pool.  Not really. But still – they’re really nice and quick to make.

Get ready for it … this one’s a doozy.  Doozie?  Doosey.  It’s a humdinger. THIS is one of the posts that put me on the map when I started my blog over 10 years ago.  Between this post and How to Make a Personal Fire Pit I was the reigning Queen of Pinterest for the summer of 2010. Or maybe it was 2011. Either way I wore a sash and started picking out Corgi names.

All of this from old light shades and string lights.

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.

That’s right.  Some old glass shades, some old (outdoor) Christmas lights and BAM.  You’re a backyard badass baroness.  (There can only be one Queen)

In my attempt to make my backyard a teensy bit more contemporary than my 180 year old house I ran into a few problems.  Contemporary outdoor lighting is EXPENSIVE. That’s what led me to creating my own.

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 the ubiquitous opaque glass shades.  You’ve probably thrown a few out in your lifetime.  Stop doing that.  Stop it right now. 

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!

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.

When I first made these 10 years or so ago solar lighting was pathetic. 3 legged dog in the rain pathetic. Now they’re a lot better and they’d be a good way to light these up as well as long as you have a place you can place the solar panel that gets a lot of sun. In the case of my backyard that isn’t a good option.

These are the solar powered lights I’d use if you have enough sun.


I pulled the HUGE orbs you see in the second photo near the top of this post out of someone’s garbage.


They look beautifull. 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.

  If you don’t have a second hand store near you, you can order these shades on Amazon. But the price fluctuates wildly. Sometimes you can get them for $4.99 each for a 6″ shade and sometimes they’re over $20.  And it would be stupid to spend $10 – $15 when you can spend $1 – $3.  Right?

Plus reduce, reuse, recycle and all that stuff. If a second hand store doesn’t have them now they will, just keep checking back.

Trust me.  Queen 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!

Glowing Orb Landscape Lights. A 5 minute, $5 DIY.


  1. 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!

    • 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!

  2. Jenn says:

    Did you do your winter photo shoot?

  3. 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!

  4. 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!

  5. 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

  6. 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’. :)

  7. Erin says:

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

  8. 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.

  9. 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?

  10. Jane says:

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

    • 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!

  11. 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?

    • 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. !

  12. Jane says:

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

    • 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!

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

  14. 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!

  15. 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!

    • 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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…

  18. Jeanne says:

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

  19. 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…

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

  21. 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!

    • 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.

      • 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?

      • Judy says:

        They sell battery operated lights on Qvc and they have a timer on them. I have used them on several things in the past.

      • Karen says:

        Judy/Lita – They *do*, but they won’t be bright enough to make the orbs really glow. You need a bit stronger light. Maybe several candles might do it, but I’m not sure about one. :\ ~ karen

      • Lisa says:

        Maybe you could fill the bottom half with sand so the orb won’t roll around and put tea lights in to light it.

      • Cindy says:

        How about battery powered tealights?

      • carol says:

        Using candles will crack your orbs… gets too hot.

      • leona says:

        The candles will go out first from lack of air.

      • 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!

      • Carol says:

        Just be careful using duct take as wire patch, you should use electrical tape. You don’t want to start a fire if it gets hot. Timers are usually sold at hardware stores in various areas. Most use them for holidays or vacation lighting when out of town to ward off burglars.

  22. 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

  23. 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!

  24. 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 :)

  25. 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.

    • Sue says:

      I love the look of these orbs. I live on 2 acres so the lights won’t work. I am going to try glow in the dark paint to see if I can replicate the orbs. They are gorgeous.

      • Karen says:

        Good idea Sue. Let me know how it goes! ~ karen

      • Heather Pruitt says:

        you could try taking those button lights you know tap and now they are on the battery opperated ones seem to work real well

      • Leanne Flynn says:

        An adult activity, but i just read a blog saying for an evening party, those orb shades, (worth going bare bulbs in the house one night for a party if u have this type of shade in yr kitchen- bathroom, i think) and glow sticks! Gloves on of course, carefully snip the end of the glow stick- and then pour the poisonous glowy stuff into the orb, or any container (LOL!), and just swish it around. Glow lights for the evening. I’m doing this for halloween. Shshsh!

      • June Clever says:

        Not a bad idea to wear gloves if you do this but, just as an FYI, glow sticks are non-toxic. I’ve been a vet tech for many many years and had to call poison control numerous times for animals who have eaten glow sticks.

      • Deb says:

        If glow sticks are non-toxic why would it be necessary to call poison control for animals who have eaten glow sticks? Is it because poison control isn’t aware that the glow sticks are “safe?”

      • Shelia says:

        Debbie you need to double check these things with the most knowledgeable entity. There are different brands of glow sticks, too. Please tell me you were kidding!

      • Sally Henderson says:

        You call Poison Control when you want to be absolutely sure the animal has not swallowed something that will kill him and/or to reassure the owner/vet. I did the same thing as an E.R. nurse. to reassure parents.

      • Leigh says:

        Using the glow in the dark paint works for a very short while. Lots of sun helps, but eventually it just doesn’t work. I don’t know why. Maybe the paint just bakes off after awhile.

      • Phyllis says:

        Why not use solar lights so you can place them anywhere you like.

      • Karen says:

        Hi Phyllis! Solar lights are useable in some cases, but generally speaking they aren’t nearly as bright or strong as the plug in lights. Also, if you have a backyard that’s entirely shade (like mine is) solar lights won’t work. But if you have a sunny backyard and don’t care that the lights are slightly less bright then solar lights are a good option. ~ karen!

      • Kay Hansen says:

        I have an added idea. I bought led solar lights for my fairy garden so you could use those and they are not that expensive and while you put the lights in the globe, leave the solar panel, about 2″ square outside…no extension card needed.

      • Alice Fitch says:

        Sue you can buy battery operated string lights and some have timers.

      • Marina Abbott says:

        You can make these if you can find mini lights that run off of solar power. In my area here in Canada we can order the solar mini lights from Regal a catalog shopping store.

      • Monika Klar says:

        I heard that glow in the dark paint doesn’t really work well. (And looks really ugly in day light). You might want to try it out on something small first.

      • Karen says:

        You’re right. It doesn’t work well. It’s fine for little things like Halloween decorations, but glow in the dark paint doesn’t glow bright for more than 10 minutes usually. And yes, it’s yellow or green when it’s painted on. The leftover Christmas lights really is the best idea. :) ~ karen!

      • S says:

        try solar lights? I find them much less expensive around the end of the season and stock up.

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