If chandeliers were a love language, it would be the one I speak most fluently. I love chandeliers and gravitate towards them (going so far as to book exotic vacation rentals primarily based on the coolness of the chandelier in the suite!). At one point, nearly every room (including bathrooms) at Hawk Hill included a chandelier. I used to think chandeliers were limited to being placed only within reach of an electrical box- but when a friend asked for help hosting an evening bridal shower under the canopy of Hawk Hill’s ancient Live Oak, I started exploring how to make chandeliers a part of the outdoor lighting at my friend’s special event.
Many pestering questions to the knowledgeable staff at my local hardware store led me to find out that its a just 5-minute job, once you get the hang of it, to convert a light fixture from needing to be hardwired to an electrical box to simply plugging into any outlet. And you just need one, really cheap part! This invites all sorts of fun- once the plug is added a chandelier can go anywhere an extension cord can.
Here’s an illustrated tutorial on how to add a plug to a hardwired light fixture.
Supplies Needed for Converting Hardwired Fixture to Plug-In Lamp Style:
- 1 x “Dead Front Type 2-Wire Polarized Plug” (aka regular 2-prong plug) for under $5 from Amazon (probably for a bit cheaper from a local electrical supply store)
- Straight Blade Two Pole Three Wire (aka, grounded 3 prong plug) for about $1 more.
I’ve not been able to find this item at Lowes or Home Depot but had no problems at Ace Hardware. Ace’s part number for this item is SA540BKCC10
CAUTION: If at any point these instructions seem unclear or don’t adequately address the particularities of your light fixture, stop and consult an electrician or otherwise qualified individual. Electricity is dangerous, ya’ll!
- Screwdriver (If you found the plug I sourced, you can use either a flat or phillips screwdriver)
- Wire Strippers (optional! The wires on your light fixture will probably already be stripped. If you don’t have wire strippers, you can strip wires *carefully* with a pair of scissors)
Converting Hardwired Fixture: Step by Step:
First, choose your light fixture. Thrift store chandeliers paired with a new coat of spray paint make great pieces to experiment with and are ideal temporary lighting to use as decoration for parties, girl’s nights in, etc. In this photo, a $15 ugly brass chandelier turned pink-party-accessory is ready to convert to a plug-in fixture for use as outdoor lighting at a bachelorette party.
Locate, Separate, and Strip Wires if Needed
Separate the two wires that come out from the two separate sections of the cord. The plastic coating may fuse them together but to make the next step easier, you’ll want to pull a few inches apart. A new or used household light fixture should already have these wires exposed, but if they seem too short or frayed, you can strip the coating farther back and trim the frayed wires.
Prep New Plug
Connect Fixture Wires to Prongs
In my dozen or so times repeating this process on chandeliers, I’ve forgotten this step more than a few times and had to repeat, so don’t skip: feed the light fixture’s wires up through the base of the plug and out the front.
Reassemble Plug with Wires
Now, replace the center yellow portion (pushing it completely in, until the black and yellow fronts are flush). Once the yellow is fully in place, your new plugin light is ready to use as a lamp, swagged fixture, or portable light!
It’s that easy to turn a hardwired light fixture into a lamp that can be used in any dry, safe spot that an extension cord can reach! You can even use a Wireless Wall Switch to turn the plugged-in lamp on and off from a doorway or nightstand. (This is how I light my living room- see my article on how I added a chandelier with a wall switch to my Seattle apartment!)
If you’ve struggled with lighting in an older home with no wiring for an electrical box in the ceiling of living rooms, be sure and check out my article on how I used this method to hang a chandelier from the ceiling of my living room, creating bright, beautiful overhead lighting in a older home with no wiring except floor level electrical outlets. (And then adapted that plugin to switch on and off via a wireless switch)