Some of you may not have this problem, or even be aware that a problem like this could exist in this day and age, but for those of us who live with it, it is indeed a problem. I’m talking about an ugly, builder-grade, and (worst of all) off-centered bathroom vanity light fixture.
For whatever reason, the lighting fixture that lived above our bathroom mirror was not centered with the mirror itself, which is unnerving and annoying. (I recognize other world problems are more pressing, but this happens to be one I can resolve. And so I press on.)
Rather than getting into the inner workings of the wall to reinstall a supported electrical box, I decided I would create a modern branch lighting fixture with an asymmetrical aesthetic to make it look like it belongs slightly off-center. And, wouldn’t you know it, it absolutely does. Here’s how you can do it, too.
DIY Level: Intermediate to Advanced
*Note: Most parts were purchased from this online seller, so item numbers are included here for your convenience.
a – Four (4) 2-1/4” cup, unfinished brass (CU578)
b – Four (4) Edison porcelain keyless socket (SO10045)
c – One (1) large cluster body with three holes (two 1/8”, one 1/4″), unfinished brass (BOLG1)
d – One (1) reducer with shoulder (1/8”F, 1/4″M), unfinished brass (RE1/8FX1/4MS)
e – Two (2) tapered brass cluster body (1/8” x 1/8”) (BOT2)
f – Five (5) LED T10 filament light bulbs, appropriate for use in wet areas (Amazon)
g – Various lengths of 1/8” brass pipe with male threaded ends (lengths used are: 7”, 5”, 3×4”, 3”, 2.5”, 3×2”)
h – Three (3) adjustable friction swivel joints (SV140)
i – One (1) polished satin brass ceiling canopy from etsy (SnakeHeadVintage)
j – Four (4) straight slip ring with set screw, unfinished brass (SRS0-3/8)
k – One (1) dual to standard screw light holder adapter, black (Amazon)
l – Sketch of desired light fixture, including appropriate pipe lengths and general layout
Not shown: 6’ (each) strands of 18/2 gauge white and 18/2 gauge black lamp wire (Lowes)
Begin by creating the general mockup of your branch light fixture. Use a 4” pipe to attach to the center hole in your large cluster.
Also, screw the brass reducer into the 1/4″ opening in your large cluster. This simply takes the hole that would be too large for you 1/8” pipes down to the appropriate size (1/8”, in fact).
This is the section that will be installed through the ceiling canopy to your wall. It is, in fact, the central hub of your lighting fixture.
Next, choose one side of your branch light to work on. Lay out the pieces you want. This is an example of what your light’s left side might look like.
These adjustable swivel joints are magical when it comes to creating branch light fixtures. You can angle them any way you like, and it gives the fixture an excellent abstract, random, branch-like quality.
You’ll make them work by slightly unscrewing the screw set.
Adjust the angle of the joint to what you want (this can be changed later when you’re adding your pieces).
Tighten the screw back up to set the joint.
Screw the pipes onto the adjustable swivel joint, and viola! An excellently awkward-looking elbow of sorts. Abstract magic, really.
You’ll deal with these porcelain sockets more as you get into the actual wiring of your light, but for now, you’ll just want to loosely attach the metal base to the porcelain socket. Use a small flat screwdriver to tighten the screws from the inside of the socket.
Now the base and socket are one piece, so you won’t lose them or whatever.
Whenever you’re working on the end of a branch, where the light will go, this is basically what your layout will involve. You’ll need your porcelain socket, your brass cup, your slip ring, and your pipe.
Screw the end of the pipe onto the metal base of your porcelain socket. (Don’t overtighten.)
From the open end of the pipe, slide your brass cup up around the porcelain socket.
You’ll notice that the brass cup is completely loosey-goosey. (That’s a technical term. Ask any electrician.) It needs to be held in place.
To hold the brass cup in place, you’ll use an important component of light fixture construction: the slip ring with set screw.
You’ll first need to loosen the set screw with an allen wrench. Don’t loosen it all the way so it falls out; all you need is for the inside end of the set screw to be flush with the inside rim of the slip ring so you can slide the slip ring on and off of pipes.
Slide the slip ring onto your pipe toward the base of your brass cup. Slide it right up next to the cup, so the cup is held tightly between the porcelain socket base and the slip ring.
Tighten the set screw. This holds everything in place, even if it’s not upside-down.
To use your dual to standard light holder adapter, simply prepare the porcelain socket as though you are going to screw in a single light bulb, but instead screw in the adapter. Then add two lights to your adapter. Done and done.
Now put the light together in the way that will work best in your space. This is the configuration used for this example, but you can really get creative and do what you like.
Because my light mount location (on the wall) is close to the adjacent wall on Branch 1’s side, Branch 1 is shorter than Branch 2.
These branches and sub-branches are labeled for your reference.
At my home improvement store, 18-gauge lamp wire is only sold as 18/2 lamp wire; in other words, it’s only double wire. You want to use single white and black wire. So carefully snip the end of the connecting casing right down the middle.
Pull the wires apart. Repeat for the black lamp wire. You should now have four 6’ sections of wire (two white, two black).
For this light, we’re starting at the wall mount point and wiring outward. You could also choose to start at the sockets and work inward. Each method poses a wiring challenge (that’s not insurmountable, so don’t worry): working toward the wall, the challenge comes in wiring at the cluster body, wiring away from the wall, the challenge comes in wiring at the socket. That being said, let’s start. Cut about 12” of two white and two black wires. These will connect the wall wires to the lamp wires.
These 1/8” brass pipes will barely fit the four 18-gauge wires, but they will fit. Thread all four wires through the 4” pipe that will lead from the wall to the cluster body. Only pull wire out about 2” from the cluster body, and leave the rest hanging.
Here’s a quick lesson on how to expose the ends of these wires by removing the casing surrounding them. Find the 18 AWG stranded hole on your wire cutters (because you’re working with stranded wire. If your wire was solid, you’d use the solid hole) and place your wire in the hole about 3/4″ from the end. Spin the wire (or the wire cutters) to ensure a solid cut of the casing all the way around.
Keeping the wire cutters clamped around your wire, gently pull the wire cutters toward the end of the wire. This should pop the bit of casing off your wire, leaving the end nicely exposed and ready to work with.
Take one of the black wall pipe wires (leave the other three wall pipe wires alone right now) and one end each of two other lengths of black wire. Be sure the lengths that you choose are cut to be about 8”-10” longer than the branch they will belong to, from the cluster body until the porcelain socket. Expose about 3/4″ of wire at the ends by removing the casing.
Grab appropriately sized wire nuts (these will fit three 18-gauge wires; perfect).
Carefully twist the three wire ends together in a clockwise direction. (Tip: It’s helpful to give each individual wire a quick twist prior to this to keep the strands all together).
Add the wire nut. Be sure all three wires are secured within the wire nut; if they’re not, unscrew the wire nut and redo it.
Repeat these steps for the other three wires coming through the wall mount pipe – each wall mount wire should be connected to two wires of the same color (and of appropriate length for the branch they’re intended for) with a wire nut. There should now be eight wires coming out of the cluster body. Secure and insulate the wires/wire nut openings with black electrical tape.
We’re going to start on Branch 1 here. Attach the horizontal pipe to the cluster body, then pull the four Branch 1 wires through this pipe (two black, two white). Be very careful to keep the wires aligned and not twisted up in each other, or you’ll have to thread them through again because twisted wires are inefficient in their use of space, and that cluster body looks big but will be a tight fit for all those wires and wire nuts.
Screw the other end of the cluster body onto the first pipe of Branch 2, and thread the Branch 2 wires through, taking care they’re aligned evenly and not twisted with each other from the wire nut outward.
Pull the cluster body wall (with Branch 2 pipe connected) close to the actual cluster body. Arrange all the wires and wire nuts into the cluster body as carefully as you can. Counter-twist the cluster body wall about three rotations, then thread it onto the cluster body.
This counter-twist movement will twist the wires a bit initially, but as you do the actual screwing on of the cluster body wall, those wires will “untwist” and lay straight in their final position inside the cluster body.
(You have to be gentle with it, of course, so you don’t kink the wires, but this counter-twist strategy is useful for anytime wires are packed tightly into a piece that needs to then be screwed onto another piece.)
At this point, you should have the first pipes of Branches 1 and 2 attached to the cluster body, and all the wires being appropriately sized and sticking out neatly from their respective pipe ends.
From here, you’ll begin to assemble your branch light. I recommend moving piece by piece from your mockup so that you know precisely where every piece goes. If you take it all apart at once and try to put it back together, it can be confusing as to what goes where. To save yourself some threading woes, you can attach sets of joints and pipes and do a single threading, rather than trying to thread wires through these single pieces three different times.
When you get to an elbow joint, here’s what you’ll do: Carefully (so you don’t lose the spring or spacer pieces) unscrew the screw from the joint. Set the screw, spring, and top half of the joint aside momentarily.
Thread wires through the base half of the elbow joint, making sure they are straight and not twisted with each other.
Screw the elbow joint base into place onto the pipe by first counter-twisting to twist the wires in the opposing direction than what you’ll want to end up with, then screwing it on clockwise to relieve the temporary wire twist and (hopefully) have them lie flat.
Separate the wires to run on either side of the screw hole. These elbow joints fit all four wires (two black, two white), if necessary.
Place the top half of the joint directly on top of the base half, lining up the screw holes. Set the spring on top of the hole, and re-set the screw.
Tighten the screw so it’s just tight enough to hold the elbow at whatever angle you want, or just loose enough that it doesn’t yet need to hold the angle. You can always slightly loosen/tighten the screw to adjust the angle of these elbow joints as you need.
When you get toward the end of your branch, where the socket will go, do this: thread a loosened slip ring onto the final pipe, then a brass cup with the opening facing the socket. Wires should already be threaded and pulled through the final pipe and sticking out the end.
Next, you’ll separate the base of the socket from the socket itself by unscrewing the two small screws from the inside of the socket.
Thread the wires through the base then twist that metal socket base onto the end of the final pipe.
Your final pipe might look something like this, with the slip ring and brass cup just sort of floating along on the pipe.
Here’s where we are; we’re working on attaching the base of each socket to the end pipe of each sub-branch.
When all the bases are attached and secure (don’t do the brass cups and slip rings quite yet), it’s time to actually wire the sockets. Begin by trimming the white and black wires coming out of the socket base to be about 1-1/2” to 2” long.
This is a tricky cut; you want the wires long enough that you can work with them to attach them to the socket, but they must be short enough that the socket will fit onto the base over them. Remember, you can always cut the wire a bit shorter but you can’t lengthen it once it’s cut. So if you’re going to err, err on the side of slightly too long.
Twist the strands clockwise, then form a “U” shape with just the exposed wires. This should resemble a hook.
Hook the wire onto the appropriate color of screw on the back of your socket: black wire hooks onto the gold screw, white wire hooks onto the silver. Hook them from left to right, so the open end is clockwise from the casing. Tighten the screw, keeping the wires secure under the screw. Don’t be afraid to loosen the screw and do it again (multiple times, even) to get the connection perfect.
Repeat for the white wire to silver screw. Of course, you’ll want to make sure that all the wire strands are contained in their own area, and that none of the black wires even gets close to crossing over near the white wires, and vice versa.
Now it’s time to attach the socket to the socket base via those two small screws on the inside of the socket. Repeat for all other sockets on your brass branch light.
Pull each brass cup up over its porcelain socket, and slide the slip ring up to hold the brass cup in place securely. Tighten the set screw with your allen wrench.
You’re now ready to mount your beautiful asymmetric brass branch light onto the wall.
CAUTION: Before you do anything else, be sure to flip the breaker switch. Verify there is no electricity flowing through your bathroom light before you start to remove it. When you’re in the clear, remove the old fixture as well as the metal mounting plate. Normally, this mounting plate probably wouldn’t need to be removed, but because we’re screwing our brass pipe into it, and we don’t want to twist our entire fixture on the wall, it’s best to just remove the plate and screw it onto the fixture (rather than the other way around).
Slide your brass canopy over the wires and onto the mounting pipe at the back of your light fixture.
Do the same with the metal mounting plate, although you’ll be screwing it onto the pipe threads once you reach the pipe.
Trim the casings off of your protruding wires to expose wire of about 3/4″ each. Twist these strands clockwise so the strands aren’t flying everywhere.
Have someone hold the light fixture up next to the wall while you twist the white wall and fixture wires together.
Twist the wires together in a clockwise direction so that when you go to add on the wire nut, it won’t un-twist them but will instead twist them more securely together.
Screw on the wire nut, making sure all strands of wire are completely and safely enclosed within the wire nut.
Secure the wire nut opening with electrical tape. Repeat for the black wires.
After your lighting fixture is wired up, reattach the metal mounting plate to the electrical box in the wall.
Connect the wall’s ground wire to the metal mounting plate’s green grounding screw. Tighten the green screw.
Install your lightbulbs. These LED lightbulbs are appropriate for moisture-present areas, which is an important feature for bathroom lighting.
If your former light’s canopy was larger than this one, you’ll want (fine, need) to refinish and paint the area behind the canopy before you fully attach it to the wall. Go ahead and do that now. Or, if you’re an all-star, maybe you’d already thought to do that. Gold star.
You might also want to keep your flat screwdriver close here as you double-check your light’s positioning. The most important thing here, after you’ve gotten your light to look beautifully abstract, is to make sure it’s free and clear from any potentially moving parts.
In this case, the mirror is a cupboard door, so one bulb had to be double-checked for spacing.
Fortunately, there’s more room than what this photo shows between the lightbulb and the mirror. But if there wasn’t, it would be an easy thing to adjust the elbow joint angle.
Flip the electrical breaker back on. Moment of truth. It’s wonderful!
This tiny master bathroom is undergoing some remodeling and redecorating overall, but the asymmetrical light is a gorgeous touch of sophistication here. (Along with the chic DIY brass toilet paper holder.)
I love how the elegant brass interacts with the dark walls in this space. (Wall color: Benjamin Moore’s Licorice.)
But, mostly, I’m gratified that the fixture no longer looks off-centered. Or, if it does, it looks intentionally off-centered in a unique, abstract, and organically branch-ful way.
We hope you enjoy creating your own gorgeous asymmetrical brass branch light for your bathroom or any other space. (Here’s a similar project involving an entryway abstract brass chandelier, if you’re interested.) Happy DIYing!