Rustic Kitchen Light Fixture

Jim Cox
by Jim Cox
9 Materials
4 Hours
I wanted to build a light fixture for my kitchen - but meet local codes. This was how I did it. Anything hard-wired in becomes part of the home, where something plugged in has a lot less requirements. I still hope to 'overbuild' anything for safety as well as quality. It's a good idea to research your attic's construction, look for any low-hanging wires, and to learn about light color while you're at it. Light color is rated in ° K (Degrees Kelvin). White hot is just too bright for most homes, but just fine for Lowes, Target, and Home Depot. 2700° is a nice warm/cozy look, 3000° will brighten things up, 3300° is a typical office, and anything over 4000° is just too bright for a home in my opinion.

NOTE: You must research your local codes. If in doubt contact an electrician. The new outlet in the ceiling does not require a GFCI if the outlet is 6' away from a sink. Since you're building your own light fixture, a power cord from a device plugging into the outlet 6' or less will typically keep an inspector happy should you ever sell your home.

Source:, and my local master electrician.

Make sure power is OFF!
Here's my 'Before' kitchen light with the cover removed. I hated it. It was also around 100W of electricity used with the three LED retro-fit bulbs shown. Here you can see I shut off power and disconnect the wires (White for Neutral and Red for Hot). There is no ground pictured, as it is still inside the ceiling box. After shutting off power at the breaker ALWAYS TRY TO TURN ON YOUR DEVICE with the switch. This is a very good way to verify power is off. It doesn't hurt to have a $20 voltmeter on hand either.
Here's the box made from one 1x4 from Lowes. I cut the sides 32" long and the ends 12" long, all mitered. I stapled it together. You could use screws, nails, or glue as well.
Using scrap from the 1x4, I put in two cross braces to help me attach it to the ceiling. I went into the attic and verified the direction of the ceiling joists to help me plan the braces. I forgot to put them 16" apart, and had to correct for it later. Once assembled I stained the whole thing Minwax Espresso. No clear, just a rough coat of stain. BTW this was a great excuse to buy that $30 staple gun :)
Here is the side of the box after being stained. The pendant lights from Amazon came with a metal cover and a cord grip. I skipped the metal covers for appearance's sake (my choice but not a requirement). I drilled the sides for the cord grips. I undersized the hole so the cord grips would thread in. I added a drop of superglue as I was twisting them in.
I added a simple steel box using some 3/8" sheet metal screws I had laying around, with five cable clamps installed. There are both press-in and screw in clamps (with a nut on the back side) shown here. I prefer the nut (bottom in the middle) to the press-in (the other four). Since I'm using four pendant lamps for now, I need one clamp each, plus a power cord, for a total of five clamps. I designed this so I could add more lamps if I needed more light. When you install the clamps, it's best to have the screws facing a direction you can get to them later when you install your wires/cables.
Pull the wires in and strip them. Colors on various cords can be confusing. Here is the standard.

HOT - BLACK ( can be Brown on imported devices)
NEUTRAL - WHITE (can be blue on imported devices)
GREEN - Green is ground the world around

My power cord was black and white, the pendants were blue and brown. This could confuse someone without proper training.

Lay all wires comfortably alongside each other, grouping by color. You will mate each pendant neutral to the power cord neutral, and each pendant hot to the power cord hot.

The pendant sockets do not have a ground, so we used a two wire power cord.
Secure all wires with wire nuts. DO NOT plug anything in yet. Give each wire a tug and verify you don't have any bad connections that can be harder to fix once the fixture is up on the ceiling. Tighten all five clamps and then tug again.

It was important to me that all external wiring be at code or better in terms of quality and workmanship. External devices on a 6' cord or less are usually exempt, but I wanted a quality project all the same.
Sorry this came out so grainy
Temporarily install bulbs in your pendants. Test the fixture with an extension cord and a power strip. Once it all works: remove power, remove the bulbs, and install the cover on the electrical. Here is mine being tested. It passed!

I added an outlet to my ceiling box where the junction used to be for my old fluorescent light. Match Hot - Usually Black (in this case RED the way my house is wired) to the Brass screws (shown) Neutral - Usually White, to the silver screws, and Ground/bare to the Green screw. If you have any doubts ask an electrician! DO NOT risk your life to save a few $$$ !!!
Here is the outlet attached to a ceiling box cover, and the cover installed - ALL WHILE POWER IS OFF! Look at that nasty drywall :/ You can see where the original fixture was, and all the flying insects that got trapped inside. National code says the plate cannot be recessed more than 1/4".

Looking up, here is the fixture mounted on the ceiling. I mistakenly put my cross braces too close together. The red arrows towards the bottom show two L-brackets I had to add to hit a second joist. The small yellow arrows show drywall screws thru the brace into another ceiling joist. (Verify that your wires are on TOP of the ceiling joists where they belong It's a good idea to visit your attic to inspect for any low running wires, and just to know where your joists are)
Plug in your power cord. Power up your breaker and flip the switch. It's ok to test again, just remember to disconnect power by shutting off the breaker after your test, because we're not done with assembly. DO NOT assume the switch will kill power to the ceiling box.

I made a cover out of 3 ea 32" lengths of fence wood. They just happened to be 4" wide - total luck!!!! Scrap 1x2 stapled to the back side keeps them together and makes this easier to install. Drill a few pilot holes around the perimeter. Remember your 1x4 box is actually 3/4" thick, so you want the mounting holes for your cover 3/8" from the edge to go into the box properly.
Here is the cover installed. You'll have to gently push the lamp cords back inside the box as you install the cover. The reclaimed fence boards match nicely with the espresso stain on the new box. Something similar on Wayfair is $200+, here we have less than $75 in the whole project.
Here is the finished fixture. These bulbs look brighter in this shot than they actually are. The Amber 2700° look is great but they are not bright enough to cook with. Look for an upgrade to this fixture to get both the look and the light output I was wanting. The cord grips are adjustable from the outside so you can adjust your cable length to line up/stagger/whatever you choose.

Any time you work with electricity: BE CAREFUL! Never work on a hot circuit, and if in doubt or you're unsure of your abilities, call an electrician!
From a 1x4, some old fence, and a few pieces of hardware to THIS!
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5 of 31 comments
  • Karen Okazaki Karen Okazaki on Apr 03, 2018

    What an awesome idea! I have a wrap around porch which is enclosed that I am thinking this would be such a great idea! I was looking for a vintage industrial look and this is perfectathanks for the idea,.,it's beautiful!

    • Jim Cox Jim Cox on Apr 03, 2018

      Thx Karen. If you're going outdoors, I might try treated wood just in case, or add an outdoor-rated clear on anything untreated. Post your results for me??? :)

  • Susan Riley Susan Riley on May 10, 2018

    Thanks so much for this post! I've been trying to convince my husband that there IS something we can do with our gosh-awful florescent lights both in our kitchen and our laundry room. Now I can show him instead of trying to describe what I have in mind.

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    • Jim Cox Jim Cox on May 10, 2018

      Show him how easy this is (and offer to buy him a miter saw if he doesn't have one. $50 used, paid for itself on this project alone! ) Be sure and show him the upgrade in the Mar 09 comments. My kitchen can be 'daylight' when I need it to be