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  1. Life & Culture

Why outdoor chandeliers light up trees and yards around Dunedin

Seen the illuminated light fixtures around town? Here’s how they got there — and tips to make one of your own.
A yard chandelier hangs from a tree at a Dunedin home.
A yard chandelier hangs from a tree at a Dunedin home. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Published Mar. 31
Updated Apr. 5

Head down Broadway in Dunedin on any given night and it’s impossible to miss the glow of the chandeliers.

Each one is a bit different: Some have lights hanging low, trailing long tentacles like jellyfish. Others flash with colored lights that bounce off dangling trinkets and beads. They can nod to a particular theme, like Dunedin’s oranges or pirates.

It was this row of chandeliers that inspired Dunedin resident Lee Miller to make her own. When she saw a chandelier sitting out on the curb one day, she knew she had to bring it home.

A home is pictured with a yard chandelier in Dunedin. 
A home is pictured with a yard chandelier in Dunedin.  [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

Miller worked with her husband to waterproof and rewire the light fixture. Then she draped it with leftover Christmas lights. Missing the days when she could visit friends in New Orleans, she added dozens of strands of old Mardi Gras beads.

The couple programmed the lights to run on a timer. Then, they hoisted it up to hang off a giant tree in their yard, hovering from a thick chain about 10 feet above the ground.

“My neighbor saw our chandelier and I told her about the ones that were on Broadway,” Miller said. “She went and looked at them and put up one of their own!”

Now there are three or four chandeliers on Miller’s street. If she walks down the block, she’ll see another five or six.

“It’s starting to spread,” she said.

Dunedin’s yard chandeliers popped up at the end of 2020. Neighbors credit the trend to local artist Max Helms, who lives on Broadway near downtown. In the past few months, interest in chandeliers has skyrocketed.

Take Dunedin resident Gianna Johnson, who was so inspired by the hanging art that she pondered starting her own business. The chandeliers she’s made have a fairy garden theme. On one lampshade, she hot glued succulents and moss before spray painting the fixture and topping the whole thing with fairy lights. Another chandelier was beach-themed, covered in seashells and pearls.

“I’m just having fun with it, you know, whatever I think of in my head,“ she said. “I don’t think they should be any particular thing.”

Gianna Johnson started making her own yard chandeliers to sell after seeing them pop up around Dunedin.
Gianna Johnson started making her own yard chandeliers to sell after seeing them pop up around Dunedin. [ Courtesy of Gianna Johnson ]

Each chandelier takes Johnson between five and 10 hours to make. Finding the chandeliers can be the most challenging — and time-consuming — part.

“You drive all over trying to find them,” said Johnson, who has traveled as far as New Port Richey during her quest.

Instead of rewiring her chandeliers, she tops her creations with fairy lights. She charges between $30 and $70 for smaller chandeliers, and between $120 and $150 for the larger ones.

For others, making the chandelier itself is part of the fun. Miller’s neighbors, Alice and Mark D’Andra, enjoyed working together to create their own.

After enlisting friends to scour local thrift stores for light fixtures, Alice D’Andra finally found one that someone was giving away in Dunedin. She painted the shiny gold chandelier white and covered it with icicle lights that give off a dripping effect. The light bulb colors can be changed using an app on her phone, so she plans to celebrate each holiday with a different setting. For Easter, she’s using multicolor lights.

It’s been out for two months now. Between the chandelier and D’Andra’s cement lions, which are also decorated for the holidays, her yard has been popular with neighbors.

“It’s pretty cool when you see somebody walk by and smile,” she said.

A home is pictured with a yard chandelier in Dunedin. 
A home is pictured with a yard chandelier in Dunedin.  [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

Do it yourself

Want to make a tree chandelier for your home? Here are some tips from people who have created their own:

  • Scour OfferUp, Facebook Marketplace, thrift stores and Craigslist to find used chandeliers. There’s no need to drop hundreds on expensive new light fixtures, since your creation will be hanging with pollen, falling leaves, squirrels, birds and more.
  • Have a plan for easily accessing your chandelier once it’s hung. You’ll need to clean it and may even need to take it down during severe weather. If climbing on a ladder to retrieve it from a tall tree isn’t something you’re comfortable doing a few times a year, consider positioning it on your porch or another location.
  • Think about how your chandelier will look during the day, not just when it’s glowing at night. Consider adding paint and other decorations.