I was holding a flashlight because, on our dark deck, grilling a steak required one person to do nothing but hold a light. It was an easy but annoying job. So, I started brainstorming lighting solutions. The deck was not without light. But lighting does more than illuminate, it also creates a mood. And the flood light the home builder had installed on this deck, shined a glaring spot light that was more “interrogation room” than “outdoor living.” The flashlight solution was collaborative and built family bonds, but a real solution couldn’t be too hard, could it?
Disclosure: The tutorial below includes the use of an outdoor smart switch that iDevices was nice enough to lend me.
This smart chandelier was inexpensive and easy to make.
“We could hang string lights in the tree,” I offered. (There is a huge oak tree over this deck.) As we cooked (and held the light) we expanded on that idea until we had conceived of a stunning app-controlled chandelier hung from a high branch. Once we had the idea, creating it was easy.
A few days later, after spending less than $150 (including the smart switch) and less than an hour, our deck is beautifully lit by an illuminated bird cage that comes on automatically and can be controlled with an iPhone. The mood it creates has transformed the deck from dark or harsh into a place we hang out. And it looks gorgeous.
The first – and hardest – step was setting the rope in the tree to hang the cage. The branch we wanted to use was very high, which was great because it would allow us to set the cage at exactly the height we wanted.
We tied a weighted throw bag (made for climbers) to one end of 30 feet of quarter-inch braided outdoor rope and threw it over that high branch. (This takes practice.)
A couple of overhand knots and some strong rope will suspend it from the tree.
Then we tied one end of the top to the top handle of the bird cage and pulled the other to hoist it up.
We pulled the rope, played around with various heights, and decided where we liked it. When we had it right, we tied the loose end of the rope to a hook we attached to the house. You can do this part any way you like. We tied a series of Figure 8 knots along the rope so that we can adjust the height of the chandelier simply by moving the hook to another knot. We can also easily lower the chandelier to change light bulbs.
With some zip ties and visual creativity, we attached the string lights to the inside of the cage, distributing the lights evenly around the interior. We plugged an outdoor extension cord into the lights.
Some string lights and zip ties replace the bird inside this cage.
Then we hauled it up, ran the extension cord above a doorway and down a wall to the outdoor outlet. We plugged the iDevices smart switch into the outlet and plugged an outdoor extension cord into it.
This outdoor switch now powers all of our outdoor lighting so we can turn it on and off with an app — or by asking Siri.
From the iDevices app, we set scenes that turn the lights on and off according to our typical schedule. If we go away and want to change the schedule or just want to turn the lights on and off, we can do it right from our smartphones.
This app is now the hub of our outdoor lighting control system.
This project turned out so well that we are looking around the house to see what other spaces can be transformed with Craigslist junk, string lights, and smart controls.
Come back and see how we transform our home by connecting it to the IoT. Or read how I hacked a smart watch to make this awesome smart necklace.