Why outdoor chandeliers light up trees and courtyards around Dunedin

Walk down Broadway in Dunedin every night and it’s impossible to miss the glow of the chandeliers.

Each is a little different: some have lights hanging low, trailing long tentacles like jellyfish. Others flash with colorful lights that bounce off dangling trinkets and beads. They can nod to a particular theme, like oranges or pirates of Dunedin.

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

A house is pictured with a garden chandelier in Dunedin. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

Miller worked with her husband to waterproof and rewire the 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 it from a giant tree in their yard, hanging 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 to look at them and set up one of theirs!”

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

“It’s starting to spread,” she said.

Dunedin’s courtyard chandeliers appeared in late 2020. Neighbors attribute the trend to local artist Max Helms, who lives on Broadway near the city center. Over the past few months, interest in chandeliers has exploded.

Take Dunedin resident Gianna Johnson, who was so inspired by hanging art that she considered starting her own business. The chandeliers she made have a fairy theme. On a lampshade, she hot glued succulents and moss before spray painting the light fixture and covering the whole thing with fairy lights. Another chandelier was beach-themed, covered in shells and beads.

“I just have fun with it, you know, whatever I’m thinking in my head,” she said. “I don’t think they should be anything special.”

Gianna Johnson started making her own garden chandeliers for sale after seeing them popping up around Dunedin.
Gianna Johnson started making her own garden chandeliers for sale after seeing them popping 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 difficult and time consuming part.

“You drive everywhere trying to find them,” said Johnson, who traveled to New Port Richey on his quest.

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Instead of rewiring her chandeliers, she tops her creations with string lights. She charges between $30 and $70 for small chandeliers and between $120 and $150 for 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 luminaries, Alice D’Andra finally found one that someone was donating in Dunedin. She painted the shiny gold chandelier white and covered it with icicle lights that give off a dripping effect. The colors of the bulbs can be changed using an app on his phone. So she plans to celebrate each holiday with a different setting. For Easter, she uses multicolored lights.

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

“It’s pretty cool to see someone walk by and smile,” she said.

A house is pictured with a garden chandelier in Dunedin.
A house is pictured with a garden 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 created their own:

  • Browse OfferUp, Facebook Marketplace, thrift stores, and Craigslist to find used chandeliers. There’s no need to drop hundreds on expensive new light fixtures because your creation will be hanging with pollen, falling leaves, squirrels, birds and more.
  • Have a plan for easy access to your chandelier once it’s hung. You will have to clean it and you may even have to take it apart in bad weather. If climbing a ladder to retrieve it from a tall tree isn’t something you’re comfortable doing several times a year, consider placing it on your porch or some other location.
  • Think about how your chandelier looks during the day, not just when it glows at night. Consider adding paint and other decorations.

William M. Lee