The chandelier that Eric Lawrence built from the
molded styrofoam his new Apple computer came in
looks like barracks that Frank Lloyd Wright would
have designed for the Imperial Stormtroopers in
Star Wars, he explains. He’s right.
Lawrence, 42, a web designer and former art
student at the University of Texas, Austin, made the
first Styrolight a few years ago. He’d just bought a
new laptop, had all this styrofoam packaging lying
around, and owed his nephew a Christmas present.
He did the math.
“I like the way the foam diffuses light,” Lawrence
says. “It’s keeping it out of the landfill, and I just like
More lights followed. He tested different glues
(settling on a hot glue gun) to connect the white
blocks of foam and play with new shapes. He joined
these to homemade aluminum frames of used bar
and angle stock using two-part epoxy.
He bought all kinds of compact fluorescent light
bulbs in search of the right color and brightness.
LEDs weren’t simple and their color wasn’t as nice
as with CFs. Finally, he found some 5-watt, dimmable
fluorescent bulbs that emitted the perfect glow and
burned as brightly as 20-watt incandescents, yet
didn’t get dangerously hot.
“I’ve had [the 5-watt bulbs] on for 24 hours and
can go grab a bulb in my hand,” he says.
In May 2009, Lawrence entered a 16-bulb,
35"× 35" Styrolight into the Austin Design Within
Reach showroom’s M+D+F furniture competition.
When he won the sustainability prize, he took
home a gift card, lots of attention, and endless
More commissions are coming his way, but he’s
got a problem. “Unfortunately, Apple has quit using
styrofoam, so my free source of materials no longer
exists. I have enough left to build one big one.”
Be on the lookout for his next bright idea.
—Megan Mansell Williams
>> Foam Chandeliers: styrolight.com
Photograph by Eric Lawrence
20 Make: Volume 21