Incorporating items that are exclusively ornamental, such as paintings and statues, is an important part of decorating your home and garden. However, you can greatly expand your decorating options by adopting a simple philosophy: How can I accomplish a necessary function in an aesthetically pleasing way?
Rain chains, decorative alternatives to traditional metal or plastic downspouts, are a fantastic example of what this philosophy looks like in practice. They come in a wide variety of styles, but all have the same practical purpose: directing rainwater from rooftop gutters away from the house and to the ground (or to a storage vessel). Additionally, rain chains offer the benefit of being visually pleasing water features which enhance a home’s appearance.
Rain chains originated in Japan, where they have adorned houses and temples for hundreds of years. There they are called “kusari-doi”, or “chain gutter”. The first kusari-doi were created in the 1600s to adorn teahouses. These early examples used bamboo and palm ropes. In addition to being attractive, kusari-doi are valued for generating a pleasant white-noise effect as water drips or pours down them. Rain chains began gaining international popularity after Japan hosted the 1998 Winter Olympics and visiting style connoisseurs spotted them.
Some garden supply shops offer rain chains for purchase, but they are also easy to make and customize at home. Many different objects, from recycled household items to natural objects like stones, can be incorporated into a rain chain. You can use materials and color schemes that complement your home, or you can choose contrasting materials and colors to add an intriguing accent.
This article offers seventeen rain chain ideas of the many creative options that you can do yourself (DIY).
1. Ombre Rain Chain
This rain chain incorporates miniature terracotta pots in a gradient of different shades of blue. The pots are connected along the chain by running the chain through the drainage hole at the base of the pot. The possibilities for customizing color schemes and decorative designs on the miniature pots are endless.
2. Stone Rain Chain
Source: Dollar Store Crafts
This charming rain chain consists of polished stones wrapped into the links of a chain using thin wire. The links themselves are also connected with wire spirals. This rain chain could also hold polished shells or crystals.
3. Copper Tubing Rain Chain
Here we see a rain chain making clever use of recycled lengths of copper tubing. The tubing helps direct even heavy rainfall safely away from the house, and the oversized rings of copper create an appealing water feature.
4. Recycled Spoon
Source: Birds and Blooms
This rain chain made of recycled spoons has undeniable rustic charm. The spoon handles are used to create the chain itself, while the bowls are attached along it at angles to direct water.
5. Fork and Spoon
Source: I’m Going to Texas
This is another great example of a rain chain made from recycled materials, incorporating both spoons and forks. The tines of the forks are bent to create the chain, adding whimsical appeal. This is a great project to put together with old silverware of your own, or with a handful found at a thrift shop
6. Mini Flower Pots
Source: All Things Heart & Home
A cute take on the flower pot rain chain idea, this example features an antiquing effect achieved using paint. It also features a basin at the bottom, a useful addition which helps anchor the chain and collects rainwater for eco-friendly re-use.
7. Ring Rain Chain
Source: My Home My Style
Featuring a copper basin and a chain made out of vertical tubes, this rain chain is reminiscent of those featured in early Japanese teahouse. If you are going for a sophisticated, timeless look, this style of rain chain is for you.
8. Pine Cones
In this rain chain, elements from nature are used to direct water away from your home. This chain includes large pinecones connected by small metal links. If you try a similar project, it may be a good idea to apply a weather-resistant coating to the pinecones.
9. Stacked Mini Planter Pots
Source: Old House Crazy
Water will cascade attractively from flower pot to flower pot in this rain chain featuring stacked miniature planters. The attached hooks for hanging make it easy to assemble.
10. Stacked Planters
Source: Cut Out and Keep
Featuring large hanging planters, this rain chain is a good option for areas with heavy rainfall, as the stacked style is capable of redirecting a large amount of water. The design also makes use of a planter saucer to catch overflow.
11. Stacked Metal Buckets
Source: Timeless Treasures
The re-purposed materials used in this rain chain would be totally at home in front of a cozy farmhouse or cabin. The small metal buckets direct water into a tall, weathered metal rain barrel where it can be collected and used to keep the garden lush and healthy.
12. Candle Holder
Another interesting way to use recycled objects in rain chains is by using candle holders, as this chain does. The variety of whimsical designs on the candle holders adds visual interest as the water is directed in ever-changing patterns.
13. Funnel and Basin Rain Chain
Source: Northline Express
Featuring delicate metal cups, thick chain links, and a gorgeous copper basin, this rain chain is a statement piece that complements any yard. The water striking the scooped surface of the basin gives a dramatic visual effect.
This rain chain captures the spirit of kusari-doi by incorporating intricately decorated metal lanterns. The wooden box at the foot of the chain, filled with polished stones, is an attractive way to ensure proper drainage.
15. Rain Chain with Copper Planters
Source: Two Thirty Five Designs
With live plants growing in each copper planter, this rain chain is the ultimate combination of form and function. It brings an element of botanical beauty to your yard that is effortless to maintain.
16. Stacked Copper Buckets
Source: Randy and Meg’s Garden Paradise
The large decorative pot at the foot of this rain chain serves as an intriguing visual contrast to the sleek copper buckets that make up the chain. This interplay of metal and ornate ceramic provides timeless style.
Source: Prairie Break
This striking rain chain is made up entirely of polished ceramic discs in different colors. The water streaming over the edges is pleasing to the eye and ear, making this rain chain a great conversation piece as well as a practical tool.
Where to Buy
One of the first rain chains that caught my eye was the Monarch copper lotus chain because it is a shade of copper that looks great against brick and other rustic colored homes. It is a full 8.5 feet in length, which means that it is made up of 20 lotus petal-shaped cups. Each petal is designed with a wide mouth that can capture a lot of rain, and the larger cups are great for heavy rain as well. If you want to see how much rainfall you are getting where you live, you can even put a copper bowl under the rain chain to catch the water as it falls. When it rains, the copper will oxidize, so the aesthetic of the lotus cups will change as time goes on.
If you do not like the idea of a cup filling with water, then there are options that offer more of a cascading water experience. I like this option a lot because it has copper leaf-shapes along the chain that provide a relaxing waterfall effect as it rains. This chain is also 8.5 feet long, so the rain will easily be able to reach the ground without much splashing. If it is not quite as long as you’d like, the company does have three-foot extensions that you can purchase. If you are looking for a stylish rain chain for a contemporary home, then this is an excellent option for you to consider. Since this rain chain is made from copper, it will oxidize as it is used, so eventually, the beautiful copper leaves will turn a rustic brown color that is simply breathtaking.
The next rain chain that we are going to look at is one that has decorative chimes that look like inverted bells. The chain is a full 8.5 feet long, and each cup is made from a beautiful copper material. Each chain contains 12 cups, and if you need your rain chain to be another size, you can easily adjust the length of the chain by adding or subtracting cups. I also love how this rain chain comes with a “v” hook that can easily connect to the hole where the downspout attaches. There is also a bit of chain below the last cup that allows you to secure the rain chain to the ground to protect it from the wind.
One of the most unique looking rain chains that I came across when I was looking for one to add to my back porch is this decorative dragonfly rain chain. It is made from iron, which means that it is a very durable rain chain that will hold up to a lot of wind and heavy rain. It is an 8.5-foot chain that is already the shade of weathered copper, so you can have that look without waiting for it to age when you get it. The pots that are on the rain chain are designed to look like little cauldrons that have a large dragonfly on the side. The detail in the dragonfly wings is amazing, and as the water trickles over the sides of the pot, the ting on the wings of the dragonfly will almost sound like a flutter.
The sounds of rain can be quite soothing, so I thought that this rain chain was quite an appropriate option for someone looking to harmonize their garden and their home. This rain chain has a design that resembles small, upside-down umbrellas. As each one fills with rain, the trickles of water will spill over the side. This rain chain is designed with a length that is slightly less than six feet, so if you have a high gutter, you may need to attach more than one chain together. This chain is also crafted out of an iron material that is designed to look like copper, which means that no matter how much it rains, the coloration of the unit will not change. This rain chain also comes with an installation piece so that you can attach it to your gutter with ease.
If you like having butterflies in your outdoor space, then perhaps this next rain chain is the ideal option for you to consider. It is a rain chain that is 8.5 feet in length, and it is made out of copper, which means that over time the bright copper color will dull and create an artistic aged look that you will love. On the chain, two butterflies touch wings to form a cup where the water can accumulate before trickling down the chain to the ground. In total, there are 38 butterflies along this length of chain. Since these butterfly cups are on the smaller side, they are ideal for light to medium rains instead of torrential downpours. There is a hanger that is attached to the top of the chain, which makes attaching this rain chain to your gutters a breeze.
This next rain chain is the perfect option for someone who has a bright theme in their outside space. The entire unit has a bright blue coloration that will attract the eye of butterflies in your garden, and it will add some personality to your space as well. The chain has large links that carry the rain into aluminum cups that are square-shaped. This chain is 8.5 feet in length, and there are a total of 17 cups along the chain. Since this is made from aluminum, you can expect the rain to change the color of the metal, which will give it a look that is unique to your garden.
I really love the rustic look of this rain chain. It is made from a copper material that is embossed with a beautiful sunflower on each side of the cup. When the chain is used in the rain, it will begin to tarnish, which will give the cups a unique look that will most likely change the coloration of the chain to green or a darker copper color. At 8.5 feet in length, there are 17 cups along the length of the chain. Each one is attached with a long link chain, which gives the rain a place to cascade down. For ease of installation, there is even a clip included that you can use to attach the chain to your gutter.
If you like sunflowers, but the design of the last rain chain that we looked at is not your style, then this rain chain from U-nitt may be a better fit for your outdoor space. It is an 8.5-foot long chain that connects 21 cups with long chain links. Each cup resembles a small flower pot, so it will look great in your garden, especially if you are attempting to create a water feature in your outdoor space. On the outside, you will see a beautiful sunflower design that wraps around the cup. If you need more or less length, the cups can easily be added to or removed from the chain. Since this rain chain is made from copper, you can expect natural oxidation to occur after it is used for a few months.
The next rain chain that we are going to look at is one that will beautifully accompany any outdoor water garden that you have near your home. It is made of copper, so over time, the shine will fade and create an oxidized greenish tint on the metal that will look great as the water flows over the chain. The cups have a unique fish design that can be hung with the mouth facing downward like it is jumping into the water below or with the mouth facing upward so that the fish can catch the raindrops as they fall. This is a smaller cup, so water will cascade the best when the rain is light. It is 8.5 feet in length, which makes it long enough for most homes, and it can also be purchased in a blue verde copper color if you prefer.
Another rain chain that creates a rustic feel in your outdoor space is this decorative chain that is made of iron. Each of the cups has a design that resembles a bucket, and there is a butterfly that is cut into the top of each cup. The cups on this chain are not as large as some of the cups on the other rain chains that we have looked at in this guide, but they work well with most rains. If you have a lot of flowers in your garden that attract pollinators such as butterflies, this is a great option to maintain the butterfly theme. I found this rain chain to be a bit on the short side; in fact, it is only about 4.4 feet long, but you can easily add to the length if you need.
The final rain chain that we are going to look at is one that features birds on the cups. The entire unit is made out of iron, so it will be able to last through gentle rains as well as storms that have more severe wind and rain with ease. I find that this is the perfect rain chain to consider if you have a water garden with a low birdbath near your home because you can easily incorporate this into your décor. This chain is only about four feet long, so if you have a gutter that is higher than that, you will need to attach two chains to extend the length.