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Lamp Makeover

April 2, 2011


I mentioned this lamp project in the last post and now that it’s Friday finally have the time to blog about it all!  Recently, I made over an old brass lamp that I had gotten from my parents’ basement years ago.  When I lived with a few girls in a big house during college, it fit in pretty well with our hodge-podgey free furniture from relatives, but now that I have my own, grown up place, it just didn’t seem to work very well.  I’m a huge proponent of DIY projects and using what you have or can get from others before buying something brand new.  Not only is it usually more economical, but I just think it’s good practice to make as much as you can with what you have before consuming something else.

As a side note, painting brass lamps obviously did not start with me.  I did a little bit of research and found great resources on Shelley Inspired and eHow.

So, to begin, the look that I’ve decided to go for in my bedroom (where the lamp now is) is sort of a soothing, sophisticated vibe with neutrals and lavender pops of color.  Most of the furniture is black and the rest of it will be soon, so I decided that the lamp would need to pop out against a soon-to-be black end table.  After quick trips to Home Depot and Target, I settled on white paint and new silver shade to replace the old, large, triangular shade that I had.

1) First, I began by using some painters’ tape (although masking tape would work fine) to cover up the sections of that lamp that I did not want painted, including the bulb socket, switch, and cord.  You can see these in the picture below, as well as the original lamp base.

2) I started the paint job by priming the lamp with Rustoleum primer.  There are several different shade options and it’s best to go with one that fits what your final goal is (i.e.- white primer for lighter shades of paint, grey primer for medium shades, etc.).  Working in the limited space of my apartment on a rainy day, I set up the paint space in my kitchen by the backdoor, which I opened to provide adequate ventilation (this is REALLY important!).  However, you could always do this outside as well.  I also set down a plastic couch cover that I saved from the move to use as a paint drip cloth.  The primer goes on very quickly and I felt like the lamp was perfectly covered in about three coats.  You need to leave about 30 minutes between each coat of primer to give it time to dry before adding another.  Below is a picture of the lamp after one coat of paint.  Already, changing the color made such a difference!

3) One issue that can come up, especially if you’re not a perfectionist or just inconsistent, like I am, is some “wrinkling” of the paint.  I think that this might happen when sections just have too much spray paint/primer.  It sort of dries in this wrinkled texture.  To fix this, I just used fine-grain sandpaper to remove the excess and applied another coat of paint/primer.  I think that it’s crucial to get that surface really smooth- it makes or breaks the piece.  In this picture below, you can sort of see the buildup of paint as well as the sanding I did.  It’s a bit tedious, but I think it’s the best quick solution for imperfection.

4) After your lamp is primed, you can begin painting!  I used Rustoleum Glossy White spray paint, which needed a bit more time between coats (about one hour between each one).  I wound up using three coats of paint because I ran into similar problems of the paint wrinkling up and had to sand down sections of it.  If you wind up needing to do that, you will need to really make sure that the lamp is DRY, otherwise you risk taking off whole sections of paint.

5) After getting the paint had fully dried, I added a glossy silver lampshade I had picked up from Target for $19.95.  While I believe in using as many parts of a piece as you can, the shade the lamp had prior to this project was very large and almost triangular looking.  I’m not an expert at making lampshades from scratch, so I chose to donate the old lampshade to the Habitat for Humanity project here in Norfolk and pick up a new one.  Here is a picture of the lamp with the shade on the left.  On the right, I have photograph of the lamp in its current location in my home, right next to my bed.

I am so happy with the final project!  I was tempted to write the lamp off entirely, but after hearing over and over again how a simple coat of paint could change the whole thing, decided to try this.  I am so glad I did.  I think that the base shade now resembles an old farmhouse lantern with all of the edges and beveling.  Also, overall, this project cost about $26, which is much less than I would have paid for a brand new lamp of this size.  I would love any comments and I look forward to sharing more of the projects that I have in the works with you all soon!

– Elizabeth

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