Thrifted Lamp Makeover and How to Paint a Lamp Shade!

I said it as I picked up the paint brush: this just might be the project that gives me back my blogging mojo! And boy oh boy, was it ever. This was theee easiest lamp makeover EVER.

I’ve been on the lookout for a matching pair of lamps for beside our bed. You might be surprised by how hard it is to find a matching pair of lamps at a thrift store. For months now, I’ve made the occasional trip just to check out the selection, and I just wasn’t finding anything. I had been picturing a pair of sexy, kinda curvy lamps, that I could make over with aged, washed look. Hard to explain, but I knew exactly how I wanted them to look in my head, okay? But I just couldn’t find the right lamp! Or, I’d find one, but with no match. It was sad.

So the other night Justin and I popped into the thrift store (this is my idea of a fun evening activity) and again, I just wasn’t finding anything. I walked right by these lamps at first, because they just weren’t what I was looking for. But after looking again, I thought, hey, these are kinda cool. They have sort of a roman/old European look to them, and we all know that Justin and I, being the giant dorks that we are, love anything that is roman/old European. So we snagged them for $5 each and off we went.

Thrift store lamps ready for an update

When I suggested we stop at Target on the way home to look for replacement shades, Justin said something along the lines of “absolutely not” (I guess I was pushing it by tricking him into the thrift store trip) and suggested I just keep the shades they came with.

Ha. Please. Do you see these shades? They’re stained and smelly and hideous.

But that got the wheels turning. Brilliant! They had a nice shape to them and were in good condition otherwise… why not paint them!?

And so there we have it. The easiest and cheapest way to upgrade a thrift store lamp.

Thrifted Lamp Makeover and How to Paint a Lamp Shade with Chalk Paint

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Supplies I used:

  • Damp cloth
  • Household cleaner
  • Paper towel
  • Chalk paint in three different colors
  • An angled paint brush
  • A chip brush

Okay, are you ready? This was so easy, guys.

Prep the lamp shade by giving it a quick cleaning. I just wiped mine down with a damp rag to get rid of any dust. Let it dry.

Using an angled paint brush, apply the chalk paint directly to the lamp shade, allowing it to soak into the fabric. The chalk paint I used was my trusty FolkArt Home Décor Chalk Paint in the color Castle. This is a nice warm gray, almost taupe. Gently apply the paint to the whole lamp shade.

Painting a lamp shade with chalk paint

Carefully apply to the top and bottom, so that you get a clean line without getting any paint on the inside of the shade. If you are nervous, you could tape off the inside top and bottom.

Painting a lamp shade with chalk paint

Allow it to dry fully. I gave mine a couple of hours.

Once dry, put a light bulb in and turn it on. This will allow you to see all the spots that need more paint. I left the lamp turned on to apply the second coat. Make sure you get all the areas where any light shines through, specifically around the seams.

Lamp shade painted with light on to see where second coat is needed

Allow the second coat to dry, and you’re done! See how easy that was?

While the shades were drying in between coats, I worked on sprucing up the lamps themselves.

I wanted to play on its roman look and give it a sort of aged column look. These lamps had a gross kind of crackly texture, but it actually turned out really cool when I started to paint it!

I first gave the lamps a really good cleaning using a household cleaner and paper towel.

Then I painted them with a coat of FolkArt Home Décor Chalk Paint in Parisian Grey (my favorite color judging by the furniture in my house). Then let them dry completely.

Painting lamp base Parisian Grey

Once dry, I went back and dry brushed a coat of White Adirondack (a pure white). To dry brush, I took a small chip brush, dipped it in the white paint, and then blotted most of it off with a paper towel until the brush was almost completely dry. Then I used very light pressure to apply the white paint.

See how the white dry brushing really accentuated all those crackles!?

I loved how it was turning out, except for one problem. The lamp bases and shades did NOT match. The shades were a warm, taupey gray, and the bases were a cool, blue-ish gray… To remedy the situation I dry brushed one last very light coat of Castle (what I used on the shades) to warm it up a bit. I think it did the trick!

I did not wax these lamps because of the unique texture of them. They really absorbed the paint and look and feel kind of like stone. If these were brass lamps, I would most definitely suggest a wax or poly top coat.

Now we each have a lamp beside the bed! Don’t you love the bright yellow/gold cord right there in these photos?

Turquoise bedding with gray curtains and vintage gray lamp

Our bedroom is really starting to come together (ahem, it’s only been two plus years). I say this all the time, but I feel like I’m maybe, just maybe, finally starting to get a feel for our style and how to decorate. In our bedroom specifically, I’ve been trying to find a balance between masculine and feminine, light and dark, old and new. It’s a work in progress, but at least I’m making progress!


How to paint lamp shade and update a lamp with chalk paint

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