Thrift Store Lamp Makeover with Chalk Paint

Thrift store lamp makeover

So, I have this weird Saturday morning hobby where I go to the local thrift store and look for cool stuff to refinish over the weekend. 

It’s just what I do, okay? Don’t judge me.

One of the cheapest, awesomest, and easiest items to redo from the thrift store is an old, outdated, brass lamp. So many people give these babies away, overlooking the potential beauty that is locked away within. But not this girl. When I wander over to the lamp section, I have to stop myself from buying all the lamps. In fact, when we bought our house, I asked the former owners to leave a few of the old brass lamps in the house, and those, plus the handful of old lamps I quickly accumulated shortly after discovering that you could paint these old ugly things to make them beautiful, sat in my room of unfinished projects for months and months and months, until I finally forced myself to purge and take a bunch of my junk back to the thrift store where it belonged, for some other overly ambitious DIY-er to take home with her and breathe new life into.

That was a run-on-sentence. BUT MY POINT IS, I have a hoarding problem. Uhhh, no that was not my point. MY POINT IS, try to overlook the hideousness of old things in your house or at the thrift store and instead look for their inner beauty.

This past weekend I casually moseyed on by the lamp section of the Salvation Army store and told myself: Erica. If you bring home another lamp, Justin is going to disown you. So I walked away.

But then I went back the next day! I couldn’t stop myself. It was like the lamp was drawing me in with its magnetic pull.

Thrift store lamp makeover

I brought home this old brass lamp for $10, and on the way home I stopped at Home Goods to pick up a shade for $12.99. I knew that if I actually bought a shade, I’d have that much more motivation to finish this project swiftly before my husband ever even noticed. (Side note: he didn’t even notice I was working on this until I told him about it.)

I also had an idea in mind of what I wanted it to look like, so I knew I could knock this project out pretty fast.

Thrift store lamp makeover

Two coats of paint and a coat of dark wax later, I’m sooooo in love with how it turned out. Before buying the lamp shade from Home Goods, I actually stopped at Hobby Lobby to look for a shade, but everything was so expensive. But NOT THIS GUY! $23 you guys (plus the cost of paint, which I already had on hand). If you put this on the shelf at Hobby Lobby it would fit right in with all the other $80 lamps. It looks so sophisticated and classy, doesn’t it? Very French country chic.

(You also get a sneak peak of another project I have in the works! Hint – it’s the mirror)

Thrift store lamp makeover

How to update a thrift store lamp with chalk paint


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Start out by cleaning your lamp. I usually use a vinegar water solution. If it’s really dirty or grimy you’ll need to use something to remove any debris or grease. Let it dry completely.

Paint your lamp! I used what is apparently my favorite color – Parisian Grey. I use a two-inch angled Purdy brush for most of my projects. I haven’t invested in any fancy wax brushes or anything like that, but I have found that using a good, high-quality paint brush makes a big difference.

Add a second coat of paint once the first is dry. I think I gave it an hour, maybe less, while I did some other stuff around the house.

Once dry, time to wax. I created my own dark wax for this project by mixing some Valspar Sealing Wax with a tiny bit of dark brown acrylic paint (in Burnt Umber) in a plastic cup. Only add a drop of brown paint and mix it really well. Once mixed, my wax was a medium-toned brown. You can add more paint to the wax if your color isn’t dark enough. Test a small amount in an inconspicuous spot to try out the color!

Now, here’s an amazing trick I learned the other day from Refunk My Junk – instead of buying an expensive wax brush, you can use a super cheap chip brush to apply wax. Simply take your chip brush and cut it down to about an inch and a half (you can read her full post on furniture painting tips here). And voila! You’ve got a cheap version of a fancy wax brush. It won’t last as long, but it’s a perfect idea for cheap girls like me.

Apply the dark wax to the lamp with your brush and cover the whole thing. Remember, when you’re waxing, you want to “push” the wax into the piece. With this Valspar wax, you’re supposed to let it sit for 1-2 minutes before removing the excess, so by the time you wax the whole thing, you’ll probably have a few more seconds to wait before moving on to the next step. At this point, it will look like you just smeared brown, well, wax, all over your beautiful new lamp and you might start to panic. Worry not! You’re going to remove most of it. Using a clean, lint-free cloth or paper towel, remove the excess wax from your lamp by wiping it away. Try to wipe in the direction that you want any lines or streaks to appear, in this case, I did around the lamp horizontally.

Once you’re happy with how it looks, you’re done! Wait for the wax to dry to the touch (it will take a full 24 hours to cure completely, but ain’t nobody got time for that) and then add your lamp shade, put a bulb in, and there you have it! Your very own thrifty-chic lamp.

How to update a thrift store lamp with chalk paint

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