Creative ugly thrift store find lamp makeover
Two weeks ago I drove by the Salvation Army with my son and decided to stop in again. While I was browsing the lamps, I got really excited when I spotted two matching ugly lamps which had a great shape. I showed them to my son because I immediately had a specific lamp makeover in mind.
Unique Painted Lamp Makeover
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Of course when I call them “ugly”, I have to state that it is all in the eye of the beholder.
Several years have passed since I made over these lamps. Someone who loved these lamps bought them from me. I have to admit that if I would see them at a store now, I would still buy them but would give them a different makeover. I don’t think they are as ugly as I thought they were when I first saw them. I’d love to strip the wood for a more natural wooden tone and also leave the painted glass and faux brass detail as is. This would give them a more boho makeover now. Regardless, I still love the first makeover too.
Story how I found these “Ugly Lamps”
As I mentioned at the beginning I went to my favorite Goodwill with my son and spotted these lamps.
Me: “Look at these lamps, I want them!”
Son: “Oh, they are freakin ugly. They are the ugliest lamps I have ever seen!”
Me: “I love them.”
Him: “You are not buying them, we have no room!”
So we left. That night I kept dreaming about the awesome ugly lamps and guess what? I went back the next day and THANK YOU they were still there. I grabbed them and bolted to the register. I was so full of joy (I’m serious)! The lady at the register looked at me like I had two heads. And I giggled: “Aren’t they so ugly?”
She looked at me again and asked: “Well do you want them now or what?”
Me: “Well of course I do, how couldn’t I?”
This is where I have to explain my lamp addiction which was I guess passed down from my mother who has (and I made her count) 22 lamps in her house. She’s had mostly the same lamps for the past 40 years but I like adding and moving them around. Lamps are expensive, so I can’t argue with Salvation Army when they are selling ugly lamps for $4.
What I love about these two lamps is that they have a great shape and are very big. The shape reminded me of the Jonathan Adler lamps pictured below. I love him!
Supplies used for this lamp makeover
- TSP Cleaner
- Kilz Spray Primer
- painters tape
- tack cloth
- drop cloth
Quick and easy instructions for DIY lamp makeover
Check for any necessary repairs
Check the wiring and light socket parts for any damage. A lot of times old lamps like this need electrical wiring repairs and you can buy a kit to replace the old wiring which is surprisingly easy. I, fortunately, didn’t need any electrical repairs for this lamp makeover.
It is also possible that you need a harp if you are planning on adding a new lampshade. Check out my post about how to add a harp to a lamp.
Clean the lamps
I love using TSP Cleaner or Krud Kutter to degrease and clean everything first before priming and painting. Make sure to let everything dry before heading to the next step.
Tape off electrical parts
Use painter’s tape to tape off the electrical cord and the top lighting socket and switch. Wipe everything down with a tack cloth to remove dust, dirt, and hair.
Prime and paint the lamps
Kilz Spray Primer is my go-to spray primer. It really helps the actual paint stick better and I never get any annoying bubbling and cracking of the spray paint either. Just make sure to shake the can really well and long before evenly spraying it over what you want to prime. Plus these lamps have 3 different finishes, this primer adheres to glass, metal, and wood.
After that, I gave the lamps two coats of white Rustoleum spray paint.
When the white spray paint dried. I had some different shades of gray left and after taping off some stripes, I sprayed some more gray details onto the lamps.
I also added some fabulous new Target lamp shades (I always buy shades when I see a great cheap pair at a store).
Photos of finished lamp makeover
Check out how the finished lamps look on my painted silver dresser.
UPDATE: Since this makeover, the look of the hallway has changed completely again. I stripped the silver paint off and turned it into a bleached wood dresser.
Aren’t they awesome? Or is it just me? I love them even more now and nobody has called them ugly since. My mission is accomplished!
Other DIY lighting projects
Thanks for stopping by, you know I appreciate it!
Your fabulous re-dos are inspiring! So glad I found your blog. All from a Google search “how to refinish brass lamps”
Thank you so much!
Yes, they are awesome! With their great shape, I knew they were going to look great painted.
I would have never guessed you could make something so pretty from something so hideous! I love it w/the pink! PS…you might want to turn off your word verification. You might get more comments. Sometimes bloggers don’t realize it’s on. I didn’t until someone informed me. Just sayin.
Thank you! I didn’t know that it was turned on and changed that right away 😉
Beautiful job – and I absolutely love the dresser they are sitting on!Your newest follower – would love to have you come by and follow back( when you can ) Big hugs,Suzan
fabulous job Julia I have a lamp habit too lol
Thanks so much! Lamps, shoes and purses, right? LOL
Love them! I love to get a lamp and spray paint…I’m running out of room!
Thanks 😉 and me too! No room!
WOW! you had some serious vision with these! they look awesome!
Thank you so much! Love your blog!
Just saw these featured on Better After and wanted to say how fabulous I think they are. Great job!
Thank you so much!
Me too, Julia….just seen you on Better After. I plan on setting some time aside to browse through your archives. Can’t wait! Looking forward to following your journey. H 🙂
Love! Now I feel the urge to go searching for ugly lamps! 🙂
Thanks and good luck with your search 😉
Julia, LOVE it! so happy you entered The Next Hone Show Designer Contest! Welcome
Thank you so much for coming over!
Hi. First visit to your blog – love it. How did you achieve that silver finish on the dresser? thanks.
I guess I will have to write a post about the silver dresser. I have gotten so many requests!
I think you are so clever and creative. You inspire me!
I actually was just considering this particular.. if you find out there
let me personally realize.. thank you!
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How amazingly awesome are those?!?! Love it!! I just bought some ugly lamps at a garage sale for $1 a piece. I can’t wait to fix them up!
Thank you Carmen!
I love the lamps, I wish I had your “vision” to see ugly things transformed into something great!
Thanks so much Debby!
Great find, they are awesome!
Great find, they are awesome!
Thank you. So many people have told me they like the before better 🙁
This is my first visit to your site… and I’ll be back. Those lamps turned out fantastic. I was truly surprised.
Thanks so so much!
Great idea, very smart and sophisticated.
Great idea, very smart and sophisticated.
As I type, I have a huge, ugly as sin brass lamp in my living room waiting for a coating of spray paint. And there’s a freshly painted lamp in my bedroom. I’ve been doing this for years, even repainting some mid-century Stiffel lamps – the brass was starting to pit after years in Florida humidity. Love giving new life to old things!
These turned out great and great buy as well.
this might be a dumb question but what kind of primer and paint do you use? wall paint? craft paint?
Not a dumb question at all Nicole, I probably should add to this post that I use Kilz spray primer for almost everyone of my projects and then I use spray paint. Pretty much any spray paint will do 😉 Hope that helps!
you are great at tutorials. thanks for sharing this one! you might enjoy my post on ugly lamps: http://sosylvie.typepad.com/so_sylvie/2013/02/ugly-beauty-the-john-lurie-effect.html
Hey, I’m just curious as to what kinds of paint and primers you used. Did you use any specific kinds, or did you just use what you had? Thanks!
Hi, my favorite primer to use for these types of projects is Kilz adhesion primer or regular Kilz primer. Hope that helps.
I’m beyond words! You’re a genius to turn them out like that!
Oh well thank you Nancy!
Nice job. But I wonder about bloggers, in general, who use terms like ‘ugly’. I read a post the other day that said a paint color made her want to ‘hurl’. Can’t more neutral terms be used, like outdated, or not my style? Something like that? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I personally find that your re-do is ‘not my style’, altho you did a great job on the transformation. I wouldn’t say ‘ugly’ in public. Probably not even aloud in private. Maybe everyone who writes blogs and everyone who reads them has the same taste. Maybe they think people like me don’t read blogs. I don’t know. I just think we could be a bit more sensitive. Thanks.
I absolutely agree with you. Everything is in the eye of the beholder. Since this post which was 7 years ago, my taste has changed and I actually like the before now. I do use words in my blog posts and titles because of what people search for on google. So if someone thinks they have an ugly lamp (even if others might not think it’s ugly) that person might google “ugly lamp” makeover. This isn’t to offend anyone.