Learning From Mistakes: Lamp Makeover

Learning From Mistakes: Lamp Makeover
It might not be the most beautiful manicure that you’ve ever seen, but one thing is certain…there is heart in the paint that polishes my fingertips!
Some may take their pampering sessions into a nail salon (which probably should be the preferred method) but I find craft projects to be much more effective for relieving my stress.  To each their own, I guess!
This weekend I posted about my thrifty shopping spree to a little store called Savers, but what I failed to mention was the fact that I dove right into my first project for these items within the first 10 minutes of getting home.

Though all of my Savers finds were great deals, I was super-excited about these two lamps that were only $4.99 each.  I liked the color of the lamps, but the gold trim, and the bird design were not really my cup of tea (go figure).
So, “why purchase these lamps if they weren’t perfect?” you might ask.  Well, the short answer would be that the shape of the lamps was absolutely perfect…and the price of the lamps was entirely perfect!  Plus, I knew that refinishing them would give me a fun project to work on over the weekend.
To start the transformation I first taped off any electrical component on the lamp, as well as the cord.
Once everything was protected, I set up a little station in the center of my garage so that I could spray paint.  There was a pretty strong breeze outside, and I live in a really dusty area, so using the garage allowed me to work on the project without getting dust-bunnies in the paint.
Here are the products that I started out with (I’ll explain the “started out with” comment in a moment).
Before painting, I cleaned each lamp with a damp cloth to remove any dust particles from the surface.  Once the lamps were clean, I coated each of them with primer and let them dry.
I was able to get two coats on each lamp base with about one-and-a-half cans of the primer paint, which was surprising to me.  I thought that it would take a lot more paint to cover up those birdies, but they were gone within minutes!
After the primer had dried, I started to coat the first lamp base with the Krylon, Avocado green spray-paint…and this is where my thoughts of “Wow, this project is going extremely well!” quickly turned into thoughts of, “What the ?!?!?!??????” 
…To illustrate my point…I give you Exibit A…and B…and even C.
Because the primer had gone on with such ease, leaving a smooth, full-coverage, and clean finish, I had expected the same quality from my avocado paint.  Unfortunately, I had to learn a valuable lesson the hard way, and that lesson was, “in the world of spray paint…you get what you pay for.”
You see, Krylon happens to be around a dollar cheaper than Rust-Oleum spray paint, and having just come from Savers I thought I would bedazzle each of you with my mad-thrifty skills by saving that extra cash!
Live and learn, I guess.  My efforts for saving some greens actually left me with a paint product that did not spray evenly at the appropriate distance.  With the primer, I found that a distance of about 18 inches provided the perfect coverage, but the Krylon paint sprayed big blotches from that distance.  To smooth out these blotches I would move in closer, but that left too much paint, causing the drips and bubbles you see in the photos.  Not to mention, most of the Krylon paint dripped down from the spray nozzle, and all over my hands!  I think more paint wound up on me than on the lamps!
Disheartened, I ran back to the store to see if Rust-Oleum made a green paint that would work…and luckily I found this:
I actually felt much better about the whole experience after finding this paint because I felt this color was a better fit for the project anyway.  It made me feel like the galactic forces were coming together, and something great was about to happen.
With my new paint in hand, and a package of face masks to save my lungs from the paint fumes (highly recommended!) I headed back to the garage for round two. 
Have you ever noticed that homework from the school of hard knocks can be insanely ridiculous?  Patience was always a value that my mother tried to teach me, but apparently I didn’t listen.
Right when I got home from the store, new paint in hand, I went back to my avacado mess (which was semi-dry at this point) and started to recoat the thing with primer.  If you aren’t really sure what happens to semi-dry paint when you add wet paint to it, take a look:
Yes, folks.  That is what semi-dry paint looks like when it cracks and peels under the weight of newly applied wet paint….and yes, that repeated thumping noise that you are hearing is the sound of my head banging against the table as I chant, “stupid, stupid, me!”
I like to refer to this story as the spray paint Cinderella story, because it starts out sad, but I promise it ends well.
Because I was really curious to see what my new green paint would look like, I moved lamp numero-one to the side, and moved lamp numero-two up onto the table.  The second lamp treated me much better than the first:
In fact, the only challenges that came from this lamp were the tiny pollen-poufs from the outside trees that started floating around my garage in the late afternoon.  I had to pick a few of them out of the paint, but nothing too serious.
After the first lamp had completely dried….I repeat….completely dried…I spent a few hours sanding the dried paint down by hand until it was as smooth as I could possibly make it.
It wasn’t perfect in the end, but definitely much better.
Up close you can still see some of the “scars” but personally, I think it adds some character.  (Maybe that’s just because of all that time I spent sanding. haha.)
When you take a step back, and add a $15.00 lamp shade from Wal-Mart, the lamps look pretty dang good (even the crazy-drama-queen-lamp)!
There is still one minor detail that I need to address.  Right now, the shades are held up by some lamp harps that I took off of the lamps in my master bedroom.  The harps are a bit too tall, so I would like to order some smaller ones so that the shade is lowered down about an inch.
Other than that, I’m in love with my new lamps!!!   …now if only I had the dressing table to put them on.  Oh, well.  Someday!
Here is a cost breakdown for this project:
    • 2 lamp bases:  $4.99 each
    • 2 lamp shades:  $14.99 each
    • 3 cans Rust-Oleum Primer:  $4.68 each
    • 4 cans Krylon Avacado paint:  $3.24 each
    • 4 cans Rust-Oleum “fix the Krylon” paint:  $4.28 each
    • Set of 3 painters masks:  $4.98
    • Other materials:  tarp/drop-cloth, gloves, lamp harps, sand paper…already had.

Now considering I made a blooper in this project, you could actually complete this project for much less than I did.  You’ve learned from my mistake, right?  If you don’t make a blooper, all you will need for the paint would be 2-3 cans primer, and 3-4 cans of the finish color you choose (I like to get that extra can just in case, plus you can always use it on other projects if needed).        

Take a look at these bright lamp ideas!


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Cassity Kmetzsch started Remodelaholic after graduating from Utah State University with a degree in Interior Design. Remodelaholic is the place to share her love for knocking out walls, and building everything back up again to not only add function but beauty to her home. Together with her husband Justin, they have remodeled 6 homes and are working on a seventh. She is a mother of four amazing girls. Making a house a home is her favorite hobby.

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  1. I love that you named one the ‘drama-queen’ lamp. lol. Thanks for sharing this! I have a lamp taped up in my garage right now that you’ve saved from a fate worse than death! (because I might have gone mad dog and threw the drama-queen out the window!)

  2. OMG, just had the exact same problem with Krylon paint. I tried to repaint a lamp that was previously spraypainted and some wooden frames. This paint is terrible! Drips, bubbles, etc. Ugh – going with Rustoleum from now on!

  3. Just a quick question…how did you use the spray paint? Did you do very thin horizontal sweeps across the lamp, or did you just push the button and randomly spray. Also, how many coats of primer did you use?
    I use Krylon for everything and I just used it for a lamp and had fabulous results. Just be sure each of your layers drys for 8-10 minutes and do thin sweeps rather than random bursts and it will coat flawlessly.

  4. This made me laugh with “Oh yeah, that’s happened to me too!” For some reason I had no luck spray painting a glass lamp either. It got SO ugly I donated it to the church rummage sale with a sign that said “Take ME! I won the Ugliest Lamp Contest!” It was gone within minutes. Someone probably had idea about how to salvage it 🙂

    Still with the occasional “oops”, spray paint rules! 🙂

  5. I am so excited I found this. I just bought some lamps that look exactly like the ones you found ( bird and all.) Now I know just what to do to make over my thrift store find. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!

  6. An interesting discussion is definitely worth comment.
    I do think that you need to publish more about this subject, it may not be a taboo matter but usually people do not
    discuss such topics. To the next! Cheers!!

  7. So I’m not the only one that ended up with more Krylon on her hands and surrounding area than on her project! I was starting to think my can was defective! Absolutely crazy that I went through an entire can trying to spray paint 1 average sized mirror!

  8. Your lamp is wonderful! I’m disappointed that Krylon didn’t work for you, I use it on everything! I actually just painted a lamp and lamp shade with Krylon and it turned out perfectly! I love spray paint 🙂

  9. If I added right the project ran $50.00 . I guess I would of not been up the the challenge. I would of went to Home Goods and got two lamps for $24.95 each. I bought this lamp with a gold glass shade. When it is on it gives off an ugly glow. So thanks for your ideas, will have to check it out. I tried interior paint on it. So you and I are trial and error on lamp projects. Thanks for the info 🙂

  10. You poor thing! Since you liked the gray background of the glass lamps in the first place, all you really had to do was scrub off the decoration. If alcohol didn’t do it, you could have gotten a can of Bon-Ami scouring powder. It’s the ONLY one that NEVER scratches (most surfaces…especially not glass). You make a thick paste of this with a little water and scrub all that painted decoration off with paper towels. I would take the lamp apart so that you’re working only with the glass. You can wash off and dry the glass easier. It will probably take two rinses to remove the film. Also, some light sockets don’t come apart after awhile, so you’d have to cut off the old socket and re-wire a new socket, but that’s also easy. Paint removal may take a while, but would work! Bon-Ami could get off this spray paint, too, when you’re tired of it and want to get back to the gray glass.. Of course, that will be alot MORE scrubbing, but the result would be well worth it!. I wish all grocers in small towns would carry Bon-Ami, but they usually don’t. Not too many young people know about it, either.

  11. Awwe I wish I could see the pictures of the outcome of what you made of this lamp. I am sure its amazing, but the links are all broken. There isn’t anything decent to be had on the market now that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. Had I known that I wouldn’t have left so much behind when I moved 2000 miles thinking they could be easily replaced. It’s so sad.