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Liven up a lamp with spray paint

Posted Feb 02 2012 9:00am

Color is one of the single most important weapons you will ever wield as a home-maker trying to infuse a space with style. Color can give a room balance and a theme, and can also be that “wow” factor you may be missing. And don’t stop at the walls. Color in the accessories you use is almost more important than wall color because accessories are often fairly inexpensive and are easy to change around to suit your room’s look from season to season (or “from month to month” if you are anything like me).

In my own color quest at home, spray paint has become my absolute best friend. I’m so comfortable with it and so familiar with the results, that spritzing a lamp with a coat of bold-colored paint is as easy to me as slapping together a peanut butter sandwich for lunch. And it can be that easy for you too! All it takes is a collection of the right supplies and a handle on the proper steps – In no time at all your home will be sprayed to color perfection.

Take this second-hand lamp for example. We loved the shape, plus the ribbed texture around the base had us at “hello.” But the color was a bit drab, especially when you see it next to our yellow stenciled feature wall in the living room.

Rustoleum glossy “Warm Yellow” spray paint to the rescue. The other great thing about spray painting projects is the cost. At less than $5 a can, giving our thrift store lamp a risky, bright finish wasn’t going to be anywhere close to a bank account buster. If we didn’t like it, we could have simply sprayed it a different color.

When I mentioned the supplies that go along with spray painting, don’t worry about filling a cart full of extra purchases. We’re talking nothing but a roll of masking tape, an extra big piece of cardboard and a patch of grass or concrete to set up shop. If you don’t have a big sheet of cardboard, I’ve also used an old towel for a spray surface.

Before I started spraying, I needed to prep the surface of the lamp and surrounding area for paint. This is where that masking tape comes into play. Obviously, I don’t want the chord of my lamp to be partially yellow where it connects to the base. Nor do I want the lovely stained wood lamp neck to get covered with color. The contrast between the dark wood and the light ceramic base is what made us grab it up in the first place. So I unrolled about a six-inch length of tape and wrapped it around the lamp chord. I only needed to spread it out about five or so inches from the lamp since the paint would be centered on the base. I then wrapped another length of tape around the lamp neck to protect it from yellow over spray.

The last step before putting my trigger finger to work was to set the lamp out on my cardboard outside (Tip: try to pick a non-rainy, less-breezy day to ensure good spray coverage). Making sure that the lamp was steady and that there was about two to three feet of unobstructed room on either side of the piece to move around, I held the spray paint can about a foot from the base and pulsed the button on top of the spray paint can. You don’t want to get too close or spray too heavily, or else you’ll get streaks and drips – Not good. A few thin and even coats was all it took to turn our lamp from “blah” to “beautiful.”

Here’s another “Before and After” lamp spray paint project if you need a little more convincing. Again, we picked up a lamp from a local estate sale shop for less than $5. I loved the traditional lines, but wanted to make it pop with a bold color.

This time I went with a vibrant teal color. Using the same spray paint technique, I was able to bring this old-fashioned lamp into the millennium. An updated lampshade later, and our thrifted lamp was looking pretty shnazzy.

Now armed with the knowledge and tools to spray paint effectively, you too can get the same high end look for a drop in the bucket. Instead of shelling out $40 at places like Target or Urban Outfitters for a bold, modern lamp, DIY your own – Reward yourself with the money you save by updating the lamp shade instead.

Carrie Williams is a freelancer, copy editor and page designer in Lynchburg, VA. She is also a contributing writer and blogger for  Breathe magazine. Her DIY blogging feature is available the second and fourth Thursdays of each month. For a real-time rehash of her and her fiance’s home renovation project and other DIY how-to’s, visit her blog at

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