How To Paint A Ceramic Lamp And Change Lives

posted by Zakary on September 13, 2010 | 54 comments (leave one of your own)

We desperately needed a lamp for our living room. There is an overhead ceiling light with four bulbs that throws enough light, but currently two bulbs are out and we could use another lighting source. I mean, we could also just stop being so damn lazy and actually change the two burnt out bulbs, but every time I’m sitting in the living room and look up and remember they need to be changed, it’s nighttime and I’m usually two glasses of wine in and probably shouldn’t be on a ladder. The ceiling is also vaulted and way high up, translation: danger. I shopped around online and I found a yellow ceramic table lamp with a linen shade that I loved. And it was $199. I ran it by Jeff and told him we are adults and work and we are just as deserving as anyone to have a pricey lamp in our presence. He politely told me to get bent and issued a big No Thank You to the lamp of my dreams.

Being the stubborn woman that I am, by god I was determined to have a yellow ceramic lamp. Just not one for $199 because even though I might be stubborn and like to defy authority (Jeff), I am not the type of woman to drop two bills on something that is going to sit on my sofa table that my kids may or may not break within 38 seconds.

I decided to take matters into my own hands.

Brace yourself, it’s about to be do-it-yourself all up in this b.

1.  Drive around with your cranky toddler to a few thrift stores and then call your husband to whine about how you never find any thing good and he says we don’t really need a lamp. Tell him if any more bulbs burn out in the living room, we will have to watch nascar by candlelight. He tells you that sounds romantic. Hang up on him.

2. Find the perfect lamp at the next thrift store. Celebrate. Celebration is reduced moderately when cranky toddler drops his slushy in parking lot and is reduced to tears. Console him by telling him he can hold the lamp all the way home, but only if he stops crying. It works. Celebrate silently from the driver’s seat at your magical way with children.

3. Take lamp home and prepare to make dreams come true.


4. Realize lamp has some issues (nothing major, just some peeling in places) and that you actually have no idea what you are doing. Go inside to consult the internets on how to paint lamps. Get distracted and end up goggling whether or not toddler is old enough for karate (no). Remember what you are doing and educate yourself extensively on DIY lamp painting (like for three minutes). Drive to home improvement store for supplies.


5. Sand the crap out of the lamp with a fine grit sanding sponge because google told you to. Focus on smoothing out the surface.

action shot.

6. After sanding, you are supposed to wipe the dirties off the now sanded lamp with white vinegar, water, and a towel. Consult your cabinets and discover you only have apple cider vinegar. Go back inside to google whether or not vinegar is vinegar and end up watching a squirrel fight a snake. Forgo vinegar and just use water.

bath t

7. Once the lamp is dry, tape off everything except surface to be painted. Realize you could have just taken off the shade holder harp thingy and not painstakingly taped the whole thing. Eff.


8. Hit the whole thing up with spray primer. Try to capture the magic with an action shot. Freak out when primer blows back all over your camera lens. Don’t do that again.


9. Apply two coats of primer. Debate whether or not a white lamp would work because the project would be finished, but continue on with the hopes of creating lamp magic in your heart.


10. Apply three coats of summer squash spray paint to your primed lamp. Forget to take photos of this part because it takes three days to complete because you keep forgetting that you are in the middle of a super important lamp project and only remember when you walk past it on the front porch. When your husband asks why the lamp is still on the porch, just tell him you want to make sure each coat is thoroughly dry. Once you decide it is “dry”, hit it up with a light coat of spray gloss.

Behold, the hotness.

yellow lamp

I spent more than I thought I would, but the new shade was a necessity. It originally came with a shade, but it was mega gross and smelled like cigarette smoke/meth.

Project budget breakdown:

1 thrifted ceramic lamp with paint issues-$10
1 reusable square sander block thingy-$2
1 can of white primer-$3
1 can of spray paint in summer squash-$4
1 can of clear gloss-$0 (already had it)
1 roll of painter’s tape-$0 (had it)
1 queen sized fitted sheet aka project drop cloth-$0 (stolen from my mother’s hoarding pile in the garage)

1 linen lamp shade-$25 (Target)

Grand total: $44

That’s right, I saved us $155. Too bad no one is allowed to touch the lamp. Don’t walk near it, don’t touch it, don’t talk about it. Just admire it lovingly with your eyeballs.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to hug my new lamp. With my eyes.

  • Lucy Fisher

    This is EASILY the best lamp DIY blog entry that I have read today. Nicely done. The lamp looks fabulous!

    • patt

      I am a grandmother and had the best laugh! Thank you. It was like reading my own thoughts from years ago when I was raiding my own children. Thank you again.

    • Pam

      I had to giggle when I was reading your blog. It just brought back memories. Thanks for making it fun.

    • Robyn

      Thanks for this – it gave me the confidence to give it a try myself. I am doing 2 bedside lamps and a big old one I bought at an Op Shop in ‘cherry red’ then doing red & white floral fabric lamp shades.

      Just a little tip with the masking – use plastic wrap/PVC cling film (Gladwrap). Tear it off in thin pieces and you will find you can wrap it really tightly and accurately around the bits you don’t want painted. It is much easier to put on and get off than tape and doesn’t leave any sticky residue.

      Choose a good quality spray paint, as the really cheap ones can spit lumps at your base as you spray. (Ask me how I know this…)

      • Jonia

        Ohhhhh, I like that! Thanks for that great tip about the cling wrap :)

  • cheryl

    You are hilarious, AND crafty. Nice job!

  • Krëg

    Ha! Cracking up about the harp. That looks like just as big of an unnecessary pain-in-the-a$$ to un-tape as it was to tape.

    I should do a DIY entry about painting a baby’s room. Except I’m too busy painting a baby’s room.

  • Gin

    JESUS GOD, get that lamp away from the edge of that table. Also, you should know that I don’t even really like yellow, but I am blowing kisses at that lamp. Good job, lady.

  • Midwest Mommy

    Impressed doesn’t even describe how I am feeling right now.

  • Winn

    Hey! You moved! I missed, like, a whole week of your posts because you moved and my blogroll totally didn’t keep up. I know who to blame….

    So, that’s a pretty sweet job on that lamp. What are you going to start the bidding on that? I’ll give you $10. I need lamps desperately, but hate lamp shopping. Seriously. Probably even more than you guys. ;)

  • Jodie in MN

    I love it! Now I need to change my plans for tomorrow so that I can hit up the local thrift stores and have a lamp of my own.

  • MODG

    Dude. I am the best lamp painter ever. Next time ASK ME. But you did an amaze balls job. I love it.

  • ysq

    Here’s what I am trying to wrap my mind around. You went to thrift stores – plural – and only bought one thing? I do not understand. I didn’t think that was physically possible.

  • Cyrene

    Awesome job! But I have to question the wisdom of putting it on the edge of the table. Unless you are looking for an excuse to do that all over again? LOL. ;)

  • kim

    Nice job, DIYer!

  • Carrie

    Supersweet job! Thanks for documenting and sharing, your productiveness (productivity? whatev) has inspired me to get on a couple home-things I’ve been putting off myself… (oh and amazing armoire in the background!)

  • Sara

    Um, hello. That lamp is dope. I showed this post to my husband, who said: “That’s a nice lamp. We should get a new lamp. We don’t have enough lamps in this house.”

    So, WIN for you AND me.

  • beachbungalow8

    love that you’re using your jadeite bowl as a dirty water dish. I’m always screaming at everyone to be careful with mine.

  • jen

    haha you just made my night! I’ve been on the prowl for the perfect mustard yellow lamp, found a lamp the perfect shape, but it’s orange. Thought about buying it and painting it the color I wanted, but it wasn’t until i read your post that I was totally convinced! Thanks for the hilarious and super entertaining “how to” advice!

  • Jenny

    I was looking for ideas for painting a few lamps we have in our shop and came across your blog. I’m going to share it on my page. Great job on the lamp, hope you moved it from the edge of the table.

  • Beth

    Amazing step-by-step instructions! I almost peed myself from giggling to hard when reading it haha! THANKS!!~ :)

  • Terri

    Wow. Yours was the first googled site for painting a ceramic lamp. Low and behold, exactly what I was looking for! Funny thing is, I have the same lamps I want to paint for a patio project. Now the question of all questions, what to paint those suckers. Since you’ve help me master the painting part, now it’s time to choose a color. Thanks for the info and the humor. BTW this is the first time I’ve ever enjoyed the content so much I had to comment.

  • Kirsten

    Love it! So funny and sounds exactly like how my DIY projects go!!:)

  • suzan

    I have to say that this has to be my absolute favorite tutorial – Ever! You made my day! Oh, and great job!!

  • Chris Barley-Crago

    hahaha! This was us (me and my toddler) today~
    – shopping at thrift stores, found perfect lamp $9.99
    – Two problems, wrong color and bad cord
    – Nap time, no time to stop at hardware store after debating…hmmm can we do one more stop?? No, home for nap!
    – Me, google search (how to replace a lamp cord)…found it, easy…I hope, thank you to the youtube guy!!
    – Google search (how to paint a ceramic lamp)…found it, thank you!!My hubby thanks you!
    Now, tick tock…wake up, I want to start this project!!:)

  • New Homer

    Awesome post!!! I went to a thrift store for the first time ever and left with two ceramic lamps, a beautiful wooden vanity for my 14 yr old, and a sofa set. I’m DIY crazy right now…and loving it! Painitng my lamps this weekend. Thanks!

  • amy

    I should have gone to bed hours ago. Sooooo glad I didn’t. Best laugh this week. But now, I’ll be up the rest of the night wondering if I’m funny enough.

  • Cissy

    I was looking online to see if anyone had spray-painted a ceramic lamp and found the account of your foray into this realm. The story was quite entertaining and I love your finished lamp. Thanks for posting it.

  • Linda @ My Crafty Home Life

    Totally entertaining. It looks great, too.

  • Vicki

    I googled how to spray paint lamps and just found your story. It was wonderfully entertaining. I’ve discovered patience and a sense of humor are requirements for any DIY project. It’s strange to have just read this and then realized that you’ve been enjoying that lamp for more than two years. Your lamp turned out beautifully….Well done.

  • Renee

    Just wanted to help out anybody else that may read this.. instead of taking the harp and components off or taping it all up like that, wrap a plastic bag around it and just tape the bottom. Thanks for the post though!! :-)

    • Jonia

      Awesomesauce!! A truly great tip – thanks!!!

  • Rachel

    I’m a new blogger, and working on re-doing my living space. I found an old lamp and googled how to refurbish that shitty old thing. Your blog was the first that came up. THANKS SO MUCH FOR DOING THIS. SO AWESOME.. exactly what I needed. I will definitely be featuring your how-to in my blog.

  • Erika

    LOVE it. Can’t wait to get started on mine. Did you take the harp off? Most new lamp shades that I’ve seen at stores do not use a harp! I took mine off and it seems to fit on there just fine without one.

  • Beverly Hayes

    Loved your tutorial. So funny! I am off to painting my thrift find exactly that same color!

  • Huckleberry

    I’m about to paint two ceramic lamps and googled “how to” and came up with your post! Thanks for the laugh, the “how to” and the “how not”. Mine’ll be awesome too!

  • Rachel | 52 Weeks Project

    You are hilarious and awesome. The lamp looks great!
    Rachel | 52 Weeks Project recently posted..Inspiration of the Week: TrianglesMy Profile

  • JOY


  • Gaby

    I loooooooooooooved reading your lamp story! Thank you for making it ao much fun.


  • Jonia

    H.i.l.a.r.i.o.u.s.!! Great info, super funny :)

  • courtney

    Not since I read the review on GoodReads about 50 Shades of Grey have I laughed so hard at a blog entry.

    If only all DIYs could be this funny and easy to follow. And I should know just spent 5 full days making a huge concrete planter that was supposed to be a cinch. All I can say is that person’s nose is growing from that tall tale and my loving husband was making a mental list on dividing our assets. Haha

    Thanks for the chuckle and tips you have a new follower in me. :D

  • gg

    This is great! Picking paint color is always the hardest part for me. I saw the summer squash color at the store and kept gravitating to it but went home with nothing. Now after seeing it on your lamp I’m headed right back to buy it. I love it!

  • Vicky

    This is the most hilarious tutorial I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Please write a book about something so you can share your incredible sense of humor with the world. Also – the lamp is fire.

  • Dawn

    Very funny and helpful at the same time. Great job !! thank you !!



  • Dee

    Loved your explanation!!!! Hope to read all your other entries.

  • stella

    Sounds like my crafting days too!
    Brilliant blog and just what i was looking for to transform some ceramic candlesticks.
    stella recently posted..Cycling with Eggs!My Profile

  • Mia

    Lovely. Just lovely. Nice way to articulate all those ‘major’ projects we get obsessed by – and the distractions we find on the way.

    Love this


  • Emma

    Your lamp is wonderful, and your write-up inspiring and funny. Thank you.

  • Lindsey

    This is hilarious, and straight forward. You have perfectly described my day, up to the driving-to-the-hardware part because I’m still stuck exploring the internetz and thinking about my hideous peeled-paint lamp.

  • Lynn

    Never laughed so hard in my life, particularly re snake & squirrel! You are one funny & talented woman – thanks for the info!!!!!

  • Deborah Moody

    Your website is the most entertaining and REAL home decor site I have visited in a long, long time. Thanks for taking me from the mundane to the sublime.

  • wendy

    I have NEVER NEVER EVER thoroughly read instructions! Until now:) this lady should have her own show! Informative AND entertaining! TOGETHER?!?? Wow! Thank u!

  • Robyn

    Reading this was informational and also made me feel like we’d be great friends in another life. Your sense of humor is spot on with mine, right down to the banter with your husband. In short, you sound awesome. Keep up the good work. I’m off to try this out with a ceramic canister set my mother forced upon me (which belonged to my 89 year old gma)
    Me: “Oh….sweet….they have apples on them! Very vintage. You have the matching apple clock too?! Get out! No, no, we don’t have to search for the apple spoon holder, I already have one.”
    Wish me luck

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