How To Paint A Ceramic Lamp And Change Lives

posted by Zakary on September 13, 2010 | 67 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

    Comments
  • Patricia Hart


    This is the best tutorial I have ever read! I have tried to google/youtube etc tutorials and they LIE or else I can’t follow instructions (could be true) so please show more stuff like this. Off to paint my thrift-store lamps!

  • Anita O'Bryan


    I don’t remember ever making a comment on a tutorial before, but then I have never read one that made me as happy while teaching me something. I really needed the giggles tonight, AND, I now know how to make beautiful the ugly flea market lamps. Thank you

  • Deborah


    This had to be one of the most entertaining articles I have read. You are amazing and hope to see more of your work in the future. I have 2 really blah cream colored ginger jar lamps that i “want” to paint chrome – I figure I can give it a shot as they are destined for the trash or donation center. Thanks to your article I am going to give it a try.

  • Arlene


    Thank you for making me laugh, and I mean laugh to the point of almost falling out of my chair! I have the “most hideous” lamp very made, but now I know that I can make it “eye candy” for much less than a new one. Keep the laughs and stuff coming. You are truly gifted with instructions. Thanks.

  • Mary


    The story about the yellow lamp made my day. If she’s not already a writer, she should be. Oh yea, I’m so inspired and can’t wait to paint this horrible vase I’ve had since the 80’s. I spray painted it once (without prepping it) and the paint was peeling off and laying in the floor the next day. How embarrassing.

  • Gina


    I love you.

  • Sharron Wells


    What brand of spray paint makes the summer squash paint? I love that color!

  • Liana


    Funniest tutorial ever. Thanks!

  • Brenda


    First comment, and most probably last in response to any tutorial. Your wit inspired me, you deserve to be commended on your “realness”. You made me want to be real. Let’s all be real. I really want to make a lamp now…going to redo a toile lamp I got at a yardsale. Thanks. Hope you go viral, I mean that in a good way. :)

  • jane


    Oh I so love your tutorial. Sometimes I get bored when I am reading them but I didn’t get that way with yours, it just kept me laughing and laughing but through all the laughter I really did learn how to fix the lamp. You’re very talented keep it up.

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