How many of us have lamps in our homes or offices that are solely functional and almost unnoticeable except when turned on or off? When decorating, we often consider art just being for the walls.  However, with a little vision and some creativity, you can easily transform an old or generic lamp into a bright, eye-catching functional work of art that reflects your personality or those whose space it will brighten up.  This conversation piece will get you singing that song, “You Light Up My Life!”

Ability level: Moderate
Age Level:  Teenagers & Adults
Items needed:
  • Lamps
  • Baskets, hats, colanders or items to turn into lamp shades
  • Spray Paint
  • Painter’s Tape
  • Screwdriver
  • Scissors
  • Glue gun & glue sticks (or a tube of other all-purpose glue such as Goop)
  • Optional items to accessorize (beads, plastic toys, ribbon)
Time requirement: Three hours per lamp, not including paint and glue drying time
Cost:  Approximately $25 to $30 each, based on size
  • $6 to 10 per lamp
  • $3 to 9 per hat, colander or basket
  • $5 for spray paint
  • $5 for painter’s tape
  • $1 for glue sticks
  • $1 for accessorizing items



Step 1:  There’s Light at the End of the Tunnel

Every Goodwill Retail Store has lamps and lighting fixtures at remarkably great prices when you compare to those options sold at a department store.  When hunting, consider lamp bases that will complement the transformed look you are desiring.  For example, a sleek metal base is perfect to pair with a colander as its shade; a base with more details works well when paired with a woman’s dress hat.  No matter your choice, look for one that has a “harp” included…the part that goes from the top of the lamp around the light and up to the shade.  The harp makes a great foundation to support a transformed shade.

Step 2:  Get Shady: Think Outside the Box

To make your lamp truly unique, consider what items could be given a new purpose as a fun and funky lamp shade.  Hats, pots, colanders, baskets, and other such things will help your piece to make the statement that this is no ordinary light fixture.  However, sometimes, it might be best to keep it simple.  For one of the transformed lamps with the plastic dinosaurs, I tried a variety of choices and opted for a “real” lampshade because it didn’t compete with the fun toy accessories.


Step 3:  Pull out your Painter’s Tape

First, use your painter’s tape to cover the top fixture, then wrap up the cord using a rubber band or string and tie on a plastic bag.  Next, use the painter’s tape to cover the area where the cord comes out of the base of the lamp. Based on the look or design of your lamp base, you might want to cover parts of it with painter’s tape, too.  I covered the marble base of one lamp with painter’s tape during my project.


Step 4:  Time to Add Personality
If you want your accessory items to be painted to match the overall look, then grab your glue gun (or tube of Goop).  Glue your items (in one case, the plastic dinosaurs) to the lamp base.  You also could use puzzle pieces, sea shells, doll shoes, dominos or other items that will look like a part of the base when painted.


Step 5: Spray on Style
In a well-ventilated area and on a drop cloth or newspapers, place your taped-up lamp.  Spray paint lightly knowing you will give it several light layers to cover it with. A heavy coat can cause unattractive drips or running.  After one coat, let it dry for several hours.  For the second and third coats, be sure to get all sides so you might have to turn the base from side to side.
For the lamp with the black hat, I took some old, small silk flowers and painted silver and black to match the color scheme. You may even consider painting your finials (the piece that secures the lampshade to the harp).
If you’re using a colander or basket as your shade and want to give it a punch of color, now is the time do so, too.  Make sure you get all sides so spray the paint from a variety of angles.
Once done with painting, let your base and other items dry thoroughly for 6-12 hours before proceeding to the next step.

Step 6: Removing Tape Reveals New Look

After your spray-painted base and other parts have dried thoroughly, carefully remove the painter’s tape to unveil its new look.  If you stopped here at this step and only spray painted the base of an old lamp with some interesting color choice, your lamp will have an immediate new life.  However, keep going to take your piece from new to nifty! Consider adding ribbons or other items to add bling or visual appeal.   For the woman’s hat lamp, I added the newly painted black and silver flowers.  Some were glued to the base and to the hat to give it a cohesive, connected look.


Step 7:  Add the Shade

Now is the time to add icing on the cake: a new shade! As you are able to see in the photos, a cast-aside lady’s hat is proudly pretty as a shade.  An old colander stashed in the back of a kitchen cabinet, now struts its stuff as a crowd-pleaser shade.
Although I used a traditional lampshade for the Jurassic World-inspired lamp, I added a painted dinosaur to its top edge for a bit of whimsy.


Step 8: Turn on the Fun!

Once you have decided where your transformed lamp will go, I recommend using an LED lightbulb in it because they are cool to the touch and won’t impact the new shade or accessories.   So plug in, turn it on and get ready to enjoy your transformed, light-hearted lamp!