Before & After Bliss: An Oldie but a Goodie…

This post comes by request of my Mother-in-law and it is definitely an Oldie.  About a year ago I refinished two grody-rific lamps and documented my process (see, I was writing blog entries before I even thought to have one!).  They were the types of lamps that you somehow found yourself in possession of after neither your parents, your siblings, nor your red-headed cousin wanted them and they always ended up at your house – sort of like the ugly casserole dish your Mom is always trying to pawn off as an “expensive antique”, but c’mon – you know it’s really just something she found at a garage sale and now you’re stuck with it!


Ugly, no?  But I had already learned a few important lessons about lamps to know better than to throw them away:

  1. Lamps are expensive!!! Especially if the lamps each weigh 8 lbs apiece, then you *know* they were expensive at one time.  Seriously, these suckers are cast-brass and sooo heavy!  It’s like that line from Jurassic Park, “Are they heavy? Yes! Then they’re expensive, put’em down!”
  2. Lamps immediately can set a “mood” – lighting is key to any good room and lamps are the easiest way to bring in a “mood” to a room in a way that overhead lighting just simply can’t do.
  3. What you don’t like can always be changed! Of course, this doesn’t apply to the lamp below, but if it *is* an expensive import….

ugly lamp

So here’s one lesson that anybody conscious of their style (and budget!!!) should remember; Spray Paint is your best friend and it is cheap, cheap, CHEAP!  Remember how I saved oodles of $$ by spray-painting our knobs and towel racks? Who’s to say you can’t do the same thing with a couple of ugly lamps?  What’s even better is that you could take a few mismatched lamps and immediately tie them all together with the same color spray-paint.  Instant matched set!  But here is one tip I would recommend if you do plan on spray-painting your lamps – be sure to use primer first!!

So about a year ago, I was reading through Budget Decorating Magazine and I ran across a pretty simple technique to give a Mother-of-Pearl Effect to any type of surface (metal plates, picture frames, lamps, candlesticks, etc.).  Since I did not come up with this technique, nor can I find it anywhere online, I will re-produce the materials and techniques here for my readers just to show you how easy it is.  My notes are in italics:


  • Lamp
  • Soft Cloth
  • Flat Paintbrushes (3/4″ wide, 1/2″ wide)


  • All Surface Primer (L’s notes: I used a Spray version from Rust-Oleum)
  • Acrylic Paints: Plaid’s Apple Barrel “Satin Cream”, Plaid’s FolkArt “Metallic Champagne”, Deco Art Dazzling Metallics “Oyster Pearl”, and FolkArt “Metallic Pearl White” (L’s notes: found at Craft Stores and on that amazing invention – the interwebs).
  • Clear Acrylic Spray Sealer and/or Polyurethane Spray Sealer (L’s notes: found at the hardware or craft store)

The Technique:

  1. Remove shade from lamp; wipe lamp with soft cloth. (L’s notes: I would actually clean it with something wet to remove the dust and then let it dry)
  2. Apply Primer to base.  Let dry for 2 hours. (L’s notes:  this goes much smoother if you use a spray primer).
  3. Using 1/2″ brush and horizontal strokes, apply a light coat of Satin Cream paint to lamp base; let dry for two hours
  4. Using diagonal strokes, apply a light coat of Metallic Champagne paint, allowing previous color to show in some areas; let dry for two hours.
  5. Using vertical strokes, apply a coat of Oyster Pearl paint; let dry for two hours.
  6. Mix Oyster Pearl with Metallic Pearl White; use diagonal strokes to apply a coat of the mixed paint.  Using light strokes, apply another layer of mixed paint in some areas to create mottled mother-of-pearl effect.  Let dry for two hours.
  7. Apply one or two light coats of spray sealer to entire lamp base; let dry for at least one hour before replacing shade.

So there ya have it!  Oh, and here is the amazing after!  A pic I took last year with our old camera:

painting an ugly lamp

What a difference, huh?  And nowadays, those lamps sit in our Family Room, providing some much needed light and ambiance.  Who knew that they were DIY?

mother of pearl paint

This is a super easy project, though it does require a little bit of patience to get all completed, but the look is very authentic and expensive looking!  I’ve priced out similar lamps from Lenox and they cost around $400 – yikes!

I hope this was helpful!



4 thoughts on “Before & After Bliss: An Oldie but a Goodie…

  1. Hey! Those were my lamps and, yes, they were expensive. Though, not for me. AND, they were stylish……in 1988! Got them and the old trusty, Service Merchandise. They were discontinued and waaaaaay past clearance, so I paid a $5 donation, each, to MDA and they were mine. So now you have a background story.

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