Oh My Lampa!

October 6, 2011  —  Written by Julia Marcum 

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Befores, afters, mood boards, plans, failures, wins. We’ve done a lot of projects, and they’re all here. 

We have a long-standing relationship with DIY, and love rolling our sleeves up and making it happen. 

Even when you don’t want to rip down a wall, you can make that space in your home better. Right now.

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I normally wait until the end of the post to give you before and after pictures, but I did a pretty in depth overhaul of these lamps and I would hate to keep you waiting as I babble on about how to make a lampshade and dye fabric to create an ombre effect and put it all together again.  ‘Cause I’m gonna.  And I know you would just scroll to the end anyhow.
Without further ado.  The Before:

And the After:

The lamps were, dare I say, hideous.  When I first introduced our lamps, Chris and most of you were scared at the thought of putting these suckers in our bedroom.  But the oversized table lamps were free, thanks to a friend who was throwing them out–and I just couldn’t pass on them since lamps can easily run over $100 each.  I loved the height and the potential and the challenge and I just went for it.  First, I did the only thing I for sure knew how to do.

Spray paint those bases.  Rustoleum’s Oil-Rubbed Bronze with the primer built in.  Of course I had to wipe off all the cob webs and dust first.

While the spray paint dried, I took apart the lampshades.  They weren’t going to work.  I liked the large drum shade (the one on the right in the above pictures) but it was so dingy yellow.

And the other one was just a bunch of ribbons wrapped around the shade skeleton.  Taking apart the shades was easy.  However, it took me 2 days to figure out how I was going to build new ones.

During those 2 days of thinking and troubleshooting and searching for supplies at Home Depot (I had to look at everything in a completely different way), I tackled dyeing fabric to cover the shades that I hadn’t made yet–which I had never done before.  I wanted an ombre effect and it wasn’t that hard.

I picked up some RIT dye in teal and just followed the instructions on the box–don’t forget the salt!  I used our big pot and just heated up the mixture on the stove until it was really hot, but not boiling.  I found 118″ width 100% cotton muslin at JoAnns for $5.99 a yard, and I had a coupon.  I got 3/4 of a yard which would become the height of the shades and those 118″ would wrap around both shades with plenty to spare.

To create the ombre effect, I got my fabric wet and rung it out.  I wanted the top portion to remain white, so I dipped all of the fabric in the dye besides the top 8 inches or so very quickly and pulled it out.  Then I moved down 5 inches and dipped it and left it in a little longer.  And repeat.  Continuing moving down the fabric.  The darkest portion of the fabric was probably in the dye a good 10 minutes total.  After I finished dipping, I rinsed it out in the sink with cool water until the water ran clear and then put it in the wash on a rinse only cold cycle.  On the box it says to wash it with a mild detergent, but I didn’t want to lose any color and since we aren’t going to be wearing and washing our lampshades, I felt it okay to skip the detergent.  Then I put it in the dryer.

And now it was time to figure out how to build a lampshade.  The original top and bottom rings of the lamps were not equal, so it created a sloping shade and I really wanted drum shades.  TALL drum shades.  I have yet to find drum shades that are 20″+ online anywhere.  But I did find some 18″ tall ones and they were $75 a piece.  Nuh uh.  Not gonna work.  I took the top sides that had all the spokes and connection circle to screw back on the lamp and decided to just build a matching bottom circle for support.  Here’s where I had to put on my creative glasses and figure out what I could use to make two custom circles that would be strong enough to keep their shape but flexible enough to bend into a circle.   Long story search short:  water line insulators.  They are narrow, bendable, strong tubes.  I also picked up a long dowel (the big dowels come in various sizes) to cut into 2 small dowels that would fit snugly into each of my insulators-turned-supports.

To make sure the bottom ring was exactly the same width as the top ring, I wrapped some masking tape around the top ring and then just transferred it to my insulator to make the cut.  This is my favorite way of measuring.

Once cut (the insulator and the dowel), I slid the dowel into one side of the insulator and put a little bit of glue on the dowel and stuck it in the other side.  It was so snug and took some effort, but it also assured me it was woorrrkkiinngggg.

I was left with a pair of drum shade supports:

I used standard poster board for the shade (underneath the fabric).  22″x28″ is the standard size and I would need two sheets for each shade (although one shade is smaller, 28 inches still isn’t close to enough for the circumference).  As for the 22″ height, I didn’t want to risk my edges being uneven, so I just made that the height of my shade.  Easy peasy.  To connect the two sheets of poster board, I used rubber cement, which when used properly is truly like cement.

For the strongest hold, put a thin coat of glue on each connecting side.  Wait a couple minutes for it to be tacky to the touch and then bond the sides.  It ain’t goin anywhere.

I used my tape trick again to measure how long I needed the poster board and fabric to be and added a half inch for an overlap to connect the ends.  And then it was time to adhere the fabric to the poster using spray adhesive.

I started at the edge and sprayed some on and then smoothed my fabric over it.  Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.  This was awesome because even though I ironed the fabric, this made it so so smooth because every part was glued down. After the fabric was attached, I trimmed the top and bottom of the fabric to a 1/2″ excess on each side and folded it down and glued in to the backside of the shade.

And then I just used a glue gun to attach the rings to the top and bottom.

Whew!  Done.  The hardest part of this process was figuring out how I was going to execute it.  I had a very clear image of what I wanted these lamps to look like, and I am so pleased with the outcome.  They aren’t perfect.  The bases are different and the width of the shades aren’t the same, but I unified them with the same shade height and ombre effect and matching shiny, moody, rich spray paint on the bases.  And the imperfections  differences kinda keep things interesting.  The whole project cost about $15 and I gave new life to these lamps.

And that’s the story of how I transformed these:

Into these:

What do you think?

  1. Jean says:

    I love your wall color. What paint color did you use?

  2. KBClogger says:

    i knew you would do me proud with the lamps we ALMOST threw out! thank you Grandma Shirley… WOW you never cease to amaze me with your talents… these lamps look absolutely incredible. and I cant wait to see them in person. Hoping we will make it to your party on Friday! ♥ ♥ ♥ them~!

  3. Shellie says:

    WOW, totally amazing!

    You should email that to John & Sherry at Young House Love. Seems like something they would totally be amazed by and feature!

    You are so creative and I just love your blog!

  4. You never cease to amaze me Julie, most of the time I’m reading through with really squinty eyes thinking things like “What the hell is RIT dye?” Truly gifted.

  5. Buckeye1701 says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I needed to redo a lampshade but couldn’t figure out what to attach the fabric to. (The old shade was destoryed when I tried to remove the fabric) Your lamps look great! I never would have thought of dying the fabric.

  6. Hahaha. We got the bed 3 years ago at furniture row. They still sell it: http://www.furniturerow.com/BedroomExpressions/Que-Bedroom-Group/Que-King-Platform-Bed/prod530988/

    We recently revamped it with a fresh coat of paint: http://chrislovesjulia.blogspot.com/2011/09/lighten-up.html

    Hope it helps!

  7. Marissa says:

    Can you tell me where you got your headboard?! I showed your lamps to my boyfriend, and he pointed out the bed! Men.

  8. Love it! The Ombre effect turned out great! Super impressed. :)

  9. Kristina says:

    beautiful! The whole room looks great.

  10. great job!!! those turned out fabulous!!

  11. Steph says:

    Love it Jules. Perfect splash of color to add to the room!

  12. Mama23boys says:

    Wow! What a difference and I can’t believe you made your own lampshades!

  13. These turned out wonderfully. I hate to say this but I actually didn’t hate how the lamp on the right originally looked (crystal ball and all), but I do think it looks much better now. I love the ombre look of the shades. I can’t wait to see what you do to bring in more blues & teals!

  14. Thanks Shellie. I think I will email it over.

  15. Our room is definitely getting to the point where it is a place I feel relaxed in. As for above the bed–I can’t wait to see what I think up too! Hahaha

  16. Patty says:

    This is out of this world! CRAZY BEAUTIFUL!

  17. WOW! Fabulous makeover. I love the turquoise shade you made. Its my favorite colour, so of course that’s what I zero in on!

  18. Oh my goodness! These look so great! I can’t believe it only cost you $15! I will definitely keep this in mind as I search from some shades for my lamps. :) love them!

  19. Meagan says:

    OOOoooooooooooOOOOOOOOOooooooo SO dreamy!!! That color. So beautiful! I can’t wait to see what you decide for over the bed and also, if you are, more pops of that teal! So pretty. Do you love sitting in your room and reading???

    Still in love with those nightstands. You guys hit a home run for SURE!

  20. Barbara says:

    I LOVE your pillows!! Did you DIY them, or buy them?!

  21. Cecedreams says:

    I am very impressed with the ingenuity of this project. Great tutorial as well….

  22. Kathy Brenden says:

    I love the trick for getting the bottom of the shade to line up perfectly with the top ring – with no slant. Very creative. I see nearly perfect – but not quite – shades all the time. You can bet I’ll be using your trick! Lovely!

  23. Marian says:

    AMAZING! And what a neato idea for the shades! Bravo!

  24. {twenty}something says:

    Thanks for the tutorial!!! I can’t wait to try this. It looks so good!

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We believe we should all love where we live.

We’re a couple of homebodies, working to uncover the home our home wants to be. And we’re so happy to have you here. 

HI! We're Chris + Julia

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