$10 Thrifted Lamp Makeover with Chalk Paint!

Thrift Store Lamp Makeover

Easy Weekend Brass Thrift Store Lamp Makeover!

I have been on a roll lately. Just knocking projects out left and right! And it feels so good to mark projects off the never-ending, hundred mile long to do list. Not to mention getting to see a little extra garage space which makes Jeremy happy. I always wonder (after completing a project) why I waited so long to do it.

You may remember me talking about our 10 year wedding anniversary where we spent a weekend antique and thrift store shopping. (If not, you can read about all about it here.) This pair of brass lamps was literally something I found in the last row at the last store we went to. Like, we had to take the shades off to get them to fit in our car. I almost didn’t buy them for that reason.

But, I’m so happy we made them fit!

Here’s what they looked like before in all their brass glory:

Thrift Store Lamp Makeover- Before

Ok, so they aren’t an exact pair. But the shape and size of them are very similar. Once they’re painted the same color you won’t even notice the differences.

I love how one of them is more feminine looking and the other is more masculine. Perfect for a master bedroom. The one on the right will go on my nightstand and the one on the left on Jeremy’s.

And here’s the after.

Lamp Makeover with Chalk Paint

This project was soooo easy. And it only took a few hours. (Which somehow I managed to stretch out over 3 weekends.) But a normal person without ADD and with a little spare time could completely do it in a weekend.

How To Makeover a Thrifted Brass Table Lamp:

Time: 2-3 hours

Difficulty: Really Easy!

Supplies Needed:

(This post contains affiliate links. To read my full disclosure click here.)

  • Old Brass Lamp
  • Annie Sloan Chalk Paint: I used the color Coco. (I can’t vouch for any other brands on this project. Annie Sloan is pricey, but it’s the best IMO.)
  • Angled 2 inch paint brush (good quality) Click here.
  • Annie Sloan Dark Wax (or can use clear. Totally your preference.)
  • Wax Brush- I used this one here with fantastic results. I highly recommend investing in a good wax brush. It makes all the difference in the finished product.
  • Old rag or blue shop towels. Find them here.

Step 1: Clean well!

This step is pretty much self explanatory. I cleaned off the gunk left from the price stickers, gave it a really good wipe down, and let it dry.

Step 2: Give a light coat of chalk paint.

With Annie Sloan chalk paint I only have to do 2 thin coats. I’ve tried using the cheaper stuff but found I have to do like 5 or 6 thin coats and the results are not that great.

So my two cents is: Just invest in the good stuff. This is my second project using this same can of chalk paint. The first project was a dining table makeover that we use downstairs in our basement as a craft/ game table with two leaf extensions. This stuff goes a long way.

I, personally, just paint with chalk paint like I would any other types of paint. I’ve seen tutorials where people use a special brush for it and have their own techniques for applying it. There is no wrong way to do it, just get in there and figure out what works for you. I’ve found I get really good results using a high quality angled brush like I would use for any other home painting project.

If you’ve never used chalk paint before, it does have a different consistency than normal paint. It will look like this going on:

Thrift Store Lamp Makeover

Don’t be alarmed. Just keep going, applying a thin, even coat. You definitely don’t want to glop it all on there. It will give you a messy finish, trust me. I’ve learned this lesson the hard way.

The good thing about chalk paint is how quickly it dries. Since I was painting two lamps for our bedroom, by the time I got one coat on both of them, they were already ready for a second coat.

First lamp after one coat.
Coat one for second lamp.

Step 3: Apply a second light coat of chalk paint.

Just repeat what you did on the first coat. Make sure any detail work is fully covered.

Tip: I have to sometimes make a “stabbing” motion with my paintbrush to get the bristles of my brush down into all the grooves on really ornate pieces. Basically, just take your hand holding the paintbrush and make short jabbing motions to get the paint down into the grooves.

Here’s what it should look like after the second coat. Now you’re ready for wax!

First lamp, second coat.
Second lamp, second coat.

(Note: This is where you would apply any distressing techniques to your project. You want to do it before the waxing step which acts like a sealer to the paint. I chose not to distress my lamps so I skipped this step. You could use a sanding block and lightly “rough up” any spots that would naturally take a beating over the years.)

Step 4: Apply Dark Wax To Seal the Lamps

I love how applying the dark wax to my projects gives them an instant antique-y feel. If an antique feel is not what you’re going for, I would definitely use the clear wax. It dries clear like the name implies and doesn’t make any changes to the actual color of the paint like the dark wax sometimes can.

Tip: Also worth noting the clear wax is much more forgiving so it may be the best type to use if this is your first project.

Here’s what I used for this project.

When you open the lid, it looks a little scary.

Don’t be afraid. Take your special wax brush and scoop some onto your bristles. Again, less is more. Especially with this dark wax. One little dab of my brush could easily do half this lamp.

So, you want to just dab it on your lamp. It dries pretty fast so work in small sections at a time.

After applying dark wax to the middle section.

Once you get a good coverage on, wipe off the excess in that area. I used an old lint free rag. Blue shop towels would also work great for this step. Once you start to notice that your rag or shop towel is getting covered in excess wax, move on to a new, clean area. This just ensures you keep truly wiping the excess off, not just smearing it around. It’s much like wiping off excess stain.

This is what it will look like after excess wax is wiped off.

You can see how the middle of the lamp now has sort of a glazed look to it. And if you run your hand over the waxed part of the lamp, it should have a smooth finish to it. If it feels tacky at all, keep wiping.

Then, just repeat these steps for the rest of the lamp.

Thrift Store Lamp Makeover

After you’ve completed the project, you can look to see if there are any areas that need a little more. I went back and applied more wax to the detail work of my first lamp. It adds such a great depth and dimension to the finished project.

And here’s the process for the second lamp.

You can really see the full effect of the wax here. The lamp on the left does not have any wax yet. The lamp on the right has already been waxed. Look at the difference in the depth of the paint and how all those ornate details pop out at you.

Again, apply wax in small sections.

And then wipe off excess.

Repeat until the whole lamp is covered.

Here’s a little real life shot for you taken by my four year old.

And… The After!

Thrift Store Lamp Makeover
Thrift Store Lamp Makeover
Thrift Store Lamp Makeover

I still need to figure out what to do about shades. The one you see in the above pictures is what came with one of the lamps. And even though in far away pictures it looks ok, up close in person it looks pretty dingy. I do know I want to find something to mimic the shape and scale of it for both lamps because I love the large scale of it.

If you like my headboard, you can find the full tutorial on how Jeremy made it here.

If you want to save this project for later, you can pin it here:

Thrift Store Lamp Makeover

Thanks for stopping by! I hope you found some inspiration here!


You may also wanna check out these other flea market flips:

Dining Table to Coffee Table Makeover: click here!

My Favorite Flea Market Finds (Including a mirror for $3.49!) Find it here.

Or this Yard Sale Wooden Chair Makeover here!


  1. says

    This is too nifty! I love it, it gives me more ideas on how to repurpose an old lamp from a thift store. I always envy the people that have that natural ability to do such clever things like you. Nice step by step post!

    • lifeonlakestreet says

      Thank you! You really should try it! So much cheaper (and probably better quality) than a brand new lamp!

  2. Jan says

    The idea to reuse and upcycle older lamps is great. I like the new finish on the lamps very much – it’s subtle and gorgeous. But the shade… That appears to be the kind of proportion that was used back in the 1960s or 1970s – with the lamp shade as tall or nearly as tall as the body of the lamp itself! The proportions are way off for today’s eye. I would try out a shorter “harp” – even a few inches will lower a shade down to shrink the height of the lamp a bit. According to what I’ve read, the shade height should be about 1/3rd the total height of the lamp (including the harp).

  3. Gracie Redfield says

    Lovely upcycle! Near-instant gratification for a job well-done!
    I love upcycling lamps—there isn`t a single lamp in my home that is new—just renewed. I generally change out the wiring and socket, because I`ve found that the socket gets the most wear. I also re-felt the underside of the base, to prevent scratches on the furniture.

  4. says

    These lamps really turned out great! They almost kind of look like wood which I love! That chalk paint and dark wax really transformed this. I am excited to go thrifting again to use these tips to transform brass myself. Thank you.

  5. says

    These lamps turned out great! What a good idea to reuse lamps from thrift finds. I love the antique look from the wax. I might have to hunt out some old lamps now too.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.