How to Recycle Old Lamps

by Oeda on March 7, 2010

I’ve always thought that no room is complete without a nice lamp and a beautiful painting. Fortunately I have four very creative kids, who produce lots of beautiful paintings for me.

But buying really nice lamps can be expensive and it’s often difficult to find exactly what you want. They can often be a bit clinical-looking and lacking in personality.

So, when my daughter Jaz and I went to London for the day, we ended up in two of our favourite shops, Designers Guild and Cath Kidston, and in one of them (I can’t remember which) we saw a gorgeous lamp I absolutely loved but it was very expensive.

“No worries Mum”, said Jaz with the optimism of her youth, “we can create something even better than that!”

Now, Jaz absolutely loves going to boot fairs, markets and charity shops. Every weekend in the summer, she gets up at the crack of dawn (usually after having been out late!) to scour the local markets and boot fairs to find anything of interest. She has a really good eye for things and always finds loads of good bits and bobs.

Anyway, after seeing that expensive lamp in London, on her next trip to a boot sale she came home with an old dusty-looking, neglected lamp that she managed to buy for just a pound. It didn’t look like much when she brought it home, but she ran up to her bedroom, found some scraps of material, pinned them on the shade to give me an idea of what it could look like and that’s when the penny dropped!

It all started from there.

What You Need to Make a Tatty Old Lamp Look Great.

First of all you need a lamp that works. Always check the lamps by plugging them in and switching them on. You will want a lamp with a good shape, something that appeals to you or that obviously has potential. The base is sometimes already nice but if not, there are various things you can do to improve it.

If it’s a wooden base you can paint it and for this you will need some paints and brushes. I like bright colours and I also like to use whatever I already have in my paint cupboard. That’s one of the fun parts of recycling, using whatever you can find! For ceramic bases, you can buy ceramic spray paint. Not all spray paints work on ceramics so check on the can to make sure that it does. This can be a bit of a pain because the writing on the cans these days is often so tiny (or is it just my eyesight that’s going?).

Although there are all sorts of good paints for sale these days, they can be expensive and the key here is try to keep costs down. So try to avoid spending a fortune on paints.  Another technique you can use is to stick some bits of wrapping paper on the base with good PVA glue, then varnish over it with a clear varnish. This gives it a good protective finish.

I like to use PVA craft glue for both the base and the shade.

For the lamp shade itself, it’s best if you choose one that is light-coloured, otherwise with the additional material that you are going to add, the light won’t shine through very well. If the shade is dirty, just sponge it down with a bit of water and washing-up liquid and leave it to air dry (don’t put it in the tumble-dryer!)

If your shade has lots of yukky, tatty tassels and/or ribbons around it, don’t hesitate to just rip them all off, so that you are left with a plain starting point. Also if you have bought a base you like but are not too keen on the shade, don’t panic, just find yourself another shade! You’d be surprised when you start looking how many poor, lonely, discarded shades you can find in charity shops, on bootsales and in second hand stores. Personally, I love the YMCA charity shop as they have loads of good lamps for only a few pounds that have been checked (so you know they work) and you have the satisfaction of knowing you’ve done a good deed by giving money to a good cause.

So now you have your plain shade, the last thing you will need to find is a range of light materials. These have to be thin cotton to allow the light to shine through well. The first time I recycled one of these lamps, I made the mistake of using some darker, heavier materials and ended up with a very patchy result that wasn’t a complete disaster, but didn’t work as well as my more recent ones where I’ve been using lighter cloth.

Putting it All Together

First, you need to iron your materials and cut them into squares and rectangles of various sizes with pinking scissors to prevent fraying. Then take each piece of material and one by one, cover the reverse side with PVA glue, stick it on the lampshade, smooth it out really well with your thumbs and then move on to the next piece. As you progress with covering the lamp, you might want to cut some of the pieces of material down to size, to fit well into the remaining gaps.

Try not to overlap too much but do make sure you cover the whole thing. Personally, I do it quite haphazardly as I like the careless look. Jaz likes to think a bit more about it and does it a little more neatly. Both ways are fine and you can actually do it however you like. Let your personality come through!

Once you have covered your lamp with the scraps of material, you can buy some nice edgings or fringes from a haberdashers store of from a local market stall. There are usually many colours and styles to choose from. Then for a finishing touch, stick these to the top and bottom (or just the bottom) of your lampshade with the PVA glue. You might need an extra pair of hands to help here, to make sure the edging is all lined up correctly while you’re sticking it on.

And voila, you have your own home-made piece of unique art that cost you no more than a few pounds and looks just as good as lamps from designer stores costing 10, 20, even 50 times more!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Scouser in Kent March 8, 2010 at 12:52 pm

I’ve seen these beautiful lamps ‘in the flesh’, so to speak. Oeda is a very talented lady and I would recommend her designer lamps to anyone with an eye for the unusual. Go to specialist shops in London, Paris or New York and you won’t find anything better. Or more individual. These lamps are elegant, they’re classy and they’re a real credit to Oeda and her art student daughter Jaz. Well worth investigating, I’d say…

Sarah from Chichester March 11, 2010 at 10:56 am

I love these gorgeous lamps. I love the idea that they are recycled and Oeda is so talented to turn them into such stunning pieces. I can’t wait to see how Oeda transforms my lamp for my dining room – I’m so excited to see it!! She makes each one a true unique and oringinal work of colourful art – a beautiful one off in your home.

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