Transformation: Update Brass Lamps


Last week I was a speaker at 2 sessions at the Haven conference in Atlanta. I spoke with two other bloggers, Brittany from Pretty Handy Girl and Mandy from Vintage Revivals.  Before each session we each told a little bit about ourselves and a description of our blog and style. I said that I am all about affordable and thrifty decor that I sometimes create using a different method other than the norm – a bit of improvising to get the look I desire on a dime.

The project I am posting today is one of these types of projects… where I use a method that isn’t mainstream DIY, but one that works all the same.

I have been making over my bedroom and needed to update the brass lamps. They are polished brass swing arm lamps – one on each side of the bed.

I like brass, but the polished brass on the lamps looked a bit dated.  The latest brass trends are slightly brushed and are not so yellow. My lamps were in perfect working order, so instead of buying new, I transformed them and didn’t even have to pick up a paint brush.

All I did was use sandpaper to remove the polished look.

How to Update Polished Brass to Brushed Brass without Paint:

supplies needed:  100 grit sandpaper  |  Hand sanding block

All I did was rub sandpaper over the surface in one direction only. This is very important. You don’t just want to rub the sandpaper any which way – only in one direction so the scratch marks resemble a brushed metal finish.  I used vertical strokes – long strokes on the flat parts and short strokes on the detailed areas.


After is on the left. Before on the right.

  • I kept the sandpaper flat and pressed hard so that it would leave long scratch marks in the surface of the brass.
  • To get brush/scratch marks into the crevices, I folded a small piece of sandpaper and ran in up and down the crevices.  I had to use a few folded pieces since the sandpaper wore out quickly
  • For the rounded areas, I used the sanding block and moved it like I was playing the violin around the arm and light bulb socket area.


Close up – After and before


For the cost of a sheet of sandpaper and 15 minutes of my time, my brass swing-arm lamps are updated. I know they are not perfect, but I don’t need perfect – I am very happy with how they came out.


Decorating Tip:  Swing-Arm lamps are perfect for bedtime reading since they don’t take up any space on your night table.  I also like that you can move them around to get just the right light no matter how you are sitting or lying on the bed.

Have you done any “improvised” projects lately?

Want to age brass?  Check out this post on how to do it.

How to age brass



Sharing with: Living Well Spending Less


    • says

      Hi Brittany – I enjoyed getting to partner with you on our session at Haven. The conference went by way too fast. Hope to see you again soon. Happy Weekend!

  1. Sheryll & Critters. says

    I love this look. I would have never thought this would look so great.

    Honestly, I did not think I wanted you to do an update on your lamps……… well, I loved them. I love shiny and gold toned…… boy did you prove me wrong. I secretly wanted wall lamps just exactly like yours, but could not afford them (they get rather pricey for sure). I just happened upon two close out ones at Lowes online and quickly paid for them and could not get them in my store, so I asked Steve if he would by any chance be working in Orange Park and stop and pick them up for me… he did. Mine are ORB though, but I am embracing them because they only cost $12 each. And I do have dark bronze window frames (would prefer white), but oh well.

    You are just so very clever!

  2. Monica green says

    I like your white slipcovers
    Where do you buy those? Or did you make them?

  3. Candie says

    Well, if I had only known you wanted the brushed look! I have these exact same lamps but they are brushed antique gold and I am going to make them silver. We could have traded.

  4. Marianne A. says

    Are these hard-wired? I don’t see a cord hanging in the photo of them on the wall, but in the other photos the cords showing…

    • says

      Hi Marianne – I always wanted them hardwired, but they are not. In the angle I took the first shot, the cord looked like it was sticking out of the shell on the top of the books, so I photoshopped it out. I would normally take another photo, but I was leaving to go on a trip and didn’t have time to take another, so I removed it. I wish it was that easy to do physically. :-) I am playing around with a way to hide the cords – if I have success, I will post about it.

      • Lois Tipton says

        Diane, I have had similar brass lamps for over 30 years…still bright brass, but I have enough brass hardware on two chests that makes it seem ok. And they have probably dulled some over the years. I have brass metal cord covers (less than one inch wide) over my cords but I can’t remember where I got them. It was before Lowe’s and HDepot were in my area so probably got them at a lighting and lamp store. There is a strip screwed to the wall and then the brass piece clips on to it over the cord. Lois

  5. lori says

    I have brass on my mirrored closet doors, its the frame about 2 inches with deep crevices. What can I do to update them. Spray paint seems to complex.

  6. Linda P says

    I have the same lamp..have had them for years and they need to be painted..they’re pitted..that I can do, but I can’t find replacement lamp shades..any idea where to look? Thanks!

  7. Linda Rae says

    What color is the wall? Where do I find all the colors in your house. I believe you posted it once. I just love your palette.

  8. Claire says

    Diane, I love what you did to the brass! I love brass too and am so happy that it is slowly coming back into fashion, albeit less shiny. I have picked up a few items at local Goodwill stores for incredible prices and pondered about removing the varnish. Thank you for sharing your discovery and method! I have a pair of “library lamps” in brass with the green glass shades, and a swing arm lamps, as well as a few planters and trays….

  9. says

    Wow Diane, such a subtle change yet a dramatic result. Love the new look. It really does make something old look new again even though it’s the same brass “color”. Would like to do that to some brass knobs. Do you think the finish will hold up well on cabinet door knobs?

    Great post. Thanks for sharing!


    • says

      Hi Elaine – I think it would hold up great on brass knobs since you are etching the surface, it is not going to go away – it is permanent. If it gets smooth from wear you could just sand over it again to deepen the brush marks.

  10. Kim says

    Thank you so much for sharing this idea. I would have never thought of it. I used this technique on a brass lamp that we were not using anymore because it was too bright of a brass and it worked great. I am now putting the lamp in our family room. Thanks again.

  11. Phyllis says

    I love this idea and the way your lamps turned out! Are they real brass or just brass-plated? Now I wish I hadn’t donated mine to the local thrift store, LOL! Do you think this idea might work well with brass-framed fireplace glass doors? I don’t think they are real brass. I was debating about painting them with high-heat spray paint, but if comes in very limited colors (only black and white, I believe!_) and this would be much, much easier–I wouldn’t even have to take them off the fireplace. What do you think?


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