Thrift Store Table Lamp Makeover

A thrift store table lamp makeover for $31 to look like one sold in decorating catalogs for $250.

I have been wanting a new table lamp for the console table behind my sofa, that has been in the room for the past few years.

I still like the table lamp and will use it in the foyer now that I switched out a small sideboard with a larger dresser in that space.

4 table lamps on display at a Pottery Barn store.

For the living room, I wanted a larger scale lamp, a handcrafted earthenware style with simple lines like these I recently found at Pottery Barn.

I love these table lamps, but not the $250 – $350 price tags.

Mcgee and Co white handcrafted ceramic lamp

I also love this table lamp from McGee & Co, but not for $350.

Thrift store lamp before getting made over
Table Lamp BEFORE Makeover

Instead, I searched for a thrift store table lamp in a similar scale and shape and found this one for $9. Not so pretty?

But with a little DIY, I transformed it to look more like the lamps currently being sold in decorating stores/catalogs.

DIY makeover of an ugly table lamp. After image of the newly transformed lamp on a sofa table.
Table Lamp AFTER Makeover

I couldn’t be happier with how my thrift store table lamp makeover turned out. I bought a new white lamp shade that brought the total cost of the makeover to $31!

How to Makeover a Thrift Store Table Lamp

Transforming a thrift store or any ugly table lamp to look more like a handcrafted textured ceramic or earthenware lamp is quite easy using lightweight Spackle.

The process was like icing a cake. It took about an hour of time actually working on it, but it won’t be complete for a day or two as you have to wait for drying time between coats.

The same technique I used for the lamp can be done on any object – like vases, jugs, planters and more.

Using regular Spackle would have made the lamp heavy to pick up.

supplies needed:

Time needed: 2 days

How to Transform a Thrift Store Lamp to Look Like It Came From a Decorating Catalog

  1. Prepare Surface

    Clean surface with detergent and hot water. Rinse well and let dry.

    Spray one light coat of spray primer on surface. Let dry.

    how to spray paint a lamp base

  2. Apply Spackle

    Using a Spackle knife, spread a thin coat of Spackling over the surface of the lamp making sure to get into any recessed areas.

    Let dry.
    Close up of spreading Spackle over base of thrift store lamp.

  3. Apply Another Coat of Spackle

    If needed, apply a second coat of Spackle to ensure there is an even coat over the entire surface.

    Let dry for about 20 minutes.

    Adding a layer of Spackle to a thrift store lamp to transform it so it looks like one from Pottery Barn

  4. Apply a Water Wash

    About 20 minutes after applying the second coat, dip a 2″ – 3″ wide paint brush in water. Lightly brush it over the Spackled surface to smooth out Spackle.

    Let dry.

    Brush water over Spackle to smooth it on lamp.

  5. Sand Surface

    When the surface is completely dry, use 220 grit sandpaper over the surface to smooth it and remove any ridges or bumpy areas.

    Sanding block to smooth spackle on lamp

  6. Optional – Add Felt Protector to Bottom of Base

    Cut a round piece of felt to fit the bottom of the base to use to protect your table.

    How to make a protective felt bottom for a table lamp

  7. Variations for the Finish

    I chose to keep my lamp mostly white to look like the lamp that inspired me from McGee & Co. This is only one variation you can do.

    I did not seal the finish, at least for now. If I do, I will use a matte or flat water-based sealer.

    You can add a thin layer of liquid glaze mixture with any color paint to make a transparent color finish. When this is rubbed into the surface and then wiped away, the nooks and crannies of the Spackled surface show up more.

    You can do the same thing with dark wax used to seal chalk paint or even shoe polish.

    Another zero cost option to use over the Spackled finish is to rub dirt, yes – dirt from your yard all over the surface to bring out the texture of the Spackled finish so it looks like a piece of earthenware.

    As you can see – there are many options. All are right – it just comes down to choosing the one that fits your own style.

DIY makeover of an ugly table lamp. After image of the newly transformed lamp on a sofa table.

With a container of $8 Spackle and about an hour of total time actually working on the lamp – the thrift store lamp makeover is complete.

DIY makeover of an ugly table lamp. After image of the newly transformed lamp on a sofa table.

Just the look I was after. :-)

I did one more thing to update this lamp to make it better – I will share that in an upcoming post. So stay tuned.

One more reason why I love thrift stores and DIYing. I get the decorator look I want at a fraction of the cost.

A few lamps that inspired my table lamp makeover:

Textured ceramic monochromatic table lamps that you can buy.

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

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DIY makeover of an ugly table lamp. After image of the newly transformed lamp on a sofa table. Text overlay says Thrift store lamp $8 makeover

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  1. Arnetta Gail Denton says:

    I love your decorating style. I am currently updating my 1970’s split foyer. We have lived here 47 years. Your thrifting ideas are inspiring. I love using painted furniture as accents, but my husband will not hear to it. So redoing mirror frames and using faux flowers and artwork for pops of color. He loves our dark paneling, so I use cream or white curtains. Bought light tan love seat and extra sized chair for living room and will use white pillows on it. I try to buy faux flowers that look real, and I have started doing the simple arrangements that can be taken apart and used on other occasions when the need arise. I usually buy from Hobby Lobby or Michaels. At the present Walmart has some nice faux flowers for $2.24 a stem roses, hydrangea, rose clusters and peonies mostly in pinks and white. This is a good price as most places charge $6.00 plus for this size stem and they do not look near as good as these. I check Walmart when getting prescriptions filled. I am so glad I signed up for your blog as I have learned so much in making decorating decisions and how to save a lot of money by doing it myself.

  2. Your DIY lamp looks fantastic! I’ve been searching for a way to update an old lamp I own and would love to try your method, hoping it will look as nice as yours. I do have one question or maybe it’s a concern. I noticed the light weight spackle you used is oil based, so I’m wondering if there will be an issue down the road if I use an acrylic or latex paint on top of the lamp to add some colors that I like.
    I love how your lamp looks, but I thought maybe I’d like to add a bit of blue/cream color using chalk paint. I enjoy using chalk paint or acrylic, but I’m unsure of painting over an oil based spackle. Do you think it would turn out ok and not start to peel off or crumble? I’m chomping at the bit to get started diy-ing my lamp. Thank you so much for all your great inspiration!

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Mary – There should be no problem using an acrylic or latex paint over the Spackle.

      I did this for another lamp makeover I did. I added color and then wax. You can see it here:

      For more inspiration for you, I also did something similar to look like concrete on a ceramic planter. You can see that here:

  3. Fabulous, fabulous and fabulous. Thanks for sharing this beautiful idea

  4. Alissa Cronin says:

    genius and gorgeous!

  5. Sue Bauman says:

    That lamp turned out absolutely gorgeously! Well done!

  6. Great project! I, too, have purchased several substantial pottery lamps at thrift stores and church sales over the years for just a few dollars and have simply painted them with flat paint and added crisp new shades to give them a fresh appearance. It’s such a satisfyingly easy and affordable way to change the look of a space!

  7. One of your best makeovers. Love it!

  8. Deanna Rabe says:

    What a great project! Thank you for sharing the DIY!

  9. Great work! I am jealous.

  10. What a lovely transformation. And it definitely gives the original a run for it’s money. But I am wondering about chipping. Spackle is notorious for chipping, it being such a soft compound. How will you prevent that? Asking as I would really like to try this on a lamp I have. Thank you.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Barb –

      Good question. Dried Spackle can chip, but the lightweight is less likely to. It is softer and more pliable. I didn’t paint the finish and just used the Spackle color as my finish. If it ever does chip or get get gouged, then I can simply add a layer of the Spackle over it and then smooth over with a wet paint brush. The fix will blend right in. :-)

      If you add one of the finishing variations – same thing. Since it is a hand crafted look, repeating the layers on the damaged area will blend in.

  11. Amazing transformation- great idea!
    Thanks for sharing

  12. Marilyn Holeman says:

    Nice!! And thanks, too, for the tips about alternative ways to finish it.

    Still loving your blog!

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Marilyn – Thank you. That means a lot to me. XO

  13. Barb Dudas says:

    Wow so great! I’d have put a coat of white spray paint on it and called it a day. You did so much more and really gave it an updated look. I love it!

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Thanks Barb – Hi! The lightweight Spackle is so easy to use and can transform just about anything. You know me, when I want something I can’t afford, my mind won’t stop thinking about how I can create it myself.

      Hope you are doing well. Thinking of all my PA friends today. :-)

  14. Rebecca Ackroyd says:

    You have so many great ideas!
    I love the idea of gluing felt to the bottom. I hate trying to cut the felt pads that already have adhesive on them because they are so hard to cut to shape. I never thought of just gluing on felt I already have!

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Rebecca – Making a felt round was a must for this lamp that had a very rough bottom when I bought it. One of those easy things to do while it will protect your table surfaces.

  15. This transformation is so cool. That lamp looked like it was from the 80s. Thanks for sharing.

  16. Carole Tiep says:

    Great job, did you buy a new shade, or did you have the incredible good luck o find a thrift store lamp with an undented shade. If you purchased a new shade what did it cost?

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Carole –

      I did buy a new shade for the lamp. You can see it in the before photo. But after I swapped the lamp with the previous one, I decided to swap the shades. So the new shade went on my previous lamp and the existing shade went on the new lamp.

      It is hard to find affordable lamp shades these days. The cost for the shade was around $22. I bought it at Walmart. I also find that Lowes has a good selection of affordable lamp shades.

  17. Hi Diane! You are so talented and creative! Love love everything you do!
    Your lamp transformation it’s amazingly gorgeous . It’s prettier than the high price ones.
    Keep creating! I wait for your emails every week just thinking what she’s done this week?
    ❤️ Eliana

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Eliana – Thank you for your kind words and looking forward to my emails. Reading your comment – made my day! XO

  18. Thanks for the inspiration. Your lamp outshines the big buck ones!!

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Thanks Deanna – That is nice to hear. :-)

  19. Carol Heartfelt Whimsies says:

    Love this!! I want to try!

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Carol – Thanks. It is so easy to do – just like icing a cake. The hardest part is having to wait for the Spackle to dry.

  20. Love it!! I’ve seen quite a few lamp makeovers on Instagram recently. It’s crazy how expensive lamps are these days, I wonder why the price seems to have skyrocketed.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Holly –

      I have been thinking the same thing. Even at places like HomeGoods where I used to be able to buy a lamp for around $35. Now they are all much more.

  21. Hi Diane, I like your knock-off more than many of the high priced lamps. Yours is even better than most because your shade covers more of the lamp workings and the shade’s proportion to the lamp is perfect. (Thanks for sharing the picture of the Pottery Barn store in October.)

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Thanks Carol –

      It took a few different size lamp shade harps that I had in my decor stash to find the right height harp to position the shade to keep the proportions right. You have a good eye!!!!

      I love browsing through Pottery Barn. I wish there were a store closer to me. I used to have one in PA. Now I have to wait when I visit my daughters in Virginia where there is one. I always find inspiration and buy something small. On my past visit, I bought a table runner for the holidays. I will be sharing that soon.

  22. Blown away, once again at your transformations! I think this looks better than the Mcgee & Co. lamp! Beautiful, Diane!

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Sharon – Thanks :-) I enjoy DIYing so I can get just the look I am after.

  23. What a great job! I love when you take something inexpensive and make it resemble something very expensive. You are always full of inspiration!

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Thanks Kathy. :-) I love to create, especially making over an existing piece or repurposing things in new ways.

  24. Diane,

    This is so beautiful – you have such a beautiful talent.
    I love this lamp.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Jane – Thank you. I had the idea a few months ago, but all the thrift stores around me have been closed because of Covid. I was happy when the Goodwill opened up again and I found the perfect shape and size lamp.

  25. This is great! This technique could be used on so many things – vases, jugs, etc. Have you done this before and not painted the spackling? I’m wondering about it yellowing over time.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Lisa – The Spackling process could be used on so many objects. It is so easy to do. I didn’t seal the surface, but I may. I don’t think it will yellow over time since I primed it. If it does start to look yellow or dirty it will take on the look of an earthenware lamp. :-)

      If over time it does yellow and I don’t like the look – I would use flat watered-down white latex paint over it.