Brass Swing Arm Lamp Makeover

How to change the look of bright brass on any item to look more like brushed brass without the need to use any chemicals or paint. It is a fast and easy DIY technique that can be done in 15 minutes.


Making over the brass swing arm lamps in my bedroom is one of my favorite 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 bright brass wall-mounted lamps. They are bright 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

The process to knock down the bright brass color is quite easy.

supplies needed:  100 grit sandpaper  |  Hand sanding block

  1. 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.
  • Keep 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, fold a small piece of sandpaper and run the fold up and down the crevices.  Create new folds in the paper when doing this as the the sandpaper will wear out quickly.
  • For the rounded areas, use a hand-sanding block and move it you are playing the violin around the arm and light bulb socket area.

Close up of brass finish – After and Before.


For the cost of a sheet of sandpaper and 15 minutes of my time, my brass swing-arm lamps are updated.


Bedroom Lighting Decorating Tip:

  • Swing-arm lamps are perfect for bedtime reading since they don’t take up any space on your night table. You can move them around to get just the right light, no matter how you are sitting or lying on the bed.

Want to age brass with no brush marks?  Check out this post on how to do it.

How to Hide the Cord on a Wall Mounted Lamp

My swing-arm lamps are not hardwired to the wall. They have a cord hanging down. I used the magic of photoshop to remove the cord from the image from the first image in this post since it looked like it was part of the shell.

If you have a similar wall mounted lamp with a cord hanging down and can’t hardwire it, then you can place a cord cover over it and paint it the same color as the wall.

This will lessen the look of the cord. Or on some higher end wall-mounted lights the cord covers are part of the design.

Most, but not all wall-mounted lamps come with cord covers. They are either a round metal tube or a square channel that mounts out of the bottom of the fixture.

Here is one in brass swing arm lamp cord cover, but they come in white and silver finishes also.


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  1. Pretty reno. Just wonder how you hid the electric cord in the final pictures. I cannot see the cord and wonder how you made it disappear.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Jean – When I did this post back in 2014, I did not have the lamps hardwired into the wall. The final image was photoshopped since it looked like the cord was part of the shell on the top of the books. I forgot I did that.

      At the time, I just did it for that reason alone since the post was about brass. I realized later that the question about the wiring could come up. Silly me. We moved from the house soon after and I never got around to adding cord covers over the cords or getting another photo.

      I will update the post to share this since you are not the first one to ask. If you have a similar lamp with a cord hanging down and can’t hardwire it, then you can place a cord cover over it and paint it the same color as the wall. This will lessen the look of the cord. Or on some higher end wall-mounted lights the cord covers are part of the design.

      Most, but not all wall-mounted lamps come with them. They are either like a round metal tube or a square channel that mounts out of the bottom of the fixture. Here is one in brass, but they come in white and silver finishes also:

      Have you ever hardwired a fixture? I did for the wall-mounted TV. Doing it hid quite a few cords. :-) You can see how I did it in this post:

      Maybe some day technology will allow a lamp to be mounted easily on a wall with no cord needed. :-)

  2. Anne Viall says:

    What a great idea!
    Do you think this would work on guest bathroom faucet?

  3. 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?

  4. 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.

  5. So clever, and so simple! Love it!

  6. Krista @ the happy housie says:

    I love the texture of these Diane- such a creative and simple way to transform high shine brass…you could do this on so many different types of brass pieces! Thanks for the idea:)

  7. Julia@Cuckoo4Design says:

    Love it! I found one of those wall sconces at the thrift store. The exact same one and have been trying to find a second one for the other side of my daughter’s bed.

  8. 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!


    1. Diane Henkler 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.

  9. Kathy @ Creative Home Expressions says:

    Nicely done, Diane! I not only like the way this looks, but love that you’ve saved money by just updating the lamps you already had. I think they look great!

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Thanks Kathy – Buying new lamps was not in the budget. Necessity is the mother of invention sometimes ;-)

  10. 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….

  11. 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.

  12. Leslie Davis says:

    Great update! May have to give that one a try. It was great to meet you at Haven! Keep in touch!

  13. 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!

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      I found the shades at Target.

  14. 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.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Lori – You could make a colored glaze to go over the brass areas. Pick a paint color and mix it with glazing liquid. You won’t need much -I would use craft paint and glazing liquid found at the craft store. Glaze is a white medium that dries transparent. You mix paint in it so that your color will look transparent too. Once you apply it, you wipe or brush it off depending on the look you want. It will leave color in the crevices. I is like putting a wash of color over it. White glaze would look like white-washing, but you can use any color. I showed how I used glaze in these posts:

  15. 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…

    1. Diane Henkler 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.

      1. 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

  16. Great idea! I’m a brass lover too…what to do, what to do. Now I know..thanks! ;)

  17. Connie Nikiforoff Designs says:

    So cool Diane! I did this once kind of by accident and went “Yup. That’ll work.” Thanks for sharing and showing such great before and after photos.

  18. Anne@DesignDreams says:

    I love you! I was just looking at an old polished brass lamp wondering how to update it – this is perfection!!!!! Thanks for sharing xox

  19. 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.

  20. Monica green says:

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

  21. Brilliant idea Diane, or should I say brushed? ;-)

  22. 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!

  23. How ingenious of you! Very nice! Thanks for sharing. :)

  24. Brittany aka Pretty Handy Girl says:

    Nice! I love the results. Thanks for sharing your tutorial and thanks for the link love ;-).

    1. Diane Henkler 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!