Living Lagom – Revamp The Lamp

Ironically, when I decided to ‘revamp the lamp’ in my living room, I imagined a fun little Saturday afternoon project that would take me an hour or two to complete.

My entire week’s holiday has been spent on this chuffing lamp.

I could have just chucked the old lamp in the bin at the tip and gone and bought myself a brand new one for £14, but no. I had to insist on repainting my old standard lamp. ‘It’ll be fun!’ I said. ‘How hard can it be?’ I said.

How hard, you ask? I can assure you: very hard and very expensive.

Having sourced the paint I wanted to use, and believed it when it said that the magic of this “chalk paint” was that it could be slapped on anything with no preparation, I was miffed to discover that…yes, you can slap it on anything with no preparation. But if you want your finished piece to look halfway decent, your preparation had better be thorough indeed.

No statement has ever been so true as this one when it comes to painting: Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.

My original shopping list for this project looked like this:

And by the time I’d done my research, planned what I was going to do and consulted DaddyDearest (a vital step and without which I was not proceeding at all), my shopping list looked like this:

BLOODY HELL. My Revamp The Lamp went from costing me an estimated £12 to costing me £56. Fifty-six chuffing pounds. Fifty-six of them!

And I’d been hit with the miserable news that first of all, I needed to sand down the top layer of the varnish on the stand to create a “key” onto which the primer could stick. For two hours, I sat in my garage and sanded the lamp stand.

If you take nothing else from this post, take this piece of advice: if you think you’ve sanded enough, you haven’t. Do it again.

After I’d sanded for two hours and taken off my fingertips, my palms, part of my top and what turned out to be only about 43% of the top layer of varnish, I wiped the whole thing down and removed every speck of sanding dust from the lamp stand. Then I did it again with a clean, unsullied cloth, at which point, I discovered sanding dust in my bra, my eyelashes, my hair and, worst of all, my cup of tea. (Cup of tea was also cold, because I’d taken it out to the garage with me before I started sanding and had now failed to drink it.)

I finally got the surface prepared with a key, and free of dusty specks. I got the tin of primer open without spilling it on the floor of the garage (an actual achievement in our family, as both my brothers have, separately and to my father’s repeated chagrin, spilt a whole tin of paint on the garage floor). I cautiously and carefully painted on the first layer of primer, and left it to dry and when I came back from lunch, I performed the scratch test. (Scratch a bit of primer with fingernail, see if it comes off).

It immediately came off, because it had clearly been painted on by a blind, one-armed fool who was merely juggling paintbrushes instead of using them, since my painting couldn’t possibly be that shoddy…could it?

Nope. My painting. And once more for the people at the back: if you think you’ve sanded enough, you HAVEN’T. SAND MORE.

Luckily, the DaddyDearest technique had prepared me for this, so I added another coat of primer. This time, when I stepped back and surveyed my handiwork, it didn’t look quite so much like the aforementioned fool had slapped on the paint. It nearly looked like I was actually competent!

The next morning (when the primer had cured overnight, because I read the instructions, and apparently, that’s a thing, even when you choose ‘quick-dry primer’), I got out my paintbrush again, and managed to pry open the tin of navy blue chalk paint I had chosen. (Sorry to Younger and BabyBro, but once again, I’ve opened a tin of paint without spilling any of it, and I am now Dad’s favourite.)

The first layer went down, and despite the fact I’d shaken the can for a full minute and then stirred all the way down to the bottom of the can, to my horror…it. was. patchy.

I hardly knew whether to laugh or cry. At this point, I’d committed. It was too late to turn back, too far gone to change my mind, too much paint had left the brush and splattered on my shoes. I pressed on.

By the time I reached the bottom of the lamp stand, I was convinced that this navy blue had been a dreadful mistake. I could see the white primer through the paint, and…it didn’t look as majestic as the sample card had made me believe. A quick cup of tea indoors, and back out an hour later for the second coat. By this point, I was sure that, having also invested in the lampshade for the lampstand (another £30, custom-made to be big enough…dear GOD), I was going to be better off shutting the garage door down, getting in the car and just going to IKEA for a £14 uplighter1.

But the second coat. Oh, the second coat.

Gentle Readers, you cannot know the magic of a second coat until you have experienced it. I dipped my paintbrush back into the reopened can of paint (still didn’t spill it), and painted a long brushstroke down the top of the lamp stand. And with that…

All was forgiven.

The paint glided onto the lamp stand, flowing with disturbing synchronicity into every pale patch my eye could see – and some it couldn’t. The smooth navy surface – matte, mysterious, mature – gleamed as my brush skated over the streaks of the first coat, and left behind no globs or missed spots. The colour was uniform, the paintstrokes even, the woodgrain concealed.

By the time I was halfway down the lamp stand, I was laughing out loud in amazement. (The neighbour had a builder in, who actually came to see what was happening because I was laughing so much, and he said, and I quote directly, “Oh! Nice decorating.”) The lampstand was transformed. I was amazed. The heartache of the previous 48 hours was forgiven, as I watched the lamp stand I had imagined emerge from the mere paint before me.

And just like that, the lamp was transformed. Like magic.

Except not magic, because the paint had to ‘cure’ overnight again, and then I had to lacquer it, to ensure nothing bad would happen to my perfect paint job. (Will this nightmare never end?)

But once I’d sprayed the lacquer on this morning, and left it to settle whilst I nipped to the shop for some ingredients, I bought it back inside and added the lampshade I’d ordered.

The final, magnificent product! The lampshade was a custom-made one from Dunelm, and is a soft silver fabric.

Gentle Readers, it is wonderful. I am astounded at my own brilliance. I am incredulous at how well it has come out. I won’t lie – I am still seething at the fact this lamp cost me £86 in supplies and a week’s holiday – but it is beautiful and I am so pleased. It isn’t perfect – there are one or two places where I can see a better job could have been made of the sanding, the priming or the painting – but for my first attempt, it’s truly a Job Well Done.

I am now turning my attentions to the old, inherited bureau, which is currently yellow and needs to be grey….and my Christmas list, which now starts with “electric sander”!!


1: Upon checking the IKEA website, I have discovered that the uplighter I was thinking of is in fact only £8, and even if you now have to buy the lightbulbs separately, they are only £1 a bulb, thus the total is £9 for a perfectly functional and modern uplighter. This is actually MORE galling than I thought it would be, and makes my total bill on a repainted old lamp even worse in comparison. I am taking away my own access to money.


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