About two weeks ago, we were thrilled to have our very first post — on dual makeovers of thrifted lamps — featured on one of our favorite blogs, Better After. The idea of Better After is really cool — it shows before and afters of great projects from all over the internet. And Lindsey, the author, is hilarious. It’s one of our favorite reads every day.
When that happened we got a great question in the comments section of our post, and when Sage and I were talking about how to respond, we quickly realized that we had A LOT to say… like a whole post of stuff to say. So here goes!
Here is Judy’s question (edited for length):
Had you thought about the trimming or adding a little to the lampshade to complement the new base? I wondered about the liquid gold leaf on the interior of the lamp shade on the black and gold lamp. Would liquid leaf gold work like that? I have a lamp shade that I would like to utilize liquid silver leaf and wondered what you thought. And I am wondering about painting or using the liquid leaf instead of decoupage or getting a new lampshade or adding ribbon. Any advice you have about effects with paint and/or the liquid leaf on fabric lampshades would be welcome. Thank you. I enjoyed the blog and look forward to more exciting chapters!
When to decorate a lampshade
We did think about spiffing up the shades for our lamp project, but decided that simple was the way to go. Once you get the DIY bug it is so tempting to decorate and embellish EVERYTHING, but one thing we’ve learned
through our discerning taste the hard way is that you need to pair simple things with the show-stoppers.
In lamps, if you have a decorative base AND a decorated lampshade the result can be crazy-town, even if both are really pretty on their own. However, if you pair simple with decorative the exciting and interesting pieces can really shine.
You can see this play out in our own homes. In Sage’s living room, she has this elegant but simple base paired with a pretty and fun shade.
By contrast, in my living room I have an extravagant base that is paired with a simple black shade.
If you think about switching those up, it just wouldn’t work. So that would be our first piece of advice: only go the lampshade decorating route if you are working with simple or boring lamp bases.
Using paint to decorate a lampshade
There are loads of ways to use paint to decorate a lampshade, but you specifically asked about using liquid gold leaf on the interior of the lampshade so we thought we’d try it out!
I picked up a simple and affordable white lampshade from Homegoods for about $15. Now, it is important to note that this lampshade wasn’t just cloth – on the inside, it had a thin plastic coating to paint over, so I knew that the liquid gold leaf wouldn’t seep through to the front. I would not recommend this approach with a shade that is only cloth or paper!
Using a small brush, I painted the interior in small sections, brushing horizontally. The edge was defined by an uneven layer of cloth, so I just did my best to paint carefully up to that edge.
There isn’t a lot of liquid leaf in these little containers, and it took me about half a jar to paint one coat on the shade (which was large, at about 15″ in diameter). And one coat clearly wasn’t sufficient – if you’ll forgive the very awkward photo angle, here is how the coverage looked after the first coat dried:
Not good! Particularly given that the whole point of lampshades is to have light shining through them. However, I didn’t need a full second coat. Instead, I shined a light through the shade from the back (as seen in the photo above) and went around to patch up the gaps.
Unlike gold paint, liquid gold leaf can tarnish if left open to the elements. So to finish it off I went back around with a coat of polycrylic in high gloss (affiliate link — read our policies). It gave it a nice, shiny look, but did actually make the brushstrokes show a little more clearly.
At this point, I passed the project to Sage to finish up and photograph. She was left with one final problem – the rough edges that were left by my painting. Since the whole point of this is to make the interior of the lampshade a decorative feature, untidy edges would totally ruin the effect.
We talked about using a hot glue gun to attach thin white or black ribbon along the edges. But Sage had a better idea – she used stained glass foiling tape (affiliate link — read our policies), which she had on hand from a past project, to create a nice clean line. You can see the foil tape along the bottom edge here:
In all, this project turned out pretty well. I like the depth that liquid gold leaf adds to the interior of the shade – it feels a little more authentic than gold shades done using other mediums.
If you do try the liquid leaf method, here is a quick summary of what we learned along the way:
- Find a lampshade that has a plastic lining, or the liquid leaf will seep through
- Be sure you have enough liquid leaf for multiple coats – you’ll need them!
- Use a foam brush and horizontal strokes to minimize the appearance of brushstrokes – and don’t go this route if having a few brushstrokes showing will bother you
- Have a clear topcoat on hand so the liquid leaf doesn’t tarnish
- Use foiling tape or glue on ribbon to create a clean edge after painting
However, this is by no means the only way to get a pretty gold interior on your lampshade! In fact, it is probably not the best way, unless you really really want that extra depth that gold leaf provides over paint. Liquid leaf is more expensive than spray paint and craft paint, it is messier and more toxic, it requires a topcoat, and is harder to get in an even finish that doesn’t show brushstrokes.
Gold craft paint is an easier method, which Cassie over at Hi Sugarplum! shows can turn out beautifully. She also has some great tips to share about painting horizontally and then diagonally to get an even finish:
The other good option is spray paint, which does require taping off the shades but achieves a nice even finish, as shown by Elizabeth at Little Black Door:
There are also loads of ways to decorate the outside of the shade with paint, as you mentioned. Sticking with the gold theme, I am head-over-heels in love with the effect that Amy at The Blissful Bee got by using gold craft paint to make a simple chevron pattern on her lampshade. I am not usually a fan of chevron, but this turned out beautifully organic. You have to check out her technique…
And, with spray paint, you can also create an awesome pattern using a stencil, like Natalie over at The Creative Mom did:
So, as you can see, there are just a ton of options to embellish lampshades with paint, and it doesn’t have to be the liquid gold leaf.
Using ribbon to decorate a lampshade
You also mentioned ribbon, which Sage has some experience with. This is an easy and inexpensive way to dress up a lampshade.
Sage used it in her bedroom, where they have the same white lamps on either side of the bed. She I added a little decorative trim to hers to set it apart a little from Sam’s plain one. She attached it with a fine line from a hot glue gun:
She also recommends the lamp project Centsational Girl did a few years ago, where she spray painted her lamp base and then spray painted ribbon to match it:
You can also use ribbon to make a bigger statement, like Jennifer did at Dimples and Tangles:
And Sage’s top piece of advice for using ribbon is that it’s easiest with a drum shade. The more the shade flares out (like the original shade on Centsational Girl’s lamp), the harder it is to get the ribbon to lie flat because the width of the shade changes so dramatically. In this case, you’d have better luck with very thin ribbon.
Judy, thanks for reading our blog, and we hope that was helpful! Does anyone have any more lampshade decorating tips, links, or stories?