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Does this sound familiar?  Because I don’t spend a lot on decorating at any one time, I only bought one lamp for the living room a while back even though the store had two.  Then I rearranged the furniture and I really really needed matching lamps to flank the loveseat.  Arrgh!  What to do?  Hey, I put on my creative hat and I’m here to tell you, whether they are for your sofa table, bedside tables, or at either end of a large cabinet, you can create the appearance of lovely lamp symmetry with a little bit of hunting and some elbow grease.

As I talked about in my last post, I started with finding a $4 thrift store lamp base that was the same height and had a similar amount of curves and ridges as my original lamp.  That one had been spray painted blue a long time ago, so I simply pulled out the same can and painted this one to match.

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Then you need a lampshade similar in size, style, and color to your first lamp.  If you’re lucky, you can find something close enough that this is the end of the lamp matching process.  However.  My original shade was an unusual color of burlap and the best burlap lampshade in my price range was too small, too pale, and sat too low.  It’s on the left looking dumpy.  NOT A MATCH.

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Luckily I found this white paper lampshade from Target that had all the right proportions, and I just needed to re-cover it.

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The first step was to find the right fabric.  My goal was not to match exactly, but to create a lamp that would be close enough to create visual balance.  With that in mind I chose a linen-look fabric to cover the shade because it was a much better color match than the burlap for sale.  Like the burlap, it has a good amount of texture.

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I should mention that you need to measure the circumference of your shade so you know how much fabric to buy.  If I’d been paying attention I would have realized the bolt of cloth was wide enough to go all the way around and I could have bought less length.  Live and learn!

I spread out my fabric and used chalk to trace the outline of the lamp, leaving an inch or so of extra cloth on either side for wiggle room when I cut it out.

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Then I sprayed the lamp with spray adhesive and smoothed the cloth onto it.  Make sure to start this step at the seam on the shade so you keep your own seam in the same place and everything looks good when you turn the light on!  When I got it completely wrapped I ironed in a crease for the back seam before gluing it down, just to make everything as tidy and professional looking as possible.

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Then I glued the back seam in place, cut off the excess cloth at the top and bottom of the shade, and glued the edges down.  I used Fabri-tac but hot glue would work well too.

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At that point here’s what I had.  Looking good but it surely does need some trim.

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To finish off the edges nicely I made some bias tape.  You can buy this in many colors and it’s cheap, but I wanted an exact fabric match.

Figure out how far you want the trim to extend down the shade and cut a strip 4x wider than that measurement, on the diagonal grain (bias) of the fabric because that will enable the trim to curve with the lamp and not get all bunchy and fight against the curve.

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Fold each side of your strip of cloth in toward the middle and iron it down.  I used my yardstick as a straight edge guide to make sure it was really straight.

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Then fold it in half again and iron it down.

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That’s it!  Now you can glue it on your lamp.  When you get to the end just fold the edge under and secure it with plenty of glue.

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That’s a pretty bit of finished trim.  Again, line everything up with the back seam when you work.IMG_1024 (800x600)

Now my lamp was looking polished but it was too plain and severe for my style.  I wanted another layer of trim for texture and warmth.  Since trim is expensive and lamps are much bigger around than you think they are (I swear it’s a magic trick) I made my own out of braided embroidery thread.

90’s flashback, anyone?  This brought back memories of making friendship bracelets on the outdoor benches at recess when I was eight years old.

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Here’s what my finished trim looks like.IMG_1027 (600x800)

And here’s my happy little lamp!  All dressed up and ready to go. IMG_1033 (599x800)

Voila, the final product: lamps that “go” even though they don’t match.  It took some work, but I ended up with just what I was hoping for, a balance in weight, height, and texture so that the eye sees harmony even without the lamps being the same.

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Project breakdown:

  • Lamp base – $4
  • Lampshade – $15.79
  • 1.5 yds fabric, with coupon – $7.49
  • 3 skeins embroidery floss – $1.17

Total lamp cost: $28.45
Not too bad for a large lamp!  The biggest cost was having to buy a shade, so if you are recovering an existing shade you’d spend less.

Have you ever recovered or painted a lampshade?  Have you daringly decorated with mismatched lamps?  What’s your best tip for lighting on a budget?


The beauty of a thrift store is that you can actually go in with twenty dollars in your pocket and come out with several fairly awesome items.

Recently, while the Chief watched our girl, I made a mad dash through three of the local resale stores to look for some of the things I want to add around the house, particularly for the living room.  It was in the Salvation Army that I hit pay dirt.

First of all, it was half off day.  I noticed the sign advertising “50% off today only!” as I walked in and promptly forgot about it.  I began to look around the store for lamps, dressers, trays, and frames but it seemed that I would be disappointed in my endeavors because this store was having a particularly bad selection day.  Everything seemed to be either little dirty cluttery junk or way, way overpriced.  Witness a pair of large blue and white ceramic lamps and shades in good condition for fifty dollars – EACH.  You could get better ones at Home Goods for less than that price.  They had some more lamps in the back but they all seemed to be $18-$22 and not very nice.  Bah.  There was one I liked the shape of but it was on a shelf out of my reach and probably marked at least $18 anyway.

As a last stop I went to the back room where they keep the larger furniture items and there, leaning on a shelf full of porcelain knick knacks, I found a big beefy frame.  Wow! It was already in keeping with my color scheme, not too beat up, and was priced at $10.  I didn’t have a specific spot in mind for it but I realized I could think of at least four places it would work, and so was able to convince my inner cheapskate that a frame that big (the opening is 24″x36″) for that price in those colors could not be passed up.  Here’s  a sneak peek.

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When I went to purchase it, it rang up for $5 and I remembered it was half price day.  The cashier asked me if I’d found everything I wanted and I said, Now that you mention it, there’s this lamp I couldn’t reach…  so the manager went to fetch it down and when he brought it to the front to show me he said there was no price tag on it but I could have it for four dollars, out the door.  FOUR DOLLARS.  When every other far crappier lamp in the place was at least $18.  I grabbed it out of his hot little hands.  It was missing a harp and a shade but those are so easy to pick up, and the shade would probably have needed to be replaced anyway… you know how thrift store lampshades generally look!

I forgot to take a before picture of this lamp, but it was a speckly tan colored porcelain, about as blah and drab as you could get.

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I gave it a makeover with my navy blue spray paint to match my other spray painted living room lamp.

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So that is how I walked out of the store with two perfectly imperfect items and only $9 lighter in my pocket.

Have you hit up any good thrift stores lately?  What do you like to look for secondhand for your home?

It’s possible my eyes are bigger than my checkbook on this one, but… it’s time to wrangle with the living room again!

When we first got married, I had been renting furnished rooms in family homes and as far as furniture went, I didn’t own more than a couple bookcases and a chair.  The Chief had been renting out his spare bedrooms to bachelor-type roommates and the house reflected that. We didn’t have much of our own stuff to work with when we began life together, but over the past 2 1/2 years the living room has coalesced into an inviting place to hang out.

For six weeks I’ve been using this room in conjunction with the needs of a baby and am slowly learning how I’d like to re-organize things to accommodate her. I’ve been changing her on the floor and while this works quite well, I don’t really want a baby changing station in the middle of the main room for the next two years!

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Besides the diapering dilemma, this room has always struggled with Many Little Furnishings Cluttering It Up.  My plan is to move out all the little pieces on the wall shown below and get a nice big long dresser there instead.  Did you know that fewer large pieces of furniture will make a room feel more spacious than several smaller scale pieces of furniture – especially in a small room?

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I envision that one end of the long dresser will be my changing station with the necessaries stowed away in drawers and baskets when not in use, and the other end will be a landing zone for my purse and keys.  I’m currently searching Craigslist for the right piece at the right price and I will most likely be painting it green or blue-green (not 100% sure of the color yet).  Here are a couple pieces that we looked at so far to give you an idea.


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So hopefully instead of looking all cluttery and busy like this:

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That side of the room should end up looking like this:

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Doesn’t that look so much better?  Too many tiny cluttery things over there, what did I tell you?

You might notice the grandfather clock is missing in the “after” photo.  That’s because I see this as an opportunity to work on some of the finishing touches I’ve been meaning to get to for a while.

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After I take care of that list, maybe if I’m really lucky I’ll finally paint the inside of our front door and then find a great deal on a less drab rug (indoor-outdoor, perhaps?) to put under the armchairs.  I’m feeling a bit like Cinderella looking at the list her stepsisters put together before she can go to the ball, but a girl can dream!

Now here’s my personal challenge: I want to do all these things with a budget of $200 (not counting that unlikely rug).  This means I’ll be making my own chalk paint to paint the big dresser, getting a lamp from the thrift store, using clearance sales and scrounging for materials from what we already have in the craft room and the garage!  I’m really looking forward to it.

Have you re-thought any rooms lately?