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How to Upgrade and Embellish a Lampshade: Dressing Up Your Lamp Shade

Updated on October 25, 2013
Photo copyright Silver Spoon via Wikimedia Commons
Photo copyright Silver Spoon via Wikimedia Commons
Room Recipes: A Creative and Stylish Guide to Interior Design
Room Recipes: A Creative and Stylish Guide to Interior Design

Take your interior design up a notch by learning simple ways to create seamless professional-level looks.


Every room needs light -- make it truly unique

Lighting can be an important decorative feature in your home, and lamps can add brightness and color to dull corners. Don't let your house be dragged down by drab or gloomy areas where no one wants to spend time. On the same token, if you buy a cheap and boring lamp, your house could end up looking cheap and boring too.

Finding the right style and color for your home

You don’t want your home to look like a motel or office. Cheap beiges and white can blend easily, but really won't add anything special to your interior design. These colors easily become bland and boring, especially if they're overused. You want your lighting to express your distinctive personality, while also bringing its own special atmosphere to your space. It is actually quite simple to transform your lamp into some genuinely unique with just some time and little or no cost. Upgrading that cheap big box store lamp into a designer gem is easier than you think.

The importance of a good lampshade

Stock colors may be easily matched to your current décor, but the cheap prices often mean you get lower-quality products. Unfortunately, cheap materials can make your lamp look quite -- for lack of a better word -- ugly. Low-quality plastic materials are typically so thin that you can see the light bulb right through the shade. This is not a good look. A quality lampshade diffuses the light over the whole shade. You don’t want your lamp to look like just a light bulb behind a papery cover.

Choosing lampshade fabrics

Silk is one of the best light-diffusing fabrics on the market. This fabric will instantly transform your lamp into something that looks expensive and designer. The project won't take much fabric, but you can save even more money by buying a silk shirt at a thrift store. Take color samples with you to make sure you get the right shade; don't settle for something that's not exactly what you want just to save a little money.

These mosaic basics can be used on your custom lamp base

Adding a new shade cover

To re-cover your lamp shade, you must first remove the old covering, leaving only the wire. Cover the frame with the silk you've chosen, and stitch it to the wire with silk thread (available at any sewing supply store). Hem the bottom with silk thread or, if you're using an old shirt, cut the new fabric to use the shirt's hem to save time and effort. If you don’t want your stitching to show, you can do a hidden stitch or use some sort of trim on the bottom of the lamp and on the wire.

Dressing up the new lampshade

You may want something a little more than just a silk lampshade. You could create a stenciled look or even sew lace into the shade. If you stencil a design onto the lamp shade, the paint or dye used for the design must be heat-safe. Light lampshades can take food dye for the design. Lace is easy to apply by sewing on the lampshade or using some sort of heat-safe adhesive. You may consider using a darker piece of silk over a light lining to create cut-out shapes that will appear as glowing pieces for a lovely effect every time it's turned on.

A very popular lamp shade embellishment is beaded trim. You can use beaded trim from a craft store, or perhaps tassel fringe. If you are a very crafty person, you can create your own designs using beads. Try mixing it up; use both clear and opaque beads in your design. The effort and quality you choose to add to your lamp will be reflected in the final product, so be sure to use high-quality materials and put a lot of effort into your lampshade.

Considerations for the lamp base

You may choose to leave the base of the lamp as it was purchased, or you can customize it as well. Cover the base with mosaics, leather, or other heat-resistant covering. Alternatively, replace the entire base with ceramic vases, old boots, or other upcycled treasures. Check the videos posted here for detailed tutorials on how to do some of these advanced upgrades.

Your imagination and creativity can run wild with this project. When you upgrade your lighting, you are really upgrading the entire look of your home. By adding a few simple details, you can transform your home décor from boring to beautiful.

How to completely replace a lamp base


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