Sunday, July 8, 2012

Lamp Redo: From Brass to Chalk Paint

I liked the weighty feel and classic turnings of our traditional brass lamps, but I'd grown tired of the shiny golden surfaces. 
I wanted to update them by making them look older - a lot older, with a chalk paint make-over. 
My goal was to create a color and texture reminiscent of the aged paint on a piece of antique Gustavian furniture.
Step one when working with chalk paint is to create a surface it can cling to. 

It's easy to see how smooth and slippery the surface is on that unpainted brass.
The lamp on the left has a single coat of Zinsser Cover Stain
(an oil base, interior/exterior primer).
It is designed to stick to all surfaces without sanding (!),
it dries quickly (!),
and it can be used with any topcoat (!).
What a product - I love it!
One coat with a disposable foam brush readied the lamp for chalk paint.

The first color layer was Duck Egg, a blue-green shade from the Annie Sloan Chalk Paint Collection

 It is shown below, on the lamp on the left. 
I put on a solid coat, using a foam brush.  This will be the peek-through color.
The lamp on the right already has the 2nd color layer:
Annie Sloan's Old White, applied with a loose hand.

Chalk paint is water soluble, so the surface is fragile
This allows for some wonderful textures to be created, but it also means that it has to be protected - the paint can easily be rubbed or scraped off.  After the second color layer was dry, I applied Minwax Paste Finishing Wax to protect the undercoat colors.

The wax goes on with cheese cloth or an old T-shirt scrap. 
After 15 minutes I buffed each lamp to a shine. 
I always allow the wax to harden overnight before adding more paint to a project.

The 3rd paint layer was Annie Sloan's Paris Grey, lightened with a bit of the Old White. 
This was applied with a loose hand again to allow the under colors to show through.
More waxing and buffing, another overnight rest, and then a final watery coat of Old White.

Here is the final result with it's last coat of wax .

I love the soft watery hues and the look of color layers scrubbed by time.  I rubbed hard enough to reveal bits of brass here and there, like remnants of old gilt.

Below is the first lamp I tried this chalk paint make-over on. 
It was done in layers of Old White and Old Ochre. 
Again, you can see that along some of the edges I rubbed through the paint to create a look of age. 

Next came a pair of brass lamps for the townhouse master bedroom. 

Here I used several color blends to compliment the wall color (Sherwin Williams 'Contented').

If you admire the look antique painted furniture, and like a DIY project, I think you will enjoy experimenting with chalk paint and finishing wax!


  1. Suzanne, your lamps are gorgeous! I love the layered finishes you created.

  2. I am a chalk paint girl and have done the same with some of our old brass lamps. I am always thinking about what else I can paint with Annie Sloan paint!

  3. They look great! I am inspired because I have not done multi step layering with chalk paint. Thank you for taking the time to explain in detail, much appreciated. I want to paint some resin pots grey and have not dived in yet. Still need to figure out the right process.

  4. Thank you for taking the time to explain in detail.Antique Brass Picture Light

  5. Please describe how to apply Old White coat with "a loose hand." Thanks

  6. To paint with a loose hand means to apply the paint in a single, imperfect stroke. Unlike painting say the side of a barn, where good solid coverage is required, and one stroke is often covered with another. A loose hand recognizes the beauty of paint surfaces where the coverage is slightly uneven, where some of the base color may show through. Work slowly and once an area has been covered, resist the temptation to patch.
    Best wishes with your project,

    1. Thank you, Suzanne,

      I'm refinishing 2 lamps the same style as your 2 brass ones - exactly the look I'm going for (tho mine had a bronze finish) and carefully following your steps to get that oxidized copper blue-green look. I went ahead and applied the Old White coat with my version of a loose hand & I think it's OK. Waxing comes next.

      Two things I also did: I put masking tape around cord where it "exited" the lamp-bottom; and I dampened my foam brush before painting.

      Thank you so much for your photos & step-by-step guidance for DIY shabby chic.

  7. I'm so pleased the technique is working for you! What an excellent idea to tape the cord 'exit'.
    As an additional note, I've found that if the color isn't quite right after waxing, the chalk paint can be applied again - right over the wax, repeating the steps. It really is fun to experiment with this! Best wishes!

  8. Would you believe I have another question? My next step is applying the "watery coat" of Old White. When I add water should the paint be the consistence of milk? or thicker like half & half? or like heavy cream? Thanks for helping me with these baby steps.

  9. Well, I would say milk, but this is very individual. Look at your lamp base in good natural light. What do think of the color so far? Are you close to the shade you want?
    If you do a lighter milky mix, and the base color is still too strong, you can always do another layer. But if you know you are no where close to the final color you want, I would jump it up to fat-free half and half.!

  10. My lamps are GORGEOUS! With your encouragement to tweek the process to get the colors I wanted - the outcome is perfect for me. Thanks for all your help, Suzanne.