19 Lamp and Shade Projects to Illuminate Your Home
Good lighting is essential to comfortable living. But lamps are more than sources of illumination; they are also sculptural objects in their own right, each one bringing its unique combination of form, color, and texture to an interior.
Instead of hunting high and low for the perfect lampshade, consider creating one. Those with clean, geometric silhouettes (think drum, Empire, and cube) are ideal canvases for artful embellishment. Opt for drama or keep your upgrades subtle with tone-on-tone texture.
A great lamp begins with a striking base, and many can be found at flea markets and antiques shops. Look for appealing shapes and good-quality materials; some, like alabaster and mercury glass, are especially lovely when played upon by light. Don't be dismayed if you fall in love with a base that doesn't work—you can probably rewire it yourself in far less time than it would take to find another you like as much.
The next step is to choose—or make—the right shade, which will bring the whole piece into balance. Lamps and their shades should be compatible in three ways: style, shape, and size. Personal taste is your best guide, but a few rules do apply. First, the more formal the base, the richer the shade material should be. For bases made of brass or porcelain, for example, silk, fine linen, satin, and velvet are all good choices. As with bases, some shades take on new life when illuminated. Wood veneer, silk, and parchment create a warm, rich glow. Hold materials up to a bulb before making your selection.
The projects here were inspired by some of our favorite iconic lighting but are created with very humble supplies. With the flick of a switch, your results will light up the room.
If you can lace up your sneakers, you can give any paper lampshade this whipstitch accent. Choose a material that complements your décor, be it neutral leather cord or bright twine, then make a hole every 1/2 inch along the top and bottom edges with a 1/16-inch punch. Starting on the inside at a vertical seam, thread the trimming through a hole and over the edge, leaving a tail a few inches long. Continue all the way around, then knot the ends together, snip the excess, and turn up your lamp's style.
Spray-Painted Metal Lamp
Bring out an antique steel item's innate style (and cover a dull, oxidized, or dented exterior) with high-coverage spray paint. For this project, we gave our heirloom find a powder blue.
Brass-Bowl Pendant Lamp
The hanging pendant lamp illuminating this cozy reading nook may look like a pricey artisanal fixture. However, it's your own handiwork—and a genius houseware substitution—that gives it cachet. With a metal cutting tool, a plug-in pendant light-cord, and a brass bowl of your choice, this project is a cost-effective way to craft your own home lighting.
A Duo of Dyed Shades
Bound together, two generic (and affordable) lampshades transform into a modern silhouette that is reminiscent of Isamu Noguchi's paper lanterns. The shape works well on a floor lamp as well as a task lamp. A utilitarian length of manila rope has a natural beauty that usually passes unnoticed through working hands. But once a rope is coiled around a lamp base, its texture and shape stand out.
Bold in stature but subtle in style, easy to make but impressive to look at, this drum-shaped lamp is a study in contrasts. To create it, simply tape floral specimens (lisianthus was used here) inside a paper lampshade. Turn on the light, and trace the shadow on the outside of the shade using a colored pencil, opposite. Work in one or more colors, leaving the images as outlines for a more delicate look or filling them in for a stronger presence.
Frames Wrapped with Ribbon
Wind ribbon around two frames to hold them together—and give them a new look. The result is colorful and playfully deconstructed (right down to the Edison bulb). With a mini saw (or the cutting-wheel bit on a Dremel drill), cut the spider fitter off one frame; this will be the bottom half. Using clear tape, secure bottoms of frames together. Starting at a corner, wrap ribbon around taped together section of frames, overlapping ribbon slightly. To turn a corner, wrap ribbon in a figure eight. When finished going around all four sides, cut ribbon; glue in place. Repeat this process with the sides, then top and bottom. Wire lightbulb socket and attach to frame.
Shop Now: The Lamp Shop Square Frames (R172W16), $15.35 each, lampshop.com; Ribbon Jar Cotton ribbon, 6 mm, in Red, $1.70 per yd., ribbonjar.com; Beacon MagnaTac 809 Glue, $13, beaconadhesives.com; Sundial Wire Cotton Twisted Wire, 2 conductor, 18 gauge, in Light Brown, $1.40 a ft., sundialwire.com; Sundial Wire Strain Reliefs, $2.50 each, and zssocket, from $6.50, both in Brass, sundialwire.com.
Looping twine or thin fiber around a pendant light frame makes it look chic and eye-catching. The fiber is wrapped openly to let light shine through.
Spray-paint the metal frame; let dry. Knot one end of yarn around the top of the frame. Pull the other end down, loop around the bottom of frame, then pull back up and loop around the top of frame again, always looping in same direction. Continue looping until the frame is completely covered. If you need to add a new piece of yarn, hold the tail of knot against frame and conceal it as you wrap and loop. When finished, knot and secure the end with a dot of glue. Wire the lightbulb socket; attach to frame.
Shop Now: Lamp Shop Triangle Cut-Corner Frame (R10510), $21.18, lampshop.com; Krylon Semi-Gloss Spray Paint, in White, $7.49, michaels.com; Beacon MagnaTac 809 Glue, $13, beaconadhesives.com; Habu Textiles Root Silk Yarn (N-6b), in Light Gray, $10.50, churchmouseyarns.com; Sundial Wire Cotton Twisted Wire, 2 conductor, 18 gauge, in White, $1.40 a ft., sundialwire.com; Sundial Wire Strain Reliefs, $2 each, and Socket, from $4, both in Black, sundialwire.com.
Striped Desk Lamp
A pair of white-and-blue pendant lamps brightens this eclectic kitchen—with its 19th century farmhouse table and retro-style chairs—in more ways than one. Wrapping cotton cord around aluminum shades gives them a softer look, while the silvery interiors maintain their industrial edge.
Upcycled Metal Lampshade
Get the look of vintage industrial lights without scouring for the real things or paying for designer reproductions. Huge metal auto-supply funnels become colorful pendant lights, thanks to one coat each of spray primer and spray paint, plus a lighting cord set (snip away the funnel's filter to accommodate the bulb). Pictured in middle: This eight-quart funnel makes an oversize light.
Shop Now: Lumax Galvanized Tractor Funnel with Locking Tabs and Screen, $25, homedepot.com; Martha Stewart Gloss Finish Spray Paint & Primer, $8, michaels.com; World Market Gold Electrical Cord Swag Kit, $20, worldmarket.com.
Stargazers—or anyone looking to give her room lighting a dreamier dimension—will love this easy decorating trick. All you need is a few crafting tools and an inexpensive white lampshade.
Download and print the template for your astrological sign, resizing to fit the shade, if necessary. Apply two coats of mixed paint to shade, allowing each coat to dry for an hour. Place the shade on its side on a cutting mat. Tape the template to the inside of the shade. (If the shade has a metal harp, remove it first.) Punch holes in the shade as indicated on the template, alternating blade sizes on screw punch to make large and small stars. On the outside of the shade, outline holes and connect dots with a silver paint marker. Flick on the switch come nightfall and enjoy the customized twinkle that gleams through.
This appealing ombré effect—in which colors gradually fade—is created with strips of overlapping cotton voile wrapped snugly around a straight-sided, inexpensive shade. The cotton voile fabric is highly translucent (we used three yards for a shade with a 56-inch circumference and 24-inch height), so ample light peeks through even when layered. Cut a fabric rectangle 1 1/2 inches longer than shade height and 1/2 inch wider than its circumference, then fabric for subsequent layers (fabric pieces should be the same width as first layer, but successively shorter). Apply a thin line of glue to shade exterior's vertical seam to adhere each layer. Although this shade is striking on a pendant light, its hue and dimensions can be varied for versions that will update any lamp.
Use crisscrossed lengths of twill tape to turn a plain linen shade into a striking graphic one. Working in sections, run a roll of 1/2-inch heavyweight twill tape from the top of the shade to the bottom at different angles. Trim the ends; secure with clothespins. To fill in open areas with shorter pieces of tape, lay the roll against the shade to find optimal placement, and mark ends of desired section with pencil; cut. Angle cuts to ensure complete tape overlap, so intersections look neat when the light is on. To attach tape, remove clothespins, brush glue under ends of tape, and fold over rims of shade. Glue the ends of shorter sections, and tuck under existing pieces of tape. Proceed around the shade until it looks full and finished.
Gilded Floor Lampshade
Applying gold leaf is fun (and easier than you might think). Gilt circles gleam against a satiny black finish while the interior sheds a flattering glow. Coat the exterior of shade with black spray paint; let dry. Flip over, and paint the interior gold; let dry again. Working in 10-inch-wide sections, apply a thin layer of size to shade interior with a foam brush, stopping at the top and bottom rims. Let stand five minutes until tacky. Wearing gloves, hold the book of gold leaf sheets over section and gently slide a sheet onto sizing, letting 1 edge catch. Pull book away, and let sheet fall onto shade. Pat leaf with soft brush, then use it to wipe away excess. Repeat this until the shade interior is covered. Let dry for 12 hours, then smooth wrinkles with a gloved fingertip. Create circle template: Using a compass, draw a circle on card stock (the diameter should be 1 1/2 inches less than the height of the shade); cut out. Trace your template onto the shade with pencil, starting at seam and keeping circles close together. Gild each circle with size. It will flake off, leaving a perfect circle.
Shop Now: Just Shades Short Drum Shade, 17" by 17" by 9", in White, $122, justshadesny.com; Martha Stewart Matte Finish Spray Paint & Primer, in Beetle Black, $8, michaels.com; Mona Lisa Composition Gold Leaf Kit, $14.87, dickblick.com.
Tiered Vellum Lampshade
To make tiers, lay vellum on mat, and use knife and ruler to cut strips 2 inches tall and 1 inch longer than shade's perimeter. To gauge the number of strips needed, subtract 2 inches from the height of the shade, divide by 1.5, and round up. With a bone folder, score strips at 2-inch intervals; accordion-fold to create squares. Measure 1/2 inch up and 1/2 inch in from the bottom right corner. Connect marks with pencil; cut along the line to remove the corner. Repeat this on the bottom left. Punch holes 1/4 inch up from bottom center of squares; unfold. To attach tiers, glue the end of one strip to the corner of the shade, aligning bottoms; let dry. Wrap the strip around the shade, and attach the other end with glue. Trim excess. Repeat, overlapping scallop on the strip below it.
Shop Now: Lumicube Translucent-Parchment Cube Shade, in White, $59, etsy.com; Martha Stewart Craft Knife $8.49, michaels.com; Martha Stewart Cutting Mat, $26, michaels.com; Canson Vidalon Vellum, $2.89 per sheet, dickblick.com.
Brass Appliqué Lamp
Turn a low-intrigue lamp (you know, the one hiding in the corner of your den) into the highlight of the room with custom 3-D details. We used ceramics glue to attach a cascade of brass oak leaves to this moss-colored base. Before gluing, do a dry run with poster tack.
In this bedroom, dip-dyeing gives a fabric lampshade a soft, serene look. For the shade, determine the height of the band you want, and use a waterproof pen to mark that height on the inside of the dye bin. Fill the bin with the dye solution to the marked line, and immerse the shade.
Ikat Stenciled Lampshade
Add decorative Indonesian-inspired accents to your home decor using adhesive stencils. They work perfectly on circular surfaces like lampshades. For the one shown here, apply two colors of craft paint—one layer of acrylic paint, then another layer of watercolor paint—with a stencil brush.
Shop Now: Fenchel Shades Height Drum Lamp Shade, in Linen White, 18" x 18" 12", $84, homedepot.com; Martha Stewart Laser-Cut Layering Stencil, in Ikat, $14.90, amazon.com; Martha Stewart Crafts Multi-Surface Satin Acrylic Craft Paint, in Party Streamer, $2.49, michaels.com; Martha Stewart Crafts Soft Gel Watercolor Acrylic Paint, in Wine, $,3.49, michaels.com; Martha Stewart Crafts Stencil Brush Set, $10, michaels.com.
Bandannas may conjure images of the rugged Old West, but an office done up in a variety of navy blue cloths can look modern and refined. A vintage dotted fabric is cut and adhered to a lampshade.
To make a template, place the shade on its side on paper; roll the shade slowly, tracing along its upper and lower edges; continue tracing all the way around the shade; add 1/2-inch seam allowance, and cut out. Place the paper template on fabric, and cut fabric. Sew the fabric's short, straight ends together, and press seam open. Turn right side out. Slip fabric over the lampshade. Cut lengths of double-fold bias tape tape to fit around the top and bottom (allow 1 inch extra, for overlap). Slide bias tape over shade's top rim. The front half should cover the fabric; the back half should cover the inside of the shade. Squeeze a thin line of glue around the shade's inside and outside, and pinch along tape to adhere bias tape. Repeat this with the bottom rim; let dry.
Lunar Stenciled Lampshade
Ever-so-slightly off center circles in white and pale blue dress up an earth-toned lampshade. This project works best with a straight-sided lampshade, such as a drum shade, covered with paper-backed book cloth, which won't buckle when painted. Before starting, measure the shade's circumference to see if it will accommodate even repetitions of the circle template. If there is an overlap at the seam, shift it out of sight. When stenciling, pat the sponge in a dab of paint, and blot excess on the palette. Then apply paint in thin coats, taking care that it doesn't drip or pool, until the area is covered.