Lamp Rehab: Before OR After?

Even a fearless DIYer like me needs a little push sometimes. I saw these lamps at a Toronto junk shop (Odds & Ends, 703 Queen Street West) but couldn’t bring myself to drop $40 on them because the bases were so damn ugly. I’m a sucker for pierced porcelain yet still I walked away from them . . . twice. It wasn’t until I saw the awesome all-white lamps below in the latest issue of Canadian House & Home (photo by Virginia MacDonald) that I knew what to do. Paint them!

But then a funny thing happened; after cleaning and spraying the first one, I got cold feet. The painted metal looked kind of cheap and the more I lived with the brass one, the more I liked the contrast of materials and the less I hated the base.

So I put the question to you, dear readers, do you prefer the before or the after? I should also mention that I don’t plan to keep these lamps, I did the makeover with the intention of flipping them for a profit. So what has a better chance of selling? The original finish or the painted?

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Thursday, February 24, 2011 by Chris
This post was written by - who has written 865 posts on styleNorth.

39 Comments For This Post

  1. Nita@ModVintageLife Says:

    Oh…I love the redo…I think all white is the way to go. They look Grandma the other way. They aren’t bad the other way…I just think they look great painted.

  2. Don George Says:

    Hello Chris: After looking at he lamps I agree with you the base is ugly. I do however like the brass contrast at the top of the lamp. How about painting the bottom and leaving the top? Thanks for the blog on the magic oil. I plan to buy a can tomorrow to fix up the “other” table.

  3. Karen J Says:

    After!!! Clean and fresh.

    Reminds me of one of my value village finds –

    Don’t think you can go wrong with pure white.

  4. Lynn Says:

    leaning toward the brass! something about the painted white
    seems to cheapen them a bit.

  5. Sandra Says:

    I’m voting for the all white,I can picture it with a pretty patterned lamp shade.

  6. popiggypop Says:

    White is the way to go for resale.

    If I were keeping them, I would have painted the bases a pale colour and then rubbed a transparent glaze in a slightly contrasting colour over it for texture.

  7. Gus Says:

    If the question is ‘what will sell better?’; it’s a fickle coin flip. You only need one person to like them and pay your asking price. Paint them purple and black zebra stripes and somebody will still like them. If however, the question is ‘should they be painted white?’, this can be somewhere between a big philosophical design debate or just a casual thumbs up or thumbs down. Philosophically, why is it that ‘paint it white’ seems to be the single biggest default thing to do for just about anything? I called white paint the ‘Sarah Richardson common denominator’ on another blog.

  8. Chris Says:

    Gus, you make me laugh, thanks.
    Karen, your lamp makeover is fantastic! What kind of paint did you use, it has such a high gloss. I think mine would also look good with this kind of finish.

  9. Topaz Says:

    I think I might have been tempted to paint the white parts black and leave the brass as is. And maybe add some black ribbon trim to the shade. Maybe.

  10. Grace Says:

    What I like and what i think will sell are two different things. I think the “Before” is more interesting, original, less generic, and authentic. Unfortunately, I think what will sell is the all white. In my opinion, you can get all white lamps that look just like this in a lot of places – way more mainstream. But that’s also what will make it more popular.

  11. Hogtownmike Says:

    I like the all white myself. There is enough going on with the lamp’s design to downplay everything else.

  12. Karen J Says:

    I used Corrostop Ultra by Sico (ultra white-gloss). The can said ‘for metal only’ but it covered the glass part of the lamp nicely.
    It’s thick stuff so I went slow (3 coats) to avoid drips.
    Good luck!

  13. sarah Says:

    I agree, they would look good in a high gloss white.

  14. Tim Says:

    i would go for all white ..and do something fun with the lamp shade. .. probably will add a ribbon details to tie them in whatever the color scheme is in the room.

  15. Chris Says:

    Thanks Karen!

  16. ingrid Says:

    before! i’m all for Paint It White (maybe the rolling stones will write another song) but in this case, i think the white cheapens this lamp. i love the base, i see not many do, and leaving it in the brass is the way to go.

  17. Sue Says:

    Chris, leave them the way they are… Definitely no GLOSS paint!

  18. Wallis Says:

    Yeah! All white is my vote.

  19. chairtablelamp Says:

    as is the best, always set the trend don’t follow or copy…

  20. Jacinta Says:

    Wow, I’m not sure how we’re going to help you unless you settle for a thin majority! My vote: after! Cheers!

  21. Unique Says:

    Definitely before. I like the character the brass provides. The contrast is more interesting than all white — so … EXPECTED.

  22. Sean Says:

    I imagine the all white will sell quickly. However, I prefer the original finsh at top and bottom, not as expected and trendy.

  23. margo Says:


    I agree with Topaz, keep the brass but paint the white black, and add a black and gold marbled lampshade???

    margo on vancouver island

  24. Tina at Spot On Organizing Says:

    I like the white best. Better for re-sale too. But if you were to keep them, I could see just the top triangle portion being painted with a hit of orange!

  25. Olya Says:

    Definitely after!

  26. Shana Says:

    All white, no question. As much as this clean look soothes me, I can’t help but wonder . . . the perfect orange, kinda retro style, matte, that nice white shade? For flipping tho, you definitely chose wisely. Why do I all of a sudden have the urge to cruise over to Marty Millionaire?

  27. John Says:

    After photo all the way! Bang up job.

  28. Lois Says:

    Good morning, the re-do is the way to go…what fun…Lois of thanks Chris, seems like you have a new career of buying and selling

  29. Helen Cameron Says:


    Definately – go for the white!

  30. Lisa Says:

    Add one vote for Topaz – brass and black – would be so elegant!

  31. Sandra Says:

    Wow, 30 comments! What an opinionated group we are. Love the ideas.Chris what’s next?

  32. Gus Says:

    As far as I can interpret, the voting has been:

    paint white – 15
    leave the brass – 7
    undecided – 2
    other colour options – 3

    Maybe I should stop selling original condition/finish antiques, if this is what the world wants. “Sarah, where’s the white paint?”, “Sorry Tommy I guess we keep running out of it.”

  33. Luigia Says:

    Love the white…it has a great finish. What kind of paint did you use?

  34. Chris Says:

    Gus, thanks for the tally. I’ve decided to go with Don George’s suggestion and paint the bases but leave the tops with the brassy finish. I polished them further and really like how they’ve turned out.
    Although there are special paints you can use on porcelain, I wouldn’t do it in this case because the bodies are in really terrific shape and I love them the way they are. In fact, I love the lamps so much I just might end up keeping them. The weather is supposed to be warm tomorrow so I’ll be able to get the project finished and will post the final result.
    Luigia, I happened to have some white spray lacquer on hand so that’s what I used. The metal needed to be primed first since this type of paint won’t adhere to metal but the result is superb if you take your time and do several light coats as per Karen’s suggestion.
    THANKS everybody for your input.

  35. Luigia Says:

    Thanks Chris.

  36. Nat Says:

    I prefer the before, but the mass market doesn’t appreciate the brass/ceramic mix, so go ahead and paint the lamps for a quick sale. Good luxe :)

  37. Tamisha Says:

    I like the contrast, but didn’t like the brass. Why not go black on the brass, in a flat. Gloss on the ceramic. Graphic black and white shade.

  38. Michelle Says:

    I know my two cents is a little late, but I like the all white.
    They reminded me of this Etsy seller’s work:

    Which I found while doing some research on my own esty shop:

    Beautiful lamps by the way!

  39. djwgilroy Says:

    I prefer the before on these but ONLY if the brass can be brought back. They would be truly Hollywood Regency at that point. If not, I’d have walked away too.

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