Lampshades are one of the most important parts of any lamp. They help protect your light bulbs from breaking, reduce glare, and improve the overall look of your lamps. However, they can often be the most expensive and one of the most difficult to find and purchase.
If you’ve been searching for a lampshade but had no luck finding one that fits your needs, here are some tips on how to refurb your own lampshade.
15 Oh-So-Pretty Lampshade Upcycle Ideas
If your lampshade is looking a little worse for wear, don’t fret! Here we list just a few things you can try today, to refurbish your old lamp and give it a new lease on life.
#1 Clean your lampshade
The first step is to give your lampshade a good clean. Use a dust cloth or a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment to remove any dust or debris. Take an old toothbrush and really get into those nooks and crannies.
If your lampshade has been used for a long time, it’s normal for it to accumulate grime over the years. If the shade is made of fabric, you may be able to wash it, but make sure to check the care label first! Then, use a mild detergent in warm water and scrub it down with an old toothbrush. Rinse it thoroughly and leave it to dry naturally before taking further steps in your refurbishment efforts.
#2 Stiffen up your saggy shade
Once your shade is clean, take a look at the structure of your lampshade. Is it starting to sag? If you’re working with a fabric shade, you can try to stiffen it up by applying a layer of fabric stiffener. Simply use an iron to apply the stiffener and then let it dry completely.
If your lampshade is made from fabric with a stiffening agent already included, adding another layer might be overkill and make your shade too stiff. Might it be a better idea to insert a wireframe into the shade, instead? A wireframe will help reinforce the structure of your shade, making it less likely to droop in the future, especially if your shade is made from paper or cardboard.
#3 Cover your shade with fabric or wallpaper
If the shade is looking a bit shabby, you can give it a new look by using the old frame and upgrading with new fabric or even wallpaper. This can be a quick and easy way to update your lampshade, according to Annie Giffard, founder of Shades of Distinction.
Annie runs lampshade workshops in and out of Victoria, teaching students how to update their old shades and how to make new shades.. She likes using fabric because it can be more durable and there is a huge selection online and in stores. “Fabric is much easier to work with,” Annie says. “If you’re going to do it yourself, I would definitely recommend fabric. It’s just a little bit more forgiving if something goes wrong or you mess up. You can always rip it out and start again. With wallpaper, once it’s on there, it’s on there!”
You’ll need a natural fibre piece of fabric which works well with your decor. Then it is cut to size to match the template / pattern of the old shade you are refurbishing.
#4 Applique fabric to your lampshade
If you’re handy with a needle and thread, why not sew an applique design onto your lampshade? This will add a touch of personality to your lampshade and make it look more interesting. Plus, it’s a way to cover up any holes or stubborn stains!
If you don’t want to sew by hand, there’s always applique kits from craft stores that come with pre-cut pieces of fabric and instructions on how to put them together. This can be as simple as stitching some flowers onto the shade, or you could sew on a whole design.
#5 Decoupage your shade with pretty patterned paper
A simple way to decorate your shade is by decoupage, which means covering the surface with pretty paper. You can buy special decoupage glue from any craft store, or you can use white glue instead if you don’t mind waiting for it to dry before hanging up your window treatment.
Just cut pieces of patterned paper to size and stick them onto the fabric with a brush or sponge so they adhere well to your shade. You can also use plain paper and a paintbrush to create your own patterns, or even paint onto your shade. This will give you a chance to experiment with different techniques and colours before deciding what you like best.
#6 Finish your shade with trimmings
Trimmings are yet another way to add pattern and colour to a plain lampshade. All you need are some hot glue and lace, fabric trims, ribbons, fringes, or tassels.
For example, you can use different textures of ribbon or lace around the edges of your shade, like to create a fringed effect. You can cut out shapes from your fabric trims in fun patterns like polka dots or stripes. Just remember to balance the design out with just enough white space, to keep the overall look of your lampshade interesting.
#7 Use fabric spray paint to disguise any damage
A layer of gesso or white paint can do wonders on your old shade and make it look brand new. For instance, you can create an ombre effect, simply by applying spray paint in different shades of the same colour. Then let it dry completely.
When you’re done, use a sanding block or paint thinner to smooth out the surface of your shade, to give it a more professional look. If you want to give it an extra-polished finish, use a spray bottle filled with rubbing alcohol or water and wipe away any excess paint drips. You can also use gesso to fix chips in the shade or holes where fabric has fallen off over time.
#8 Stencil on a design
Got a print in mind to suit a specific theme? You can use a Lino cut or a stencil to customise the design of your shade. You can choose from hundreds of stencil designs online or create your own by downloading images and printing them out on cardstock or tracing paper.
It’s important to choose a stencil that’s large enough to cover the bottom of your shade and spray it with adhesive. Then use a paint brush to apply paint over the stencil in small sections at a time. This is a great way to add some character to your room and make it feel more personal.
#9 Stitch your own shades
If you’re feeling really crafty, why not embroider your own shade design? You can purchase an embroidery hoop or make your own by stretching a piece of fabric over a wooden dowel and securing it with tape.
You can use a pattern or design of your choice and then create the outline with a sewing machine. You can also add some decorative stitches to add some extra detail. You can also try cross-stitching or appliqueing small patches onto your shade.
#10 Decorate your shade with beads
Beads are great if you’re looking for a more modern touch. There is a variety to choose from, from glass to wooden beads. If you’re going for a more natural look, try using sea glass or sand dollars instead. You can also use shells or pieces of driftwood as an alternative.
You can either use pre-made beads or make them yourself. If you’re using pre-made beads, simply string them along the top edge of your shade and secure them in place with small clasps or pins. You can also try making your own beads by melting plastic into shapes and adding decorative designs onto them with paint.
#11 Cover your lampshade with sequins
Every serious crafter knows that there’s nothing sequins can’t fix! Just pour transparent nail varnish or sequin glue into a bowl, dip your sequins in, and place them on top of the lampshade. Let them dry for about 10 minutes. And voila, instant sparkle on your lampshade!
If you want a more subtle effect, try using smaller sequins. You can also add some glitter to your nail varnish or glue, and paint it onto the lampshade for extra sparkle. Once they’re dry, you can use a clean cloth to wipe away any excess adhesive. If you have some sequins left over and want to add them in another place on your lampshade, just repeat the process as many times as necessary – and know when to stop!
#12 Cover your shade with photos
If you have a lampshade that’s too small, or if you just want to add some colour and interest, then why not cover it in photos? You could use old postcards or greeting cards as well.
Just cut them out and stick them onto your lampshade with tape or glue. The idea is to cover the entire lampshade so that it’s completely covered in images and no longer looks as though you’ve cut out shapes and stuck them on. When you’re done, you’ll have a lampshade that’s not only decorative and interesting, but also unique. You could even use this as a way to decorate other things around your home; for example, if you wanted to create a retro look for your kitchen.
#13 Create a mosaic effect
Create a mosaic effect on your shade by glueing small, polished stones on to the shade. You can use a variety of colours and sizes to create an interesting design.
For example, if you want something bold and stylish, try using brightly coloured stones or even gold leafing. Or maybe you would like something more subtle; in which case go for pastels or muted tones. Once the mosaic has been made, spray it with a sealant so that it won’t get ruined by any water leaks. For extra glamour, try using Swarovski crystals or other faceted glass beads.
#14 Make a fascinator lampshade
What a fun idea! For this, you’ll need a glue gun, some felt, feathers and little flowers.
Start by cutting a circle of felt that is slightly larger than the size of your lampshade. Stick it to the top of the lampshade with glue, making sure that it is not too tight or loose. Next, place feathers around the edge, followed by the flowers. Finally, take small pieces of felt and glue them onto the inside of the lampshade so that they cover up any gaps.
#15 Repurpose old material
Let your imagination run free! There are so many wonderful materials and techniques you can use to make a shade, from felt and calligraphy to block printing. Annie says, “The most unusual one I’ve seen was x-rays of the childrens injuries!” Can you imagine that lighting up your room?
Recycling is another great option. Old doona covers, tablecloths, yacht sails, dry-as-a-bone, aprons and wedding veils have all made their way into Annie’s classes and been turned into fun, bespoke shades.
These are just some ways to refurbish a lampshade. But what to choose? The ultimate goal is to find the one that best fits the style and needs of your home, combines the elements of a new lampshade with the appearance and quality of your old one, and most importantly, isn’t going to cost you an arm and a leg.
Know that some techniques might be better than others for certain types of lampshades and for lamps of different shapes and various colours. You might even want to try out a few different approaches before settling on the best possible one. Whatever you do, however, remember that only you can determine the final look of your lampshade. Happy crafting!