I Re-Created the Look of a $900 Lamp for Just $4—Here’s How

published Sep 25, 2020
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
DIY vintage-style lamp

I’m always looking for ways to make interior design more affordable, so when I came across this gorgeous vintage ceramic jug lamp, I knew I had to try to channel the same look for my own home. That sort of textured, earthen look is really popular right now, and looks particularly good on vases—but I had a feeling that this same technique could bring a lot of character to lamps, too.

My favorite DIYs are the ones that are really open-ended, and this project is just that: You literally slap a little paint on, add a bit of texture, then finish up by cleaning the surface just a tiny bit with a dry cloth. While other DIYers have used spray paint for their faux-aging, I like opting for watered-down house paint since it’s something you’re likely to already have on hand (or if not, it’s easy to find on the cheap). I happened to have two pints of neutral beige latex wall paint sitting around, so that’s what I used. To achieve a truly organic look, try to stick with neutral colors for your base, like black, white, gray, brown, or terracotta.

I found the lamp I used at my favorite thrift store on sale for just $4. There were actually two matching lamps but I only bought one, which I am kicking myself over since I would now love to have a matching set. Learn from my mistake!

My shade came from another lamp in my house that wasn’t being used, and the dirt was scavenged from one of my larger house plants—bringing my total to a whopping $4 plus tax! If you recreate this look, you can expect to spend about $4 per sample pot of latex paint, and up to $20 on the lamp and shade from your local thrift store (though likely much less).

Here’s what you’ll need to create your DIY distressed lamp:

  • Ceramic lamp base
  • flat or satin latex paint in one or more colors
  • paintbrush
  • dirt and water
  • cloth

How to create a DIY distressed lamp

1. Prep the lamp

Prepare your lamp by wiping it down to remove any dust. Make sure to remove any price stickers, as well.

2. Paint the first coat

Mix a 1:1 ratio of latex paint to water in a bowl and carefully apply the paint with a paintbrush. You want the paint to be thin, but not drippy. If needed, add more paint to the mixture to thicken it up a bit.

3. Add additional colors (optional)

To add dimension, consider using two to three different paint colors that are fairly close to one another. For a more dramatic look, wait until one color dries before painting the next. For a more subtle look, apply each color before the previous dries, which helps the colors blend a bit better.

4. Apply dirt

Once the paint is completely dry, mix the water and dirt until it starts looking muddy, then take a big scoop and start to rub it in all over the lamp. If the mixture starts to drip down the side of the lamp, it’s too watery; add more dirt until it stops dripping.

5. Remove the dirt (strategically)

After the dirt has completely dried, grab a cotton towel and gently scrub the lamp, working in small sections to carefully control just how much dirt you remove. The dirt removal shouldn’t be uniform—you want to remove more dirt in some areas and less in others. If you accidentally remove too much, you can always add more again, wait until it dries, and repeat the removal process.

6. Add your lampshade

Remove any lingering tape, add your lampshade, and admire your handiwork. This super-expensive-looking lamp cost you less than $20 and took only a few hours to make. How’s that for a bargain?