DIY Architectural Salvage Lamp

Have you wondered how to create a DIY architectural salvage lamp?  This post will walk you through the steps for making one. 

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As the days get colder and shorter, the types of projects I am working on have to be small enough to be brought inside.  So, I have been working on small cupboards, side tables, and crafts that I can share with you in the coming months.  Along with these other smaller pieces, I was fortunate enough to find a lamp that could be turned into an architectural salvage lamp. 

If you have looked into purchasing new light fixtures made out of architectural salvage pieces, you know that they can be pricey.  This post presents you with an affordable alternative that I think looks great.  

Back Story

I always love incorporating antique pieces and vintage finds into my home and I am particularly fond of architectural antiques. So when I came across this lamp, I knew I wanted to give it an update and incorporate it into the interior design of my home. As an aside, I am also always on the look out for old items to incorporate into my home decor such as old doors, antique doors, old glass windows, and any other pieces that have great architectural details.

DIY Architectural Salvage Lamp


As with any project, the first thing we need to do is gather our supplies.  

  • An existing lamp that has an architectural salvage shape – I found one at my local Re-Store and it was made in the 1970s. 
  • You can also purchase a lamp kit to create your own lamp from and an existing architectural salvage piece. (Such as a large baluster or corbel)
  • MMS milk paint (there is an array of different colors to choose from)
  • MMS milk mix EZ
  • MMS milk grip
  • Hair dryer
  • A lamp shade that fits the size and style of your architectural salvage piece
  • Paint brush (I use Zibra paint brushes)
  • Painters tape

Most of you may know that I collaborate with the MMS milk paint company and as a result I can save you 10% on your order. If you order any products from the link provided, enter the code 10OFFSH to save 10%.

MMS milk paint coupon

Step 1 – Find or Make your Lamp

If I can share one piece of advice with you, it would be this:  when you are out and about, treasure hunting, try to picture what they COULD look like.

Some great places to visit for finding lamps include:

  • a thrift store,
  • a yard sale,
  • a flea market,
  • an antique store,
  • estate sales,
  • vintage markets,
  • Facebook marketplace, or
  • auctions  

For this project, I found a large table lamp but you could also apply this same technique to a larger piece such as a floor lamp or a smaller piece such as a wall sconce.

Lamp Before

When I first brought this great find home, Mr SLH thought I had lost my mind.  The fact that this lamp was capped with a terrible baby blue lamp shade did not help the situation. Trust me, the baby blue lamp shade didn’t make it past the garbage can on the way into the house. 

Still when you look closely, you can see that the base of the lamp base has a great shape.  Also, the lamp worked well and was good quality.  All the fittings were snug and the switch worked like a charm. 

If you look at the shape of items, and look past the horrible colors and the outdated attachments, sometimes there is a ton of hidden potential.  So, when you are out on a treasure hunt, look at lamps in the form of the possibility they offer and try to see past their present, sometimes sad, appearance.

Using Architectural Salvage

You can also take an existing piece of architectural salvage and make your own lamp.  Robyn from Robyn’s French Nest has a great post on how to convert a piece of architectural salvage into a lamp. You can find architectural salvage pieces to convert into lamps by visiting a salvage shop, salvage yard, or architectural salvage store. These pieces usually come from old buildings. You can also find new corbels or new architectural pieces at places that sell building materials such as lumber yards. You can buy a lamp kit here to make any piece of architectural salvage into a lamp.

However, my first preference is to find an existing lamp, which already works well, and which can be made to look like architectural salvage.  Also, just a note of safety, you want to ensure the wiring for the lamp is safe.  Pass up any lamps that have questionable, old, or outdated wiring. Although old things are fabulous, please put safety first.

Step 2 – Prep the Lamp

You will need to clean your lamp well by removing any dust and grease that may be on the surface. I used a bucket of hot water and Mr. Clean to remove 50 years of grime from the lamp.  Mr. SLH was a little green after he saw the color of the dirty water. 

Once your light fixture is completely dry, tape off the areas you want to protect.  For this project, using painters tape, I taped off the cord, the bottom of the lamp and the brass fittings at the top. 

Step 3- Paint the Lamp

You can use any paint you choose for this project.  I decided to use MMS milk paint because I like the texture that milk paint creates. I mixed about  ¾ cup of powdered paint with ¾ cup of warm water and added ½ cup of milk grip (a bonding agent).  MMS milk grip helps to ensure the paint adheres to the surface of the lamp and won’t flake off.

The first coat of paint looked really patchy. I had my doubts about this project but decided to persevere. 

After applying a coat of paint, I used a hair dryer to accelerate the drying time.  The heat from a hair dryer also helps to create a crackled appearance, making the lamp look like an authentic architectural salvage piece.  

All in all, this project required three coats of paint to get the effect I wanted.  It took each coat of paint about 20-30 minutes to dry completely with the help of my hair dryer.  

Above are some photos where I tried to capture the texture the paint created after applying 3 coats of paint. I wanted it to look like an architecture salvage piece that had multiple layers of paint and texture. When you are finished painting and the lamp is completely dry – remove the painters tape.

Step 4 – Add a Lamp Shade

Adding a lamp shade sounds easy – right?  Let me tell you from the outset lamp shades can be very expensive. However, finding the right lamp shade can transform a lamp. In the quest for the perfect lamp shade, I have been known to take my lamp with me into a local store such as Home Goods, Target, Pottery Barn to “try on” lamp shades.  You will quickly get a sense of what size and style looks best. 

For this lamp, I used a burlap lamp shade with a tapered drum shape. The lamp is fairly large at 33 inches high and required a large shade. The diameter of the lamp shade at the top is 15″, the diameter at the bottom is 18″ and the height of the shade is 12″.  

Cost of the Project

Here is a quick summary of the cost of this little project:

Brown 1970s Lamp with Potential: $15

MMS Milk Paint and Products: $24

New Lamp Shade: $55

The total cost for this DIY Architectural Salvage Lamp was $94.

If you already have a lamp shade you can use, the total cost could be $39.

If you prefer to simply purchase a lamp with a similar style, I have provided some links below. 

Step 5 – Enjoy your Lamp

Now that you have created a DIY Architectural Salvage Lamp – you can enjoy your “new” lamp.  These lamps can be used in any room in your home. I am currently using this lamp in the family room/ living room. It’s always fun to incorporate custom lamps into the interior design elements of any home.

DIY Architectural Salvage Lamp 2

Here are some “after” photos so you can see the end result.  Feel free to pin one of these images to your Pinterest account for future reference. 

DIY Architectural Salvage Lamp 3

Here is a photo showing the texture of the milk paint.

DIY Architectural Salvage Lamp 4

One final photo showing you the “before” and “after” photos of this project.

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  1. I love the way this lamp came together, Anna! It looks amazing and I’m glad you gave it a second chance. It was totally worth the extra work. Hugs, CoCo

  2. Wow! It’s hard to believe what a difference white paint can make until you see a project like this! I love how you saw the potential in a boring brown lamp and made it into something beautiful! Great makeover!

  3. FABULOUS upcycle, Anna! We will be featuring you starting Wednesday at the Creative Crafts Linky Party! Pinned and shared!
    Creatively, Beth

  4. So disappointed that you threw the lamp shade away. Certainly you could have Diy’ed it too?

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