Bridge Lamp Makeovers: a Bright Idea!

If you’re looking to freshen up your lighting, be on the lookout of old bridge lamps at flea markets this Spring. Consider making over two or three, like we did; they’ll light up your life!

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We love to buy old items and put a bit of a modern twist on them. On our flea marketing and antiquing jaunts, hubs and I have come across a multitude of bridge lamps in our travels. Hubs didn’t totally love them, but I knew they would make a stunning addition in our home once refurbished. One day, I was able to convince him to buy one and make it over. We loved the end result so much that before we knew it, we bought another and another! They now adorn various rooms around the house!

Our very first bridge lamp makeover is shown below. More often than not, the bridge lamp you find will be missing both the lamp shade and the metal collar that attaches the shade to the lamp. The electrical cord may be less than stellar also, so you’ll need to run new wire. We didn’t get pictures of the details on how to rewire these lamps, but it’s fairly simple.  Here’s one site that explains the rewiring process, but I’m sure you can google many others too.

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We had to source a specialty lighting store just to find the collar and it was surprisingly expensive. We took the collar with us to purchase the shade to make sure it would fit (we found the shade at a second hand store). If you can find a bridge lamp with all the original parts, it will be a much better buy than running around trying to find what’s missing.

Here’s a close up of the metal collar. This one simply clamps to the lower arm of the lamp and then the glass shade fits underneath. The screws get tightened to hold the shade in place; don’t over tighten the screws or you will crack it!

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Our bridge lamp was a brassy metal so there was no need to blast any finish off. We picked a charcoal grey car paint to repaint it. You’ll notice that we left some raw metal details for a bit of contrast.

Now you have to decide if you’re going to paint your lamp assembled or disassembled and whether vertically or horizontally. In some instances you could keep the lamp assembled and paint the whole thing. For this particular lamp, because some parts weren’t being painted and hubs didn’t want to tape them off, he sprayed the parts individually and reassembled it after it was dry.

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If you study the before and after above, you’ll see that hubs  switched around the order of the pieces when he put it back together. If you decide to take apart the lamp, my best piece of advice would be to take a picture of everything before you do – then you’ll know how it goes back together!  I guess the ‘before’ version was correct, but I actually prefer the ‘after’ version because you can see all the detail at the top of the lamp (you will rarely see or look at the base, especially if there’s furniture around it).

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Prepare the surface before painting by cleaning with TSP or Simple Green cleaner. Rinse thoroughly with water and let dry completely. If the surface is previously painted, sand with fine 220 grit sandpaper or sanding sponge to get into all the crevices. Remove all traces of dust.

Hubs used a metal primer to prime all surfaces first, let it dry, sanded again with fine grit sandpaper, removed the dust and then used car paint to spray the metal. When using a spray can, hubs suggests you invest in a spray can grip to give you more control over the spray and eliminate ‘finger fatigue’:

To paint the pieces, you can wrap wire around any parts that are threaded and hang the pieces vertically to spray them. You could also run wire through the length of each tube and fashion a hook on one end to keep it slipping off and a hook on the other end to hang it if there’s nothing to attach wire to.

Lastly, if you have the right diameter, a small piece of dowel at each end would allow you to spray it horizontally between two sawhorses and rotate it around as you spray. Just set a nail at either end of the dowel so it can’t roll away – but not so close that you can’t rotate it, as shown in the overhead diagram below.

Lay down some plastic to catch over spray. Hold the can about 8″ – 10″ away from the surface and spray steadily back and forth with even passes. Several light coats will prevent runs (spraying the pieces horizontally also helps prevent runs).

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Here’s how the lamp looked in one of our bedrooms when it was done.  It makes a great reading lamp because you can swivel the head to direct the light.

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Here’s a second bridge lamp we found that we initially placed in our living room but finally ended up in our family room.  In this case, someone had already hand painted some red details on the flower petals which we liked, so we decided not to paint it at all.  We lucked out with the collar too; it was still there, however we had to rewire the lamp and replace the shade with the one you see below.

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A black accessory will work in any room. As shown below, we had the same bridge lamp in the living room before we moved it to our family room.

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Living room

Here’s how the same lamp looks relocated beside the couch in our family room.

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Family room

Because of the red accents on the bridge lamp, we added a red side table that we DIY’d with a crackle finish. The lamp fits in perfectly with other red accents in the room too, so it was a better place for it in the end!

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In the family room

The deco shade we used was found at a second hand store. There were a few and we snapped them both up; they’re great to have on hand if you ever plan to do another bridge lamp makeover – which of course we did! Once we got going, it almost became an addiction. As you can see, we put those deco shades to good use with both our second and third bridge lamp finds (see pictures above and below).

With our third project shown below, we painted the bridge lamp white, replaced the electrical cord with white wiring and we even painted the collar in white. We placed it in our spare bedroom; the white pops against the blue walls and also brings out the twist detail on the pole.

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Here is the completed 3rd bridge lamp makeover as it looks in situ in the spare bedroom.  It’s updated and ready to shine a light for another 75 years.

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I hope these three projects have inspired you to try a bridge lamp makeover; if so, please pin and share! If you decide to go flea marketing in search a bridge lamp to make over for your own home, you might want to make a DIY Flea Market Survival Kit for your travels:

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Follow my blog here or on Bloglovin’ to see other bright ideas in and around the home.

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Paint Chip Portrait

As a painter, my husband had amassed a huge collection of old paint chips and defunct paint decks. I also had a growing collection that I held onto from years of renovating and flipping houses. I was curious to see what one could do to recycle paint chips, so I did a Pinterest search and I came across a portrait of Marilyn Monroe done completely with paint chips. The light bulb went off: what better way to immortalize my husband, than with a paint chip portrait of himself!

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DISCLAIMER: as I already had scads of old paint chips, this entire project was an exercise in upcycling what I already had. I didn’t take paint chips from the paint store, so please don’t do that either 🙂

The blog associated with the Pinterest post didn’t really divulge much about how it was done so I had to make it up as I went along. With a few purchased items and a software program, such as photoshop, I knew I’d be able to figure out a method that worked! It was going to be a labour of love – extremely time consuming – but by breaking it down into smaller steps, this time-intensive project was going to be well worth it in the end.

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The first thing I did was to select my picture frame; it had to be large enough so that when I assembled the ‘pixelated’ portrait I’d be able to still see all the detail. I found a great frame at Ikea, sized 19 3/4″ x 27 1/2″.  As an added bonus, I was able to glue my paint chips directly to the hardboard backing, then reinsert it back into the frame to complete my project.

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I needed something to cut the hundreds of little pieces that make up the portrait; I found this portable plastic X-Acto paper cutter with a metal blade at the dollar store for only $3.  You can’t go wrong with a price like that; it was sharp and just the right size for storing after the project was completed. You’ll notice I made some modifications (more about that later).

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I also needed somewhere to corral all those hundreds of pieces of paint chips once they were all cut (over 800!). For that, I found this large medication organizer; the one pictured on the right is from Amazon.com, but I found mine at Walgreens when I was in the U.S.

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The last thing I needed was a glue stick. Once I gathered all my materials, I was ready to start.

Photoshop

Start with a close-up picture. For demonstration purposes, I’m going to use this picture of Lady Gaga at the 73rd Golden Globe awards that I found using a Google search:

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Using Photoshop I neutralized all the background:

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I selected any apparent black pixels that were still peeking through the strands of her hair and used the paint bucket to fill them with the same colour as the background (I wasn’t too picky about capturing the lighter shades of grey):

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Then I cropped the picture very close:

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Selecting Filter / Pixelate / Mosaic in Photoshop will bring up a slide adjuster you can use to adjust the size of the pixels. I played with this to get a good balance of not too many squares vs. not too much pixelation, keeping in mind the size of the frame and the need to still be able to make out the face when done! The litmus test is to look at the computer screen at a distance to see how well the squares blend.

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When I did the vertical portrait of hubs I ended up with 25 squares across the width and 33 squared in height.  By cutting each paint chip into 7/8″ squares, the final size ended up filling the dimensions of the Ikea Stromby Frame almost perfectly (I had to fill in a bit of the background colour along the right and left edges). The size of the paint chip will vary according to frame size and number of ‘pixels’ you end up with.

I numbered the bottom horizontal row and also the vertical row on the left of the portrait so I would be able to keep track of each square (I didn’t complete the numbers up the side on the example below, but you get the idea!).

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The portrait above doesn’t really look like it has much detail, but when you consider that it will be seen at a distance, all the pixels will blend and the face will be totally recognizable. I have reduced the exact same picture shown above to demonstrate this effect. As you can see, it will all come into focus; I love this picture of Lady Gaga!

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Now for the painstaking part. I took the eyedropper (circled below), clicked on the first square then opened up the colour picker to find out the RGB values.

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Open the colour picker in Photoshop to record the RGB values

Once I had the RGB values, I went to a website called EasyRGB. I entered the RGB values as shown below, selected a paint manufacturer, clicked the start button and it gave me the closest four colour matches to the RGB values I input.

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EasyRBG Website allows you to input an RGB value to find the closest paint match

Here are the four colours EasyRGB determined as the closest match to the values I input in the previous example:

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Closest colour matches to RGB

When you are colour matching, you need to keep in mind that everything is relative. You will never find a perfect match to the shade you’re trying to find.  However, once you assemble all your paint chips, you will get the necessary amount of contrast within what’s available in the particular line of paint you’ve chosen.  For example, the picture below shows a close-up of the paint chips I used to construct hub’s nose. You wouldn’t think such a wide range of contrasts would work when you’re trying to put together ‘flesh tones’, but when the portrait was complete (and mounted a good distance away from where it will be viewed) it just really worked. I guess what I’m trying to say is don’t sweat the small stuff; you’re not looking for perfection with your colour matching!

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Close up of assembled paint chips

Since EasyRGB didn’t have all the particular brands of paint I was looking for, I also did a search online for colour-matching apps that many of the paint manufacturers now have. Some are available at a modest fee, but most are free. I was able to literally open up my picture on my IPad, enlarge it and then tap each square to find my paint match.

Once I found a match, I needed somewhere to write it down and record it. I made myself an excel spreadsheet with numbered rows and columns to correspond to those I previously added onto the pixelated portrait. I sat at my desktop computer using the Ipad to colour-match, while using my computer to record the colour in Excel. Every time I colour matched a square, I would record it on the spread sheet.

When I was ready to cut the paint chips, I was able to sort the sheet  so that I would know how many pieces of the same colour I would need to complete the portrait. The spread sheet also acted as a road map (when unsorted) to place each chip in place for assembly purposes.

Cutting

Remember the $3 paper cutter? Here’s how I adapted it to cut my paint chips:

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View is from underside of paper cutter

I laid two strips of plywood onto the back (I had to shim it to keep it level); I literally just double face taped everything onto the cutter. Then I flipped it over and added a cross piece that was perpendicular and 7/8″ away from the cutting blade (also fastened with heavy duty double face tape).  The setup is similar to having  a fence extension on a mitre saw; the strip of plywood acted as a stop edge that kept all my paint chips consistently sized to 7/8″. Once each strip was cut, I turned it 90 degrees and then cut it again for a perfect square.

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Paint chip is lined up with plywood edge to keep size consistent

I cut as many pieces of one colour as I needed and then grouped them into stacked piles beside my work space (labeled with the colour number so I could refer back to my excel sheet).

Once all my pieces were cut, I ordered them – according to my excel sheet – into rows and placed them into the medicine organizer. I had more rows than space available in the organizer so I had to double up some of the sections (I put a divider between the stacks and wrote the row number on it so I could keep track).

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Assembling the Paint Chips onto the Backer Board

Once I had all my paint chips cut and organized, I did a dry run on top of the backer board (as shown above) to make sure it would all work out in the width and length. I did a final ‘squint check’ to see if I should replace any odd looking colour chips (better to do it before it’s all glued down!). I swapped out one or two of the chips out with better colours just by eyeballing it.

Now I was ready to glue. I carefully re-stacked the paint chips and placed them back into the organizer in the same order they were removed.

Starting at the lower left edge, I  applied glue stick onto the back of the first paint chip and place it firmly onto the board. I proceeded the same way with the remainder of the row making sure each chip was tightly butted up against the other.  I knew it would just snowball if I left any gaps, so I took my time.

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Gluing down the paint chips – in progress

Whenever I took a break or got bored, I just closed the lid of the medicine organizer (and put the cap on the glue stick!) until I was ready to start up again. I appreciated having a closed container to keep the dust off because I was at it for weeks on end!

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Paint chips stored in the medicine organizer

Once everything was glued down to the backer board I simply put it back into the Stromby frame I purchased and added wire onto the back to hang (per Ikea’s assembly instructions).

All that’s left to do is hang it and enjoy.

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As you can see from the shot on the lower right shown above, it was hard to get a final picture of my husband’s portrait without window glare, but I love how it turned out! I plan to move it into my craft studio, once the basement is done.

Pictured below is how Lady Gaga’s portrait might turn out.

If this project has inspired you, please pin and post on Facebook!

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For another wall decor idea, check out Expand Your Horizons: Propel Your Bulkhead into the Spotlight.

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Follow my blog here or on Bloglovin’ to see upcoming DIY projects – both in and around the home.

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