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 one or two – or even three like we did; they’ll light up your life!
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 and re-wired. 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.
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. Several years later however, at our favourite outdoor antique market, we stumbled upon a whole bag of metal collars for $100. We didn’t need a whole bag so we left. But then we went back later and asked if we could buy just a few from the bag to keep on hand and the vendor said ‘yes’! If you don’t ask, you never know. I’m glad we kept our eyes open and went back to buy a few; they cost a pittance compared to the ones we sourced in the city.
Here’s a close up of one 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!
Our first 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.
If you study the before and after photo above, you’ll see that hubs switched around the order of the pieces when he put them 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). UPDATE: One of our reader’s grandparents had the exact same lamp and now she owns it. As it turns out, it was in the wrong order and hubs put it back together correctly after all! I love that she took the time to leave a comment to let us know!
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, such as the Rust-oleum one shown below, 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).
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.
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.
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.
Here’s how the same lamp looks relocated beside the couch in our 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!
The deco shade we used was found at a second hand store. There were a few on the shelf 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 in the after two pictures below, we put that extra deco shade to good use with out next bridge lamp find too.
With our third project below, the shade was SO dated, but everything was intact. We painted the entire bridge lamp white, including the collar, so we replaced the electrical cord with white wiring to coordinate. We’ve seen other people spray paint both the lamp AND the cord, but it looks very messy and unprofessional; we’d rather spend a bit more money to replace the cord.
We placed the now white lamp in our spare bedroom; the white pops against the blue walls and also brings out the twist detail on the pole.
Here’s a collage of the before and after to compare:
Here it is completed in situ in the spare bedroom. It’s updated and ready to shine for another 75 years. One day, the rest of the bedrooms will catch up – we’re long overdue for a some bedroom makeovers!
After completing this last bridge lamp makeover, we thought we were done. UPDATE: Feb 2018 – Just a few months ago we stumbled upon another bridge lamp that we just couldn’t pass up at an antique barn. This time, however, we’re not going to rewire and use it for its intended purpose. We now have bridge lamps in almost every room of our house so it’s time to get more creative!
We’ll be upcycling our newest find into something completely different. Subscribe, if you haven’t already, to see what we do with this one.
I hope these three projects have inspired you to try a bridge lamp makeover; if so, please pin and share to spread the light!
If you decide to go flea marketing in search a bridge lamp to make over for your own home, you might want to make this DIY Flea Market Survival Kit for your travels:
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