March 02, 2010

DIY Designing: Turning Brass into Gold

Well, not really gold, but something much better than brass.

I hinted at this post when regaling you with tales of painting the bedrooms. In case you forgot, Leigh was unhappy with the roller so we sent her outside with a brass chandelier and a can of spray paint.


My cute little house had a perfectly adequate brass chandelier hanging in the dining room. But brass isn’t terribly modern finish (read: so 1987).


Our family friends the Reinhardts had recently completed a kitchen/dining room remodel and employed this handy and inexpensive trick on their own brass chandelier: a coat or two of spray paint, and voila! An updated, modern fixture for about $3.


Granted I just gave away the crux of the whole post in the opening paragraphs, but Leigh was such a good sport and the finished product such a success, I encourage you to keep reading. It will be great.

Step 1: Find a willing sibling, boyfriend, neighbor, etc. to do this project for you. Spray painting is messy and by the time you get done, your pointer finger will hurt.


Step 2: Tape the chord and light sockets so you don’t get paint in them. Do this for a chandelier, lamp, sconce, whatever! Note: when taking down a chandelier turn off the circuit before messing with the wires to avoid being electrocuted.


Step 3: Use a primer. Though you may not find this a necessary step, it helps create a smoother surface for the paint to adhere to and doesn’t take very long. See? Look how much fun Leigh is having with the primer.


Step 3 ½: Painting with spray paint. Shake the can of primer or paint for about one minute. Holding the can 8-10 inches away from the subject, move back and forth to create an even coat over entire piece. Be careful to not get too close – the paint will go on too thick and drops will start running down, ruining your perfect surface.


Step 4: Repeat process with spray paint.


Step 5: Wait either 30 minutes or 24 hours to do a second coat. No, you aren’t misreading that time frame. I’d wait 30 minutes but that’s just me. It’s helpful to have someone hold the cord while you wait. A future brother-in-law will do the trick!


After 4 hours it should be dry enough to hang.


While I had the spray paint out and willing volunteers, we went ahead and painted this cute bar cart I purchased at a second-hand store.


At first glance, you might think “what a dated, uncool piece.”


A coat of black spray paint later, and what do you know? A super-cute and practical place to display glassware.


I used this same technique on a lamp I bought at Goodwill over Thanksgiving (on sale from $6 to $3), but chose a bright cherry red for the entry table.


lamp 2

That’s it for this edition of DIY Designing. Hope this post helps you think of brass in a new light (pun intended).

And thanks, Leigh and Matt, for being such good sports.



  1. I thought you bought a new chandelier. no joke. great job fern. ;)

  2. Yea! What a fun post. Too bad you couldn't offer any helpful advice about how to get all the dang paint off your feet...