Lampshade Makeover That Doesn’t Look Like Crap

There are approximately 7 billion lampshade makeovers online.


So why am I posting this? Because 80% of them look like they were done by an unsupervised toddler. The outsides look fine, but it’s the insides that drive me nuts. You want to redo a lampshade, so you Google it or search it on Pinterest, you find one you like and when you get to the end of the tutorial, one of a couple things has happened:

1. The fabric has been tucked up under the lampshade and not trimmed and generally looks like butt. When the lamp is turned on, the fabric that wasn’t trimmed will block more light and you’ll be able to see that mess through the shade.


2. The fabric has been trimmed and some sort of ribbon or trim has been added to cover the shoddy job. Fine, unless trims and sparkly dangly things aren’t your bag.

3. The inside of the shade has been covered in an attempt to hide the top and bottom edges. Yeah, great idea, cover that entire thing with fabric and make it super dark so that zero light can escape. We’ll call it a bookend instead of a lamp.

4. The lamp is photographed where you can’t even see the insides of the lamp.

Are you sensing my frustration? Go ahead, search it Pinterest and tell me I’m wrong. It is not my intention to offend anyone, although I do realize that may be exactly what I’m doing. I’ve done all of these things. My intention is for your lamp to look like a bad@ss, in real life and at close range.  The last thing you want is a guest in your home turning on a lamp, seeing the inside of it and wondering how the fabric got tangled up with the garbage disposal. So, here’s my technique for making shades look as neat as possible.

I picked up a pair of these little babies at my favorite thrift store. The lamp bases were $20 each and 30% off and the shades were 10 smackers and 20% off. I’m no math-magician but that’s not bad for a pair of giant lamps.

Check out the original price on the shades. #ThirftScore

If you are using a tapered shade, it would be best to make a paper template first. Since I am using a drum shade, I just laid it out, measured and cut. I also lightly spray painted the lamp with Flat White Rustoleum prior to covering. I didn’t want the yellow of the lampshade to show through the white of the new fabric when the light was on.

I also wanted this pattern to be as straight as possible once on the shade. A slightly crooked fabric would be a dead giveaway that this was a handmade craft. Although the shade doesn’t look tapered, it tapers enough that the pattern doesn’t match up at the vertical seam in the back. I sprayed the fabric with spray adhesive and then laid the front middle of the lamp directly onto the fabric where I wanted it and rolled one way and then the other, making sure to stay as straight as possible. Then I clipped it with a binder clip.

Spray adhesive is repositionable, so this gives you the chance to stand up the shade and smooth it out and make sure the pattern is straight in the front.

Run a line of glue under the fabric on one side and smooth it down. Put one hand on the inside of the shade with the other on the outside of the shade and apply pressure to both sides to make the glue line smooth.

Instead of gluing the other side right away, I just binder clip it and save it for last so I can continue smoothing as I go.

 Okay, here’s the secret to neat insides. See that wire lip?

 Smooth and fold your fabric over that wire lip…

 …using a pair of sharp fabric scissors, carefully trim the fabric all the way around the shade. The key is to let the wire be your guide, keep the scissors snug against the wire lip while cutting and you should get a fairly straight cut all the way around. Take care not to puncture the shade. Repeat for the bottom.

 This will give you a tiny fabric allowance to tuck under the lamp shade and into that little groove.

 Run a thin line of hot glue or fabric glue along the little groove where the wire meets the shade…

 Using your finger nail or even a flat head screwdriver, gently tuck the fabric into that little groove.

Once all the way around, I glued the other end of the fabric, smoothed it down, folded over the edge and hot glued ‘er.

Check out those edges…

Nice and clean.

Run a small line of Fray Check around the edge of the fabric and/or into that little groove to remedy any fabric fraying.

 I also sprayed them down with Rustoleum’s Specialty Metallic Gold Spray Paint. Yeah, they were already gold, but they were a little harsh. I first tried to fix these with a little Rub n Buff, but…  it looked turrible. I have 1.5 cans of the gold spray paint left and I’ve been spraying everything in sight. Best. Gold. Ever.

No, I am not on the Rustoleum payroll … but I’ll dang ol’ tell you whut, Rustoleum is the best. Hands down.

They’re chillin’ in the guest room until I can figure out a night stand solution for the master bedroom. Considering a Rast Hack…. gag.

Check out these up-tops.

There. She’s all nice and groomed, no more embarrassing up-skirts.


What do ya think? Am I a total jerk for callin’ out your lamp skills? Is this just another crappy lamp recover?

I love you.



  1. Stephanie says

    Do you have any suggestions for doing a bell or tapered shade? I did one a long time ago and thankfully was going for a Victorian look lol so fringe and beads we’re fine…I have anothera floor lamp for my grandsons room that’s been sitting because I was skeptical about doing a decent looking shade … I love diy projects that don’t look like the 4 year old did it for me 🙂

  2. Nikki says

    Hi, I love this project! I’m going to try it with two lamps this weekend but I’m wondering if there are certain fabrics to avoid as they might be too hwavy? Any suggestions? Thanks!

    • says

      Hey Nikki! I would avoid anything heavier than a light upholstery weight. Keep in mind that, the darker and heavier the fabric, the less light will come through the shade. Good luck!!!

  3. Cat says

    They look really nice. However, being kind of a perfectionist, the first thing I noticed is the pattern on the shade do not match. That would drive me crazy of they were sitting on each side of a bed. That is the only thing I would suggest is to match the patterns on each lamp.
    Thanks for the great tip on the inside finishing touches.

  4. says

    Hello Dena! I have been searching for 30mins to find this again as you are the ONLY one that cares about the insides looking professional! I have a pleated fabric shade (2) with lining inside. I am going to keep the outside fabric on as my ‘base’ and have cut out the lining. I am using some fancy Thibaut grasscloth wallpaper that I have leftover 😉 I decided to remove the lining as I want to be able to glue and tuck my wallpaper tightly up to the wire. Well this is my plan 🙂 for this project I am using PVA glue, I like that is sets MUCH slower than spray and so much cheaper! Please let me know if you have any tips. And thanks for this post!! Mwah!! x

    • says

      Hey Maxine! Sounds like you’re gonna have some amazing shades when you get done! Thibaut wallpaper is so delicious, your lamp insides are gonna be the best part!! Thank you, Maxine!

  5. maria says

    have you tried spray painting the shade with rustoleum or something similar? I’m asking because I haven’t and it pintrest makes it look clean at the end “makes it look” being the key statement…haha.

    I love these by the way, I thought they were fantastic. 🙂

    • says

      Thanks, Maria! I have tried spraying a shade with spray paint. In some cases it looks good and it can really save an old shade, just know that any spray paint color you use will block all the light coming through the shade. I never did it again after I realized that.

  6. Arlene says

    I have an old lampshade that has curved spindles, it looks like the material should be done on the bias not as you have shown, can you help

  7. Rosanne says

    I actually did this. Great tips but not as easy as it seems. I snugged my super sharp scissors up to the wire and cut. I found that by so doing, I didn’t have quite enough to wrap around and tuck up under that little wire. Also, I definitely have little threads which seem to multiply as you move around the shade, rolling the fabric under and tucking as you go. I ran a line of glue, tucked with my fingernail, then secured with clothes pins and left to dry overnight. A woodworker friend advised me to cover an area to be glued and clamped with waxed paper so the clamps (in this case, the clothes pins) don’t stick to the project, which I did. My results are okay, but don’t look so clean as the author’s. Considering covering the wire inside the lamp with bias tape.

    • Rosanne says

      Update: Did a second shade, and found that I got better results if I temporarily tucked the fabric under the wire, marked lightly with a sharp pencil, then cut the fabric. It was a much cleaner cut, which eliminated all the little threads. And it was a more accurate measurement too, judging from the fact that there was actually enough to tuck and glue around the wire. Looks much neater.

  8. says

    OK, I’ve redone lots of bases, but ALWAYS cop out and just buy a new shade. Yup, yup . . . I know. But not really lazy, more just don’t want poopy lamps in my pretty rooms. So I’m gonna review this a time or two and see where my confidence level is at that point. Who knows, I may try it! Helpful post. Thanks.

  9. Sylvia says

    You did a great job on the inside of the shades. The fabric is gorgeous. However, since the purpose of this post was to “call out” all the unsupervised toddlers, please note that the fabrics are not aligned. With the lamps side by side, this mismatch jumps out and screams “DIY, DIY, DIY”.

    • says

      Thank you, Sylvia. I appreciate your honesty and value your opinion. The point of the post was not to “call out” anyone, it was actually intended to give a little more detailed tutorial on how to clean up the insides of a lampshade. I apologize if I offended you.

      Fortunately, these lamps do not live side by side. Have fabulous week.

    • Mary Pat says

      I noticed this as well and as an avid sewer and matching plaids was drummed into me as a young sewer, this does stick out like a sore thumb – but all in all I was looking for a technique for a clean inside lamp shade and I will attempt your technique but will add just a bit more fabric from reading comments this appears to be an issue of not having enough fabric to cover the frame

  10. says

    I love love your tutorial! I am getting ready to do my own shades and I’d like it neat as well! I love the whole lamp but especially the fabric you chose. Great job! Saying Hello from Friday Link up!
    leelee @

  11. says

    You did a great job on updating this lamp! Thanks for sharing this project on The Pin Junkie. It’s being featured at tonight’s party. Hope you can stop by to grab a featured button and share another great project.

  12. says

    What a fabulous makeover and tutorial! I have not personally committed any of the lampshade atrocities (at least not since I started blogging 😉 ) but will certainly follow your tutorial for any future attempts. Pinning!

  13. says

    This lampshade makeover doesn’t look like crap! 😉 In fact, it looks pretty freaking awesome! Who’d have thought it was so easy to get lovely clean edges and neatly matched patterns? Not me from the overabundance of sloppy lampshade makeovers that exist in bloglandia 😛 This should be THE definitive lampshade covering tutorial!

  14. says

    Most ‘crafters’ who use the hot glue gun first and ask questions later scare me. Those are also the ones that add 3 pounds of ribbon and beads to the edges to hide the fact that their scissors suck.

    Yes, Stick a big ol’ bow on that pile of crap and it will look better, right? *eye twitch*


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *