A $4 can of spray paint saved me over $200

A new coat of paint can do wonders to revamp your decor. And you’ll be amazed to see how far one cheap can of Rustoleum spray paint can go.

My old and tarnished porch light, floor lamp and dresser pulls were instantly transformed. Now they look like new and I saved a lot of money by not having to replace them. And that makes thrifty me very happy!

At my local hardware store, Rustoleum spray primer and enamel each cost around $4 including tax. The coverage is really great and it comes in several different colors and finishes. I prefer enamel gloss but you can also get matte.

Spray painting is easy to do, keeping a couple of simple things in mind. Following are the step by step photos and a breakdown of how much money I saved on each project, totaling over $200.

How to spray paint metal lights, lamps and knobs

  1. Clean the surface by washing with soap and water or by using glass cleaner
  2. Lightly sand to give it some tooth
  3. Either mask off the area (if painting in place) or put the items on top of a large piece of cardboard
  4. Paint outside if possible
  5. Begin spraying before the piece, sweep across it and finish beyond the piece. Try to go at an even speed.
  6. Use spray primer first. Do two coats, letting it dry for a few minutes in between. Follow up with two coats of the spray enamel.
  7. Several light coats are better than one heavy coat

Porch light

Porch light “before” photo

porch light before photo

Porch light before photo

With the outside of the house being recently painted, the old black mailbox and tarnished porch light needed attention. After all, they’re right by the front door, and that’s the first thing visitors see.

I was able to get the mailbox looking pretty good by just cleaning it and switching out the rusty handle. The 15 year old porch light, however, needed more than cleaning.

Porch light taken apart and cleaned

disassembled porch light

Disassembled porch light

I unscrewed the bottom so I could remove the glass inserts and set them aside. The other pieces were placed on cardboard for painting.

Light fixture masked off

porch light taken apart and masked off

Porch light taken apart and masked off

Using painter’s tape, I covered up the light socket. Then I took a large piece of brown packing paper and taped it around the fixture.

Primer coat applied

primer coat on porch light

Primer coat on porch light

The light fixture and these loose pieces got two coats of primer.

Porch light sprayed with gloss enamel

spray painting porch light

Spray painting porch light

Everything was sprayed with two coats of black gloss enamel paint.

Masking paper and tape removed

porch light with two coats of spray paint

Porch light with two coats of spray paint


Porch light “after” photo

porch light after spray painting

Porch light after spray painting

Everything put back together. Looks like new!

Floor lamp

Floor lamp “before” photo

torchiere before photo

Floor lamp ready to spray paint

This torchiere lamp is about 20 years old. The gold finish is tarnished and wearing off.

Here the shade was removed prior to being spray painted. I also masked off part of the cord.

Once again, two coats of primer and two coats of paint.

Floor lamp “after” photo

spray painted floor lamp

Spray painted floor lamp

All shiny and new. Maybe it will last another 20 years!

Furniture pulls and knobs

Dresser pulls “before” photo

old brass furniture pulls

Old brass furniture pulls

These brass dresser pulls are nearly 50 years old. They were really gunky and gross. This is what they looked like after being cleaned. I wanted to give them a more modern look by painting them shiny black.

Dresser knobs “before” photo

brass furniture knobs

Brass furniture knobs

The dresser also had knobs.

In this picture you can see that the knobs are screwed onto cardboard for painting. Once again, these received two coats of primer and paint.

Dresser “after” photo with handles and knobs installed

spray painted dresser pulls and knobs

Spray painted dresser pulls and knobs on newly painted dresser

The directions on the can of spray gloss say that you can apply a sealer on top. I called Rustoleum to find out if that was necessary. Since handles get a lot of “handling,” I didn’t want black paint rubbing off. They told me that was an optional step so I skipped it. After several months of use, I’m happy to report that there is definitely no paint transfer. I’m very pleased with the durability as well as the look.

The dresser also had a matching chest of drawers. Altogether there were 21 pulls and 24 knobs.

Breakdown of savings

Total savings: $270.50

Based on the prices in effect today, I would have paid:

$24.00 porch light
$78.00 floor lamp
$153.50 furniture handles and knobs (45 pieces)

$255.50 subtotal
+$23.00 tax

$278.50 total
-$8.00 primer and spray paint

$270.50 grand total

Now that’s a pretty good return on investment!

Turn an ugly mirror into a work of art

The thrift store is a good resource for cheap, interesting, and sometimes ugly, supplies to use for your DIY arts and crafts projects. I look for old frames, mirrors, whiteboards, candlesticks and wood plaques.

One day I went looking for a mirror and found this little gem. It was hideous and falling apart. It was also only $1.50. I snatched it up.

Learn how I transformed this ugly mirror into a unique work of art.

Find something to inspire your mirror makeover

Inspiration will give you direction

handpainted archway by Lynda Makara

Handpainted archway by Lynda Makara

When you’re doing a project like this, it’s helpful to have a vision in mind to guide you throughout the design process. You could be inspired by your surroundings, or by something in nature, or by a particular style like vintage or modern.

My inspiration for the mirror’s new design came from the archway in my house which I designed and hand painted. I decided to use that crown pattern for my new mirror. Then I just had to figure out how to make it work.

Prepare the frame for transformation

When I brought the ugly mirror home, I had hoped to be able to keep most of the frame intact. I thought maybe I could cut off the points of those pencils. After studying it for a while, I decided the pencils and that little shelf thing on the bottom had to go.

I removed the mirror and set it aside. It was just held in place by clips.

Those pencils were hard to remove as they were glued and nailed on. The nails came out easily but that glue was incredibly strong. I used some nail polish remover to help dissolve the glue and a utility knife to cut through where the pieces were joined.

Finally I wedged a screwdriver in there and used a hammer to pry those things off. They were stubborn! It also left some damage to the surface which I fixed as described in the next section.

Later on I learned a trick that would have gotten those pencils off easier. Soften the glue with nail polish remover and then use dental floss. You hold a piece of floss tight in both hands and slide it down the seam where the wood is glued.

Repair the surface and add the crown to the mirror

add crown to mirror

Add crown to mirror

Luckily the frame was still in one piece but needed reinforcing. So I put wood glue into the cracks where the mitered pieces meet. After the glue dried I patched the nail holes and mitered joints with wood putty, then sanded it smooth after it was dry.

Then I made a paper pattern for the crown. I transferred the pattern to a piece of cardboard and cut it out with a utility knife. I glued the crown to the frame with Aleene’s tacky glue. A wire was also inserted into each point of the crown.

When everything was dry I covered the front of the frame with a thin layer of paper clay. That filled in the damaged areas and added texture. I wanted the sides and bottom to be smoother and the top crown portion to be bit more uneven. After the clay dried everything was sanded.

For the center of the crown I cut out a couple of stars from heavy cardboard. They were both covered with paper clay and given different textures. They were attached to the center of the crown with tacky glue and more paper clay.

Crown pattern for mirror

pattern for crown mirror

Pattern for crown mirror

Here’s the pattern I made for the crown. It measures about 12¼” x 6″. The bottom edge is about 7¼” which is the same length as the opening on the mirror.

Paint and finish the crown mirror

Painting is my favorite part! Following my inspiration piece, the sides and bottom were painted off white with metallic gold stars. The crown was painted light brown. Polka dots, squiggles and glitter were added. Aurora borealis beads were secured to the points of the crown. Picture wire was attached to the back which was simply painted black. Then the whole frame was varnished.

Voila! It’s finished! A unique work of art from an ugly mirror.

framed crown mirror by Lynda Makara

Framed crown mirror by Lynda Makara

Another view of the crown mirror

A side view of the framed crown mirror showing the multicolored polka dots and the purple glitter on the inner edge.

framed crown mirror by Lynda Makara

Framed crown mirror by Lynda Makara

One of the simplest ways to transform an ugly mirror is with paint


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