Things I found in my Pond
And how to paint a lampshade

The weather finally got half decent out over the weekend so I was able to go outside and get a few things done in the backyard.  Up until now it’s been freezing cold and raining.  The first thing I do every year in my backyard is get my pond up and running.  I hook the waterfalls back up, clean out some of the guck and take a look around in it.  There’s always something interesting to be found in a pond.

Things I found in my pond today:

A couppla frogs …




My previously hibernating fish … plus a couple of new ones.

And a lampshade.  Ahem.

An algae covered lampshade at that.  Seems when I was cleaning up last fall, this little baby went rolling into the pond, where the fish got a full season of using it as an underwater shipwreck.   With all that fun down there, no wonder it took them a month longer than usual to come up to the surface.

The shade normally sits on an outdoor floor lamp I have in my backyard.  Normally.  At other times it sits at the bottom of a pond.

Now any normal human being would throw this out.  With a pair of tongs.  I am not normal, and at times I even question whether I’m a full blooded human.

So … I called my sister and the conversation went something like this.

Me:  I stored my lampshade in the pond all winter.  It’s covered in mildew and algae and it smells like dinosaur vomit.  Any suggestions?

Her:  (no reaction to the fact that I was indeed going to salvage the lampshade)  I’d paint it.

Me:  Agreed.

And the decisions was made.  My initial thought was to cover it in MacTac or an outdoor fabric, but the painting thing sounded way more ridiculous so I went with that.  When in doubt, always go for ridiculous.  It’s usually the wiser choice.  Unless you’re thinking of wearing leg warmers.  In which case ridiculous is not the wiser choice.

My entire family collectively believes there isn’t anything that can’t be saved with a coat of paint.  From extra hangover makeup to tarting up a Dollar Store tchotchke … there’s nothing a bit of paint can’t help.

So one trip to the basement later I was on my way.

I needed a primer to cover up the mildew, since mildew (like wood  knots) has a way of bleeding through even 100 coats of paint.

Since my primer was oil based, I needed an oil based white paint to go over it.  (I’d usually use a latex paint for outdoors, but I had to go with oil because that’s what I had.  I find, contrary to what most people think, that latex paints last much longer in outdoor conditions than oil based.)

Step #1

Gently wash the sucker with a bristle scrub brush.

You can see the plastic interior of the shade cracked a bit.  I’m going to ignore that.  Better to ignore it than go buy a $40 replacement shade for a lamp that lives outdoors and is going to get covered in bird crap anyway.

Step #2

Prime it.

I just used a small sponge roller and went at it.  I primed the inside and the outside because both were … well … grotesque.

Step #3

Paint it.

When it was time to paint the shade with my regular oil based white paint, I used a brush as opposed to the roller.  I felt like I could get a better finish with the brush.  Which is both hilarious and ridiculous.  I’m  painting a completely ruined, guck covered fabric lampshade and I’m worried about the “finish”.  See?  Not normal.  I also painted the top brass of the lamp frame because the brass, although in good condition was ugly.  Painting it was going to elevate this lampshade to Architectural Digest proportions.  Yup.

Step 4

Display it with pride.

Granted … at night, because of all the paint, light only shines through the top and bottom of the shade.  Still looks nice though.

I’m not showing you this post because I think you too will drop a lampshade in a pond and leave it there for 7 months.  I’m showing you to prove you can paint things you would never think to paint, and junk can be salvaged.

At least  until it truly is junk.


  1. Pam'a says:

    ‘Turned out great, and I agree: There’s no point spending money on it when the thing’s going to sit outside. But I’m sure the fish are missing their shipwreck now, so what are you going to do about THAT, huh?? (Until fall, I mean, when you can toss the lampshade back.)


  2. lamp shade looks great!!! Can’t believe it survived at all for seven months in a pond!

  3. Gina says:

    Watch it that the lamp doesn’t fall into the pond or you will be having fried fish with your sweet potato fries. $40 for a new one? Target?

  4. gf says:

    7… 7 months of winter? Is ice-off in like June?

    I like the way the light only shines out the top and bottom. Looks great in this setting.

    • Karen says:

      gf – Well, I generally start cleaning up the backyard in the fall, so that’d be October. Then I was a month late cleaning up the pond because it’s been especially cold this spring, so I had to wait until the beginning of May. 7 months. We make up for it through July and August when it’s so hot and humid we all become human steam machines. ~ karen!

  5. marilyn says:

    i am totally with you on the coat of paint thing karen! it is amazing how much better things can look with a fresh coat of paint! even the cracks in the lampshade look better. good job girlfriend!

  6. I’m so jealous! When I was cleaning out my pond last week I found our frog from last summer dead on the bottom. He was my pride and joy.

    The shade looks great!

  7. I am enjoying the fact you didn’t let the pond scum deter you from seeing the shades potential. I love opaque shades at night when you turn them on as I think they add more drama to the space – and you have created quite a nice space.
    My best- Diane

  8. Susan says:

    Karen – It’s quite…lovely! I have some concerns for the return of pernicious toxic mold, especially once things really warm up. Better save those kitchen mitts in case you have to touch a shade with really pissed off mold growing on it…

  9. Cheryl says:

    When I was cleaning out my backyard pond this spring, I scooped out a concrete gargoyle statue that evidently dove in last fall. It was quite startling really, thought it was an alien for a sec. Happily, he was revived with a simple spray of the lawn hose.
    Your pond, fish, everything looks fabulous.

  10. Liz S. says:

    Hmm… Maybe there is hope for the lamp and shade I absolutely adore and want in my son’s room but the shade is hot pink…

    • Karen says:

      Liz S. – Hee! Yeah, you might wanna paint it. Or mactac! Just remember once you paint it it becomes opaque and light doesn’t shine through. If you don’t paint the inside (I had to because it was so gross) it’d might be less opaque. ~ karen!

  11. amy walters, aDESIGNdock says:

    Love it! I’ve inherited the belief that paint can restore anything from despair (thanks to my mom)!

  12. Alison says:

    Are you stalking my google search history? Literally two days ago I tried to search for painting lampshades and got no results, probably because no one does it. And then there you go, doing all the leg work for me.

    The lampshade I was going to paint has a really dark graphic on it so I don’t think it will work. Also, I need the overall light, not the blocked shade. Oh well, thanks for saving me the experiment!

    • cheryl seals says:

      WELL i’m with Alison searched everywhere where to paint a shade and up Karen pops again go figure! What i’m looking on advice for is if you can acutally spray paint a silk like fabric lamp shade, its the bell shaped kind with fabric on the inside an out ? And what kind of spray paint?? please..I got the trims for them the other day but decided that i dont want them just white. Shame on me they are both new but they were ridiculously cheap, because i wouldnt buy if they wern’t…Please if you know let me know i don’t want to trim them out and then decide that they really should have been painted..thx for the help

  13. Jenna says:

    So funny – I just spent the weekend trying to paint a lampshade, a tan lampshade. I was trying to paint it white. I would paint it and it would look white, then when I turned the lamp on, it still looked tan. Since I had no primer and didn’t feel like getting any, I painted it black first, then white. Took alot of time, luckily it wasn’t a big shade. I guess it took the same amount of time as priming it! This post makes me never want to throw anything away!

    • Karen says:

      Jenna! Did you paint the interior of the shade? That should have helped to dissipate the black. Oh well … too late now! Glad it worked out. ~ karen!

  14. Mindy says:

    I was laughing out loud because I could have written this account. I mean, I don’t have a pond or a moldy shade, but I certainly wouldn’t throw it away if I did. 🙂

  15. Jeffrey Lee says:

    Be careful. If you do end up increasing the wattage, keep in mind the heat from the lightbulb might affect the paint on the shade. I like the dramatic light from above and below effect. It looks like the perfect place to sit with a significant other and together, enjoy a quiet dinner of chick…of poultry…while enjoying your new residents in their hen house.

  16. Amy Schmucker says:

    My favorite Part you ask?

    Ok you didn’t ask, but I will tell you it had me laughing (I have small kids)

    “dinosaur vomit”

    Yeap that was what made me laugh out loud. Can you tell that I have small kids now?

    Amy in Florida

  17. Paulina J! says:

    Love everything, but the frogs! Me no likey frogs and they know it somehow since they wait for me evry night on my southern porch.

  18. Ali says:

    Hi Karen,

    My question isn’t about the lampshade, but the lamp. I had never heard of an outdoor floor lamp. Are they umm.. rain proof? Currently we have a floor lamp that sits just inside our patio door that we drag out to use while grilling. The folks that built our house decided the best place for the flood light was on the side of the house, lighting the street instead of our backyard. An outdoor floor lamp might be a nice alternative to me possibly being electrocuted while trying to move the flood lights.

  19. B.J.M says:

    Total crack-up! I paint everything…spray-paint junkie. I go to any DIY or Crappy-Tire and stand looking at the rows of spray paint cans, like a kid in a candy store. All those pretty coloured can lids are like a lovely pearl necklace. Ummmmm pretty coloured pearls…

    MACTAK – back in the 70s’ when I was a hottie teen…my Mother used to “mactakattack” anything not O.K., everything nailed or not nailed down. It was a standard joke at our place. What would be MacTaked and what would be her hair colour?? I think it correlated to the amount of “C.C.” ingested. Great memories.

    Enjoy your renewed lamp ambiance. I think it looks great! And at least you didn’t paint the fish.

  20. Rose says:

    hmmmm. I have a question. I come from Australia, the hot part where even in the depths of winter you can still get away with shorts and a tshirt so long as you have a scarf. What do you do with your pond in the winter, does it ice over?

  21. Cynna says:

    Next time you fish a lampshade from your pond, and if you’re out of paint, you could always wrap it in netting for an authentic nautical look. And it would smell authentic, too.

  22. judy h. says:

    Gotta hand it to you for dressing up your pond scum treasure. However, I’d have thrown that baby as far away is far! Too many tribulations with MOLD and mildew, that stuff will kill you!

    • Karen says:

      judy – I’m a bit of a rebel this way. Besides, I think for this outdoor lampshade to kill me from the mould I’d have to eat it. ~ k!

  23. Pam'a says:

    Two things:

    1) The green junk on the lampshade from the pond was algae– the stuff you see in flower vases after a few days, which is a different thing entirely than mold. For that matter, most mold is nothing like the horrible toxic black stuff we all now envision when anybody says “mold.” So no fear.

    2) Karen, you (and the rest of us, evidently) glazed right over the fact that you have NEW (free) FISH! I’m going to assume you’re still just too chick-giddy to really get excited about it. As for the rest of us, well… Hey, look! A butterfly!

    • Karen says:

      Pam’a – I mentioned the algae. It was dripping with it in fact. The lampshade really did have mold on it. Or mildew. One of the two from being outside for a couple of years. There were faint spots on it before it even went into the pond. So, it was pre-mildewed. You know the way seat cushions get mildew if left outside in the damp too long? It had a few of those. And I don’t get tooooo excited over new fish because I can only have so many fish in my pond. One year I came out and I had about 100 new fish! Most of them “disappeared” which was a good thing cause I don’t know what I would have done with all of them. I still had to give a lot away to neighbours and relatives with ponds. Hey look! A butterfly! ~ k!

  24. Kharina says:

    I’m truly impressed. Never would I thought of salvaging a mucky lampshade in which fishies have used as a public toilet. You got guts, girl. Real guts.

    • Karen says:

      Kharina – Um … I never thought of the whole public toilet thing for the fish for some reason. Um … ew. I never thought of that. Ew. Thanks. ~ karen

  25. Ana says:

    “My previously hibernating fish … plus a couple of new ones.”

    I was pretty confused about this – “What does she mean, ‘a couple of new ones’?” I thought. And then someone explained to me where babies come from.


    Sorry for my stupidity, Karen.

  26. Ana says:

    Wait, that IS how they got there, right??????

  27. Jamieson says:


  28. WOW…. this lampshade is perfect for my summer. I’m planning to redecorate my living room and my patio. This will be a great house accessory.

    I’m just going to change the color though. Sunny yellow perhaps? Or turquoise? And I’m going to paint the shade with flowers or butterflies.

    I love it…

  29. Vicki says:

    how about hole punching some stars around the top & bottom for extra light?

  30. Taryn Smith says:

    Love this site.I often walk around my property looking for “junk” to turn into something else for little or no cost.Now I see that I’m not the only one. 🙂

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Taryn! Oh no. You’re not the only one! Only … I wasn’t really planning on my lampshade being junk I had to transform. That was … a bit of an accident, LOL. As is often the case. ~ karen!

  31. Jasmine says:

    Grab a bit of wire and wire the shade to the top of your lamp stand so that you aren’t doing this again next summer.
    Another lovely blog – thank yoou! Hugs, Jasmine in Oz

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Jasmine! You really are making your way through the posts aren’t you! 🙂 I’m glad you found the site. ~ karen

  32. carolmcc says:

    omg. you are freaking hysterical. seriously.

  33. carolmcc says:

    omg. you are freaking hysterical. seriously. and yes, a little warped.

  34. Madhu says:

    “When in doubt, always go for ridiculous.” so true.. and i love your website.

  35. Dawn says:

    do you think you could spray paint a lampshade and the outcome not be opaque? I just found bargain matching lamps for the bedroom at $15 each and don’t want to buy lampshades…any ideas?

    • Karen says:

      Um … check back at the same store for bargain lampshades? Heh. Ahem. Well, you definitely need some sort of shade. Do you have anything we can work with? ~ karen

  36. Laurie says:

    You can paint fabric lampshades with silk flower paint.

    True story.

  37. Laurie says:

    ….oh, and then they aren’t opaque. Bueno!

  38. Auntiepatch says:

    Oh, you do make me laugh! Why, may I ask, do you have a lamp next to your pond? Do the fish need a night light to read???

  39. Beth says:

    Just read this post because I have a lamp shade that has a stain so I thought I’d see how it came out – and once again – Laughing out LOUD!! Dinosaur Vomit – really?!!! Sadly – I have children so I did have a point of reference for that!!! And I’m really glad I’m not the only one who resists parting with perfectly good items that just need to be converted completely in one way or another!! Seriously – first I think I’m going to try bleach or vinegar to see if I can get them out!! But I’m glad you did the “heavy lifting” for this job and I will know what to expect. And so grateful for you and your followers – always leave me laughing and grateful to know I’m not crazy out here by myself!!!

  40. Bett says:

    You rock. I have an equally mildewed, corroded shade that will be beautiful. In my eyes, anyway. THX!

  41. Sara says:

    You store your lampshade in the bottom of your pond. I drop my camera in the bottom of a bowl of cake batter. Yup, I can relate!

  42. Adrienne says:

    How very efficient of you to save the shade. As someone who keeps way too much stuff nearing junk status, I’m impressed with how you brought this back from the brink so elegantly.

    I have two shades that I’d like to cover with some fabric I have…one is bell shaped and one is a column with no funky angles (easer than the former). Any chance you’d have some tips or a tutorial just waiting to be born? I’m wondering what kind if adhesive, how to finish the edges, etc. Would love input from my favorite DIY-er. 😉

    Adrienne in Atlanta

  43. Lowana says:

    Just came across your writings. Love them. I think you’re hilarious and have a great sense if humour.
    Keep up the good work.
    Lowana from Sydney
    Oh and Merry Christmas

  44. Melissa Klopp says:

    Next time..try Glow-in-the-dark paint for the lamp shade. It works wonders on flower pots, any kind and knick knacks too. Nice to have “light: in the backyard gardens.

  45. Kim says:

    Please add me to your email list!!!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Kim – Just enter your email address in the box where it says subscribe under the picture of me holding the fish on the righthand side. Welcome! ~ karen!

  46. katie says:

    I think it looks great and am enjoying your site. However, I think it looked best before it was cleaned.
    Coats of clear sealing paint perhaps to keep the “natural” look could have also been fun!
    Keep feeding us fun and productive project 🙂

  47. Christine says:

    Hi there! Just found you via Pinterest. Love how the lamp looks. Very subtle lighting. 🙂 Doesn’t glare in the evenings, does it?
    I laughed at your references, but get them completely. I’m wondering if you find yourself empathizing with Hoarders as I do? (Noooo don’t throw that out! It’s still good and I’m gonna make a xxxxxx with it!)

    As an aside…
    Just hope by now you realize that oil based primer is different than oil based paint. You CAN paint latex over oil based primer. For cabinetry and trim, as a matter of fact, oil based primer and Cabinet Coat (now owned by BM) is very recommended. Cabinet Coat is water based! Might make your life easier if you didn’t know this.

    I love your frogs. I had some living in a big pot I left in the garden. It fills with rain, my cats drink out of it, and evidently frogs can live in it. Go figure.

  48. Nicole2 says:

    You should try Annie Sloan Chalk Paint! No need to prime, and good for outdoors. Best paint in the world!

  49. Sophie says:

    This post was too funny!! ??
    Recycling rocks?

  50. lauren b. says:

    I’m in love with your pond. In fact, it’s probably my favorite part of your yard. The reused slate waterfall is such a neat idea that turned out beautifully! I’d love to see/hear about how you maintain the pond, its plants, and your fishy friends throughout the seasons and keep predators away.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Lauren. I used to get water hyacinths or water lettuce for the pond throughout the summer but they’re SO expensive, I ended up getting a water lily and it has enough leaves to keep the pond appropriately shaded for the whole summer. If you search my site you’ll find a post on how I brought my fish back to life after they got a disease that literally ate their skin away until you could see their guts! ~ karen

Leave a Reply

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

Optionally add an image (JPEG only)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

The Art of Doing Stuff