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Rescuing a Painted Tobacco Leaf Lamp

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About two or three weekends ago, I came across a sight so horrific at a home décor consignment store and it shook me to my core…someone had the audacity to paint over a tobacco leaf lamp.

I was browsing the dinnerware section for some blue and white dinnerware pieces to add to my collection when I saw from afar a lamp with really big leaves.

I thought to myself, “Wow, those leaves look like the ones on tobacco leaf patterned items, but what’s with those red leaves and maroon silk shade?”

Like a lion hunting for prey, I slowly inched closer and closer to the lamp to inspect the situation at hand before I pounced.

And I let out an audible curse word and gasped as I realized what I was looking at.

Someone, likely a person who had been through immense personal trauma in their life, decided to paint over the gorgeous blue and gold accented leaves with the deepest, darkest red/maroon paint color they could find.

I’d like to know who hurt this person so deeply that they had to commit such a heinous crime to this gorgeous, gorgeous lamp.


(Note, I am kidding and being dramatic for effect here, so please no hate mail!)

For a split second I decided to walk away from it, but I figured there simply had to be a way to restore it to its natural beauty. Plus I had no less than thirty replies to my Instagram Stories telling me they knew I could fix it and to not go home without the lamp.

Since the lamp had been there since January, it was super discounted to about $24 (down from $45). These vintage tobacco leaf lamps sell for quite a bit, and honestly even with the paint, $45 would have also been a bargain.

Tobacco leaf lamp at a consignment store

I let the consignment store keep the silk maroon shade, and I walked out with my lamp and original pineapple finial.

Taking off the paint was the first order of business once I got home, and I wanted to make sure to not disturb the original paint finish at all, so I went with the gentlest approach.

Vintage Tobacco Leaf Lamp

I’ll detail the whole process below. I will say it took about two hours all together, but it was worth all the elbow grease and ruining a kitchen sponge.

Removing Paint from a Tobacco Leaf Lamp

Removing Paint from a Tobacco Leaf Lamp

If you ever find a tobacco leaf lamp or item that has been painted over, you can likely remove the paint using some common household items, elbow grease and perseverance.


Lamp Supplies


  • Elbow Grease


Using a Clorox wipe, I thoroughly cleaned the entire lamp to remove the dust and all the other stuff that gets caked on to items in consignment stores.

Once the lamp was dry, I used a sponge, Dawn dish soap and hot water to begin gently scrubbing the paint off. I tested a spot first to ensure my vigorous scrubbing wouldn’t ruin the finish, and it didn’t, so I proceeded.

Cleaning a vintage lamp

Most of it came off within the first 4-5 minutes, and then came the tedious nooks and crannies of the design. As I scrubbed the paint off, red flecks of paint got all over the lamp—a rag was helpful to wipe that off every couple of minutes. 

Removing acrylic paint from a vintage lamp

For this next step I ended up using a cotton ball and a tiny dab of nail polish remover to really get the red out. (Again, before I used the nail polish, I tested a spot to ensure I wouldn’t be ruining the actual paint finish or the clear coat).

Removing paint from a tobacco leaf lamp

Each leaf took about 7-10 minutes of scrubbing to get ALL the paint off.

I repeated the process over and over until each leaf was restored. I had to buy a smaller harp to accommodate a lamp shade I had on hand, and I was back in business.

Vintage tobacco leaf lamp in an office

In the future, I likely will use some gold leaf rub and buff (the same shade I used on my DIY chinoiserie wallpaper panels) on the gold part at the top just to help restore/liven up the finish.

But for now she is back to her beautiful self and resting on my DIY white campaign chest (which is another rescue of mine).

Chinoiserie home decor in an office

This is a happy ending for this lamp who suffered for likely many years under this regime of cheap maroon craft paint.

Tobacco Leaf Lamp in a Home Office

Wasn’t there a maroon home decor movement in the 1990’s? I think I’ve blocked it out from memory in order to preserve my childhood memories.

Tobacco leaf lamp on a White campaign chest with chinoiserie decor

My next chinoiserie DIY is going to be a luxe for less version of these gorgeous orchid blue and white arrangements.

At over $250+ on most sites, I just knew I could make a more affordable option. Can’t wait to share that with you all next week.


Friday 19th of April 2019

Wow, it looks amazing. I had no idea you could remove paint that way. Fantastic rescue and gorgeous lamp.

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