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DIY Elephant lamp for nursery out of styrofoam and drywall putty

I want to share with you how I made an elephant lamp for the circus theme nursery that we are working on. I used recycled materials and an old lamp base to create a one of a kind DIY lamp that will add such a special touch to the baby's room.

Elephant lamp tutorial

If you follow me on Instagram, you probably saw the little previews I did while I was working on this project. I am so happy to finally be done and be able to show all of you my labor of love =]

elelphant lamp

This is my very first Nursery project, I started to brainstorm this full DIY Elephant lamp as soon as we decided to purchase our house, because I wanted the nursery to have one staple piece (other than the Dumbo stuff animal I first purchased).

When researching for inspiration for the nursery I found this amazing lamp by Jonathan Adler. It was just like what I wanted, with only one downfall the price-tag is $395.00 – So very quickly I had to forget about it, instead, I planned to make my own version of an elephant lamp.

elelphant lamp final

I wanted mine to be gray instead of white, and with more details than the Jonathan Adler's version.

I wanted my elephant to be in a slightly different position and even tho at first I didn't plan for it to have a pedestal, the $5 thrift store lamp I got (to use the socket and structure) worked perfect and I kept the pedestal to give it a little bit more height.

The elephant lamp with chevron lampshade

I paired the lamp with a lampshade I recovered with a chevron pattern in red and white. I just love the way the colors mix together =] so now, let me show some more images of the finished lamp so I can also share how I made it!

feet and tail details

I didn't set this post as a tutorial because I mostly free hand shaped everything, I didn't follow any pattern or image, so it would be too hard for me to explain how to make one, but if you feel creative I can share the materials I used and what my thoughts were, who knows maybe this can inspire someone else so try something similar, right?

Elephant lamp materials

The elephant lamp process

I started with a thrift store lamp that I replaced the cord because it was pretty bad, the lamp only had a tube from the base to the socket, so it worked perfectly for me to glue my 2 rectangles of styrofoam (I got the styrofoam from the packaging of our new couch, but you can get any shape of styrofoam at craft stores).

styrofoam cubes

I carved a little round shape in the center of my styrofoam so that the tube could be placed there and glue it with silicone (I've found that silicone works wonders when gluing styrofoam to other surfaces, in this case, metal) I wrap everything tight and let it dry for at least a day.

carving the elephant lamp

After my block was ready I grabbed a kitchen knife and started shaping my elephant. I know there are fancy styrofoam tools that make this kind of projects easier, but I just used what I had around =]

Carving the elephant

carving the elephant lamp

Once my knife shaping was done, this is what I had, it didn't look much like an elephant, but I could see the potential hehe

elephant lamp process

My next step was to sand and give a more detailed shape to the elephant using sand paper, I used an 80grt first for all the shaping and a 120grt for the details.

Adding drywall mud

Adding drywall mud to the lamp

Then I had to test my patience when adding layers and layers of wall mud (drywall compound), I first applied the first 3 layers just using my hands. The only problem with this is that you have to apply a layer, let it dry and then go with the next, so I would do one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The above pictures show how the elephant looked after the first 3 layers.

Sanding the elephant lamp

sanding the lamp

I sanded the elephant using a wall mud mesh, I sanded before applying the next layer so that the build up would be as even as possible, that way the whole elephant would have a thick layer over it. I used a brush to apply the mud after the first 3, because that would give me a smoother surface that didn't require much sanding. Above you can see how the elephant looked like after probably 9 or 10 thin layers.

Elephant lamp more sanding

I did the mouth and eyes by carving the wall mud, and building it up with a thin brush, I used a 400grt sand paper form here on because it's very smooth.

Changing the feet design

different feet for the elephant

I did 2 different kind of feet, because I wanted to see how they look in order to decide, I did a very minimalistic ones for the back and a very thick ones for the front.

changing the feet

After staring at them for a long time and with the help of Ken, we decided we both liked the back feet way better than the front, and even tho the elephant was almost done, I decided to rip the front ones out and work with some more mud to shape them just like the front ones.

changing the feet of the elephant
final legs and feet

I had to give the front legs about 8 more layers to be able to build them up to the shape I wanted, so finally after a long wait (I had to let it dry longer after each layer because I used way thicker layers this time) it was time to sand with a little bit of water, so that the surface would be all smooth and nice for the paint!

Painting the elephant lamp

For the paint I just went with a gloss spray paint, I painted very thin layers but lots of them so that the coverage was better =]

painting the elephant lamp

It was a long process, just because of all the drying times in between layers but I think it was very worth it after all our baby will have a one of a kind lamp, and mom only paid $5 for the lamp and about $20 for the wall mud, sand mesh and paper, paint and new wire.

painting details

The final product, my DIY elephant lamp

My Mom said that it looks like it's plastic or ceramic, either way it's better than for it to look like styrofoam and mud right?

the final lamp
lamp view
the full lamp elephant

Ken and I love it and can't wait to put it next to the chair in the nursery (even tho the chair needs some recovering love before it goes to the room too)

side view of the lamp

I am so excited to move to the next project and start to put the nursery together =] I am almost done with the office, so as soon as I finish here I can start full nursery mode!

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend! I have a couple of very cool post for next week so see you then!


Wednesday 7th of January 2015

May I send you all the material and money so that you can make one for my daughter? She is an elephant lover and her room is all about elephants. She would LOVE it.

Inês Pereira

Wednesday 29th of October 2014

I am amazed! I can't believe You shaped it with a knife! OMG, so beautiful! I would love to share this DIY at my blog if You don't mind. Thanks, Ines


Monday 6th of October 2014

You have got to be MY LONG LOST TWIN!!! i lOVE YOU! tHIS IS ALSO WHAT I DO. It's who and what I am!!..... aLL OF IT. yOUR WHOLE SITE, IS ME! WEIRD, BUT VERY THANKFUL FOR YOUR BLOG,I now I KNOW I AM NOT AN ALIEN OR HAD A MARTHA-STEWART-INVASION-OF-THE-BODY-SNATCHERS Moment! hahaaa SO, I'll be stealing your ideas, now! LOL. My Grandson Benaiha needs a nursery, and His mother, my daughter, loves your letter K and I love your Elephant lamp. (so what I do!) .... and there she goes, giggling uncontrollably with glee, looking for wood to make her letter B...............


Tuesday 23rd of September 2014

I have just seen this. I am amazed at what a brilliant job you did creating your little elephant. It is beautiful! I would be so proud of myself if I managed to create such a wonderful piece.


Wednesday 20th of August 2014

Wow this is so amazing! Can't believe your talent and how resourceful you are, I might attempt this sometime because my 2 year old niece name is Ellie, so we kind of word play elliephant (: thanks for the inspiration!

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