Painted Furniture:: Step by Step

The other day I did something I do a lot and that is to drag home a cool old piece of furniture from a thrift store with every intention of giving it a fresh new look with paint. It’s one of my favorite things to do!

As you know, just about anything can be refurbished with paint to suit your style, how fantastic is this bright turquoise hall tree? 

painted coat rack bhg


Painting furniture is a quick and easy weekend project that will bring a fresh dose of color to your home with just a few hours of work.  A smaller piece of furniture like this bar cart can even be spray painted in a jiffy if you give it a coat of primer first. 


yellow painted barcart bhg


Larger pieces like this cabinet and hutch are more difficult to spray paint, so in those circumstances I typically use a good quality brush for a smooth and even finish. 


gray painted hutch bhg


You can paint your pieces one uniform color or opt for a more creative combination – at two color paint job pulls together separate pieces in a bathroom space but still distinguishes them as their own unique elements. 

combined desk and hutch bhg


If plans to paint are in your near future, here are the supplies you’ll need:  tarp, sanding wedge, wood filler (for dents or holes); adhesion primer; foam roller, high quality angled paintbrush; water based enamel paint.  Optional protective coat: polycrylic or clear furniture wax. 

The basic steps for painting wood furniture are these:

1)  Repair any holes or dents with sandable wood filler.  If you’ve opted for new knobs, often they will fit right in the old holes, but many modern pulls are sized differently than the old hardware and wood filler is also your best bet for starting over with new hardware. Once it’s dry sand it smooth before proceeding.

2)  Prime with a high adhesion bonding primer, you can find them in brush on or spray on formulas made by Zinsser (my personal favorite), Kilz, or specialty paint companies. 

3) Once you’re primer is fully dry, sand away any drips or residue and wipe your piece down with a soft cloth. Apply two thin coasts of water based enamel paint – use a foam roller for quick application and follow it up with a high quality angled paintbrush for angles, trim, or hard to reach spots.  Note with darker colors you may need three coats, but the thinner the better to avoid drips and brush strokes. Allow 6 to 8 hours for your paint to dry between coats.

4)  With enamel paints it’s not always necessary to use a protectant as the enamel paint has a harder finish compared to ordinary latex paints. However, for a high use surface like a coffee table or desk, an extra coat of protection will help protect the paint.  If you opt for a protective coat, use a water based polycrylic in satin or gloss – do not use an oil based polyurethane, it will amber or yellow over time.  An alternative that results in a hand rubbed matte finish is clear furniture wax buffed to a soft glow

For greater detail, and images to accompany refer to this article on how to paint furniture!

If you seek a more distressed look, with the original wood peeking through underneath, you can follow the basic steps I mentioned last week for distressing furniture with water based paints, or consider a product I’ve worked with several times and that is Annie Sloan Chalk paint, not to be confused with chalkboard paint.

Chalk paint is a special formula designed to give you a European style distressed look without priming. The formula is water based and easy to use.  Specialty chalk paint or milk paints will give you a lovely distressed finish when you lightly sand away the thin layers revealing parts of the wood underneath. 

distressed armoire bhg


Have you repainted anything special for your home lately?  Feel free to link to your project, and happy refurbishing to those with plans to paint in the near future!



12 Responses to “ Painted Furniture:: Step by Step ”

  1. Great post, Kate!

    I love painting furniture and making something “new” out of something old. I just finished painting a bookcase and am thrilled with how it turned out – feel free to check it out here:

    Happy painting to all!
    Simply Tangerine

  2. After painting the bookcase, I was inspired to paint a media cabinet that I wasn’t sure how to transform – I caught the painting bug and had a blast! The finished product can be seen here:

    Thanks again Kate!

    Best wishes,
    Simply Tangerine

  3. Love the turquoise hall “thing”. What is the color name of the turquoise you used? It is the exact color I am looking for but it is hard to find in a paint chip. Thank you.

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