This is the first piece of furniture I ever painted. My friend Lauren and I dragged it home from a dumpster to our first college apartment. We did everything right: cleaned it up, sanded it down, used oil-based primer, and waited patiently for each coat to dry completely before moving on. I think it must have taken a week.
After that experience, I swore I’d never work with oil-based anything again. So I didn’t paint anything for about five years.
Then I decided that this dresser and nightstand, which I’d also had since my first apartment, needed to be purple, and I decided to go for it. I did some research, and the internet told me that primer was necessary, and that spray paint makes things easier.
So I used spray primer followed by spray paint, and I regretted it. I needed help carrying the pieces outside to be sprayed and even then it was messy. I couldn’t get a smooth finish over the primer. I struggled to get even and full coverage with the spray paint. I felt that I had no control over what was happening. My trigger finger was about to fall off. The two drawer fronts that didn’t get any primer because I’d run out turned out to have the nicest finish. And ALL of the spots where I’d filled holes showed through. It was frustrating.
Fast forward a few months, to when I procured this lovely lady for $60 from craigslist. That was before we had an SUV, so we tied it to the top of our Camry and hoped for the best. Actually, I hoped for the best while Nick stopped the car every 30 feet to make sure it wasn’t sliding off. It was only three blocks but it must have taken 2o minutes to get home.
I really wanted to paint it, but I was worried about messing up an “antique.” I agonized for weeks. I asked facebook, which yielded a predictably ambivalent response. Finally, I decided that it was mine to paint if I wanted to, I only paid $60, the veneer was chipped, and I wasn’t planning to go on Antiques Roadshow anytime soon. So, armed with this image as inspiration, I moved forward with reckless abandon and was thrilled with the result. Four months and several pieces later this method is still a winner in my book.
How to Paint Furniture, The Good Enough Method
Step 1. Grab a big piece of cardboard or painter’s dropcloth and slide it underneath the legs. Then drag the whole operation out from the wall enough that you can move freely all around
Step 2. If it’s absolutely filthy, wipe it down a bit. Otherwise, don’t stress. A little dirt never hurt anybody.
Step 3. The fun part! Choose your paint! I like flat paint for its forgiving nature and I like to mix my own colors to find a shade that’s just right. To achieve the color on the dresser above, I had Lowe’s match a quart of flat paint to the color of my purse, a nice teal. While I was there I picked up some mistinted sample pots in various shades of taupe for about $1 each. When I got home I poured some teal into a bowl and started adding the taupes as well as various other paints I had lying around (even some craft paint), painting swatches on the back of the dresser until I had the perfect shade. Be sure to mix up a big batch. Your genius won’t be easy to recreate midway through the process. I have learned this the hard way.
Step 4. Remove any hardware, secure any extremely curious cats, and make sure you’re not wearing anything you’d be devastated to splatter paint on.
Step 5. Start painting! I use brushes, the cheaper the better because I hate to spend a lot of time washing them out afterwards. Try to avoid slathering it on there. Be sure to get the insides and backs of the legs if you’re into that sort of thing. I sometimes forget.
Step 6. You’ll probably have to do a second coat, but if you kept your first coat thin it will dry in no time at all and you can probably get started on your second coat right away. In a fit of impatience I once started my second coat over a not-completely-dry first coat and only mildly regretted it.
Step 7: As soon as that baby is dry to the touch you can put your hardware back on and call it a day! You can use new hardware if you’re fancy but if it requires drilling new holes or filling old ones I say no way Jose. Too much work for this girl. I sometimes wait a few hours before pushing it back to the wall since that involves applying an awful lot of pressure to paint that probably isn’t completely “cured,” and if you have carpeted floors you will definitely want to wait before removing whatever you used to protect them.
Step 8: Pour your leftover paint into an empty jar or plastic container and save it for touchups or future projects. Step back and admire your brilliance.
The beauty of this method is that it is very low-stress and can be done in an afternoon! So when I tried to paint the armoire above a lovely gray with lavender undertones and it turned out LILAC, I did not at all dread doing it all over again. It’s now a rich and refreshing aqua.