how to paint furniture

This painted hutch and table were featured in Better Homes and Gardens Do It Yourself Magazine. Yee haw!

better homes and gardens do it yourself

I painted them myself!

If you are a regular around here you know I’m always forthcoming with step by step instructions with how I do a project.  Usually that involves some hot glue and a high heeled shoe. This project isn’t any different.

For years people have been asking me how I paint my furniture and for years I’ve been doing it all wrong and honestly, It’s never really mattered. My paint usually sticks just fine and the finished product is pretty great. Not perfect but good enough.  But there are lots of tricks and tips I’ve learned from people smarter than me.

I’ve had this furniture for 6 years and from the moment I got it home I kind of secretly regretted getting black.  A big black piece like this hutch demands attention. It’s all, “Look over here, look at me!” and “Come here light, let me suck you in and make the room dark.”

Which is fine unless you don’t want it to demand attention and you don’t want a darker room. And since it’s so big, I felt a little limited in what paint colors I could use on my walls.

And since I know you are wondering…here are some before photos:

You can see the table here, it’s a thin wood grain, kind of orangey.

Here’s a close up of the hutch in all of it’s black glory.

For years I’ve been thinking about what color to paint it.  I knew I wanted to paint it but ugh, the work, and what if I didn’t like the color?

Going to the painted cottage changed my perspective.  Remember how Angela talked about her layers of color?  Finally, I realized that if I didn’t like the color I used, I could just add another layer.  That was so freeing, motivating and inspiring.  Since I like the look of layered, weathered, chippy paint, I figured I really couldn’t mess it up.

paint your furniture!

So, I just grabbed my left over paint from my family room.

From the family room walls.  Gasp. Did you get that? I used Satin/Eggshell left over wall paint for my furniture.  The color is Village Square a BEHR color from Home Depot.  However, I can pretty much guarantee that whatever color it looks like on your computer screen is not the color it looks like in real life.  Never pick a paint color from seeing it online, OK?

I wasn’t too worried about painting the right way.  I just wanted everything to be a new color and for the paint to somewhat stay.  Did I sand?  Nope.  But there wasn’t a super shiny finish to begin with.  I just slapped paint on. I did it all wrong.  And it turned out good enough.

I hesitated to even tell you how I did it because I just played around.  I painted a layer of that wall color and while it was still wet I painted on some blue from another room.  The blue was a shinier sheen so it helps make it a little satinish.  And I used the dirty brush.  I had two containers but one brush and just went back and forth whenever I felt like it. Very scientific.  Really, if you have a piece of furniture you don’t love, grab some satin paint and paint it.  Unless it’s an heirloom or an antique, it’s not much risk if you already hate it.

My advice: start with a small piece like a side table and once you get that good enough {not perfect} move on from there.

If you hate a piece to begin with, even better–you can’t ruin something you already hate.

However, when it came time to paint my table top, I knew I had to do that part right.  Next to the toilet seat, kitchen counter tops and sofa, the table top gets the most wear in the whole house.  I didn’t want to mess that part up.

So, I went to the experts: other bloggers who paint furniture for a living.

I ended up using a sander (like this) just for the table top, but then still used my flat wall paint, but I finished it with a few thin coats of clear wipe on poly.


There’s a PLETHORA of information out there, hard earned tips and tricks and types of paint that can make your life easier–the kind of information you don’t even know to ask or google. If you haven’t painted furniture yet, or haven’t had much luck with it, it’s nice to have someone hold your hand. Someone who’s learned how to make all types of wood and finishes and paint look spectacular. Someone like Allison…

paint tips

I think you’ll love The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Furniture Painting : 115 Tips, Tricks and Shortcuts to Save Your Time, Money, & Sanity. It’s 114 pages and it’s only $10. I have read it and laughed and learned, and decided I’m going to tackle another project after reading it.

Allison knows what she is talking about.

There are a ton of photos, tips on where to buy supplies or hack them, and information on wood types, when to sand/when not to sand, when to prime/when not to prime, using latex paint, oil paint, chalk paint, and milk paint, waxing, distressing, sealing, curing, and of course tips on best painting practices.

we really use the table

all the time we use the table

did I mention, we use this table?

If you are ready to paint, or wanting to paint or needing motivation to paint and my “I do it all wrong but it still works ok” isn’t enough for you and you want someone to hold your hand, click here to get your ebook. As you can see her work is amazing.  And I’m already thrilled with how my table turned out.  The secrets I’ve learned work and we’ve already spilled food and used our newly painted table and it’s holding up just great.

see the wall behind the striped curtain?  that’s the same paint as the table and hutch!

painted tablethe table over 4 years after I first painted it with no touchups!–we now use it in our refinished barn/gathering space and it still looks fantastic! (see more here)

{update as of July 2015:: it’s been FIVE YEARS since I’ve painted this table and our family of 5 including 3 boys have used this table and it’s still held up–our boys are much taller now! It hasn’t needed a second coat and we moved and still use the table! see past photos here}  I used to walk into the home improvement store and buy what the paint guy told me for furniture:: shiny, glossy paint.

DO NOT DO THAT. There are so many better ways to get the look you are after that will last and not peel off.

Here’s the link to buy/find out more about the ebook, How to Paint Furniture, enjoy!

Furniture Painting ebook
Nesting Place is an affiliate The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Furniture Painting : 115 Tips, Tricks and Shortcuts to Save Your Time, Money, & Sanity and will get a percentage of each sale generated from this post. 

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****This post went viral on Pinterest a year and a half after I wrote it (I wrote it in 2010 before Pinterest even existed?) read about that and how I’ve been surprised at the reaction of what has happened here.