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December 5, 2013

How To Paint Furniture: why it's easier than you think!

A guide to painting furniture. This tutorial makes it so easy!
Last year some friends gave us a set of old dressers before they moved to the beach. The dressers were in decent shape, but definitely needed a little work.
I just knew I was the girl for the job.

And so do all my friends, which is why I've never been able to park in our garage. Not once.
You win some, you lose some.

This dresser ended up being one of my easiest makeovers ever because I've learned a few new tricks since my last makeover.
Here's what the dresser looks like today, after just a little bit of work.

A guide to painting furniture. This tutorial makes it so easy!

But let's back up just a little bit.
To where it all began. 
Remember this summer when I carted home a trailer full of old furniture?

Well, I painted the tall dresser right away and it ended up here.  Then, I kinda forgot about the other one, and didn't even remember it existed until I caught Jesse sawing pieces of wood on top of it in the spider garage. Remember this?

So, this past weekend I finally had Jesse haul it upstairs so that I could paint it. This thing was coated in years of dust and grime and spiders, so it took me a good twenty minutes just to give it a sponge bath. So, this is what it looked like after I cleaned it...still not good.
Somehow one of the handles disappeared in the frenzy. It's still a mystery.

After it was clean, I removed the drawers from the frame and removed all of the hardware off the fronts of the drawers.

Then, I used 3M Wood Filler  to fill all of the holes and scratches so that the paint would apply evenly.
I use the white paintable kind, which worked great with my light colored paint.

I applied the wood filler wherever there were holes and scratches.
Probably each one administered by Jesse's frivolous wood chopping. :)

After the wood filler was dry, I used some fine grit sand paper from 3M Advanced Abrasives to sand away the excess and make it even with the surface of the wood. This makes it look as good as new once it's painted.

Once I finished sanding down the wood filler, I lightly scuffed up the entire surface area with some super fine grit sandpaper and then wiped down all the surfaces again, making sure they were free from dust. 
And when I say 'lightly scuff', I mean I spend less than two minutes on it. 

Next, I primed the dresser. Primer makes the paint adhere without having to sand down the wood like a crazy person. Look for a primer that says 'adhesion' on it, like the one I used here.

For both primer and paint, I used an angled paintbrush and a mini foam roller, brushing the paint on with the paintbrush and smoothing it out with the roller if needed.

I applied just one coat of primer. You can apply more if the stain of your wood is bleeding through, but I rarely need to.

Once the primer was dry, it was time to paint. I've tried all sorts of paints, and painted over 10 pieces of furniture, but this time I decided to try something new. 

I used a waterbased acrylic alkyd enamel (called the Pro Classic if you get it from Sherwin Williams). It's water based so it cleans up easily with water, but the enamel formula gives it a harder finish like an oil based paint. It applies so smoothly that I didn't need to use my beloved Floetrol, and barely even needed my foam roller. Plus, I used a semi-gloss finish and didn't even have to use a pesky topcoat because it dried so hard and durable. Seriously, it was crazy how great this paint was.

And it was so thick that I barely even needed a second coat. 

The paint color I chose was Sedate Gray. It has green undertones, and can sometimes even look blue in the right light. 

And the gray pairs so well with my gold and silver accents, like that mirror that I got at my last thrift store shopping trip (details about that adventure here). 
I'm pretty sure that picture of me and Jesse is sideways, but whatev, A for effort.

I'm not quite sure what I'm going to use this dresser for yet. I might use it as a buffet in our dining room (if it fits after we get a table and chairs back in day). Or I might use it underneath our TV in the living room. 
I'm so sick of youknowwho
For now, it's just in the empty dining room, all dressed up with nowhere to go.
We've all been there, girl.

And since I lost that piece of hardware somewhere deep in the pits of the spider garage, I replaced ALL of the hardware with some fabulous antique restoration hardware from my favorite placeI used a little gold lion pull on the center drawer...

and some sassy Victorian bail pulls on the rest of the drawers.

And it all just came together!

A guide to painting furniture. This tutorial makes it so easy!

And that, friends is the story of the easiest dresser makeover I've done so far! 
So, tell me, are there any tips you've learned along the way that I should know about? You guys consistently give me the most amazing advice when it comes to stuff I should try. 
Keep it comin', girlfriends.

'Til next time! 
I'll be back soon with my top 10 thrift store secrets!

That's all for today! 'Til next time!
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  1. oooh lovely! i love the hardware all shiny and gold!

  2. I love how you paint INSIDE the house. I finally caught on to that (I think I shoved a piece of plywood under my dresser, not a sheet but obvs both work) its so much cozier working doors! Love the gold lion!

  3. I have a dresser like that to makeover yet too. Love how yours turned out and that hardware is right down my alley!

  4. That dresser turned out absolutely gorgeous! I love it.

  5. I have been following your blog for awhile now (all the way from Australia!) and I love all your DIY projects, I find your blog very inspiring! I absolutely love this dresser! The colour, the hardware, everything!

  6. I've used ProClassic and love it too! And of course, as always, your dresser looks fabulous!

  7. That lion pull?! oh em geeeeeee. So regal! So fab! I have also never parked in my garage, never-not-even-once, and it's not looking promising for the future either.

  8. Thank you so much for your posts about painting furniture. I'm about to take on several furniture painting projects in my own home, and I wouldn't even know where to begin without your 'tutorials'. So THANK YOU! I hope they turn out as pretty as yours!

  9. Your projects are so lovely and fascinating. You do a fantastic job on your blog and pictures and such. I do have a question, do you ever use Annie Sloan Chalk Paint and if not, why not? I appreciate your expertise :)

  10. Love the color you used, I am a huge SW fan. Oh, and that hardware...AMAZE!

  11. Loved this post Virginia...That's what my garage looks like. Maybe even worse. I have 3 types of businesses in my garage - staging, furniture - and a ton of paint, Venetian plaster...metallic plaster, Tuscan textures, tints, glazes, gold leaf etc (all for my decorative painting business). I too forget what I have in there. Glad I am not the only one.

    A beautiful and free save - love the color you chose - and the hardware...beautiful!


  12. Hello Virginia, I want to paint my bathroom vanity. Do you think this kind of paint will be good for the bathroom? let me know! you have inspired me to paint the trim in my whole house! I am not nearly done, but at least the kitchen and two bedrooms are done! Thank you!

    1. Thank you, Carolina! That's so awesome! I think it would be great for cabinetry. It makes the painting process so much quicker and easier. If I could go back in time, I would totally use it on mine!

  13. I have checked out many sites that give tutorials on painting furniture, cabinets, etc. Yours is the best by far! You explained things clearly, you use practical products that don't cost an arm and a leg, you make it fun, AND you speak my language! Yay! You, darlin', are awesome!! Thank you!!

  14. do you have any suggestions on how to paint chairs that have bars or spaces?

  15. Hi Virginia. Do I need to add Plaster of Paris when using the Sherwin Willaims pro-classic paint? I am painting for the first time 3 pieces I picked up at a yard sale...I am a little unsure abt what paint to use. I already have some Behr white paint that is paid for...
    btw, rescued a feral calico from our wood pile last year..she was abt 2 weeks old..we bottle fed her for a while, and now as a first generation domestic she keeps us smiling! Your calico reminds me of her so much. :) Thx for all the tips..great blog!

    1. Hi Caroline!
      You can use the Behr white paint if you want. Just make sure to prime beforehand, no matter what you use. And you don't need to add the plaster of paris to either unless you are wanting to make it into chalk paint. These days, I usually just prime and then paint with this SW paint. Hope that helps! Oh, and I looooooove hearing about your sweet wood pile rescue!! So sweet! xo

    2. Thanks! There are a couple of stores around town who take old furniture and use chalk paint to make it look sorta new/nouveau. Sometimes they scrape some of the paint off as well to give it an aged look..but I actually like the crisp, clean look you have with your painted furniture. Love,love the light floors...good call! Thx again, I'm learning so much :)

  16. I found an old dresser by a dumpster a few weeks ago. I'm addicted to Pinterest and had just found your blog, so I went back a day later to drag it home. At some point I'll give it a makeover. But I wanted to say that I love your blog, and this post will help me a ton.

  17. Virginia - I have a question concerning cleaning the furniture prior to filling in holes & priming. Did you use Murphy's Oil Soap? I was planning on using that to clean my thrift-store dresser find & when reading the directions for cleaning wooden furniture (as opposed to wood flooring where it gives exact measurements for dilution) it just says "mix with water". After researching online I was unable to find how much to mix with water & also saw a few people say that it isn't a good idea to use an "oil" soap -- I thought this may possible make it harder for primer/paint to stick. I'm convinced I am looking way too far into this & just need to start cleaning the darn piece but I just want to get everything right the first time around (thank you mom for the perfectionist trait). Any suggestions or tips??

    THANK YOUUUU in advance.

    1. Hey Sabrina! Truly, I wouldn't worry about it too much. I usually just wipe my furniture off with a wet rag. If it's super dirty, TSP is a great cleaner to use and really cuts through the grime. But really though, I would just wipe it off and start painting. Hope that helps! :)

  18. Thank you for having such an awesome blog. You inspired me to redo a piece of furniture I found at the curb. I used the angled brush you depicted above. It works like a charm. Keep up the great work! P.s your entry way is looking fab!

  19. I'm so impressed and just found your site. I just told my sister about it and now we cant stop reading. Some amazing stuff here! I'm looking for this perfect dresser on CL but I'm just going to find one within my budget and no hassle and try your tips here! Awesome, thank you!

  20. Hi Virgina. Thank you for sharing some of your tips. I found your suggestion for the Pro Classic paint was particularly helpful. One tip of my own is to sand over the primed surface after it has dried. This helps your paint bond to the primer even better than it already does. Is this something you do as standard? Also when I sand I also use a tack cloth to wipe away any sawdust or residue left after sanding before painting the piece of wooden furniture.

  21. Thanks for the tips!! Great short and to the point tutorial, definitely has me ready to take on some of my painting projects!!!!

  22. I have 3 pieces of furniture that I am hoping to paint but they all have a little bit of peeling around corners or some edges. Two are wood with an old paint finish of some kind and the third is an older laminate piece. My plan is to sand those areas with a high grit sand paper until they are smooth. Do you think that would be enough? Or should I use some kind of glue or sealer as well?

    I love your blog! About a year before I found your blog I found the dlawless hardware site and I agree it's AMAZING! :)

  23. Just came across your blog on Pinterest. Thank you for the detailed instructions and photos, that is so helpful. I've been wanting to paint our 40 year old bedroom furniture. Any suggestions on a color to paint the furniture to bring it more up to date? Right now its a dark oak.

  24. Hey there!! I was wondering which spray paint you used for the handles and for the mirror frame? I have been struggling to get those colours!! I am really desperate. Hope to hear from you soon! Thanks so much for your wonderful Blog!! <3

  25. Hi Virginia! I have a question for you. Is this dresser laminate furniture? I ask because I think it is from the same set that you did the post on for laminate furniture. I am about to take on a laminate set and would like to know if I could use this type of paint versus using the flat paint + a primer. Just saves an extra couple steps and is cheaper! But I want to make sure it would be durable and would work on laminate furniture. Thanks for your help! I always enjoy reading your blog, you do great work!!

  26. Your instructions sounds like something I could do. I almost gave up on my project after reading all the complicated instructions and warnings until I've stumbled upon your...Thank your for the advice!

  27. Thanks so much for this awesome tutorial! I followed it step by step for my own dresser and I can honestly say this is the best DIY project I have done to-date!

    Thanks so much!

  28. I have never left a comment on a blog before but wanted to say how much you inspire me. I have a dresser that looks like the drawers are wood but the top is laminate. Part of the top corner is ripped off but the rest of the dresser seems salvageable. Do you think the wood fill would work on a chunk section? If so how would I apply & how long should I let it sit before sanding? Blessings & best regards!


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