How to Paint Furniture
We have painted quite a few things in our home using different methods. We have figured out what works well and what does not. I have adapted this method for painting furniture like dressers and small cabinets from when we painted our kitchen cabinets.
We painted our kitchen cabinets THREE years ago and they are still going strong. I figure if it works for the cabinets in the kitchen, it can be adapted for other furniture in a way that is slightly less of a pain than painting the cabinets was. In fact, compared to other DIY projects it is really pretty easy.
Since we just did two dressers at the same time, I will take you through step by step using the dressers. Here is the good news: if you are painting (not staining) you do NOT need to sand it!
A little backstory for this project: we were replacing the carpet in our bedroom with wood plank floors. Once we got the majority of the flooring down (you can see a bit in the photo above) I realized how outdated the dressers looked. We woke up on day two of “project floor” weekend and I told Terry to get me a darker gray paint because I needed to paint the dressers.
Replacing flooring is a major project and we also painted not one but TWO dressers in the same weekend. That tells you how easy it is to tackle a simple dresser painting project.
Step one: prep the furniture (and area)
For the dressers this meant taking out the drawers. Since we were paining Ikea dressers it is really easy to take off the drawer fronts. It is a lot easier to take off a drawer front than dump out the whole drawer.
I painted the first dresser right on the subfloor in our bedroom before we laid the wood. So I didn’t care at all how much paint splattered on the floor. I painted the second one on the freshly laid wood so yeah, I laid down a drop cloth.
Step two: primer
Just one coat of primer goes on pretty quickly. I use Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 to prime most of our stuff. When we were painting the kitchen cabinets we did two coats of primer then we had to sand it down so just one coat of primer seems like a dream by comparison.
Since primer is thick and sticky like glue, I recommend using a separate paint brush for the primer and paint. Personally, I really like these short handled brushes because they are easy to use and control.
Honestly, the primer went on so quickly, It was easy.
Step three: paint
The type of paint is really important here. You don’t want to use latex paint for a high traffic area. Heck, we don’t even use latex paint for trim or anything other than drywall these days. If you want your furniture to look nice, wipe clean, and withstand wear, you need to use an alkyd paint. You can find it at a regular hardware store or Home Depot or Lowes.
You will most likely need two coats of paint. Each coat takes about 3-4 hours to dry before you can apply another. Then, it takes several days to “cure” (set and completely dry.) You have to be patient before you start putting things on top of it, but it will last and it is worth it.
When you apply your final coat of paint you should wait a few DAYS to completely let it set. We waited three days before I put on any handles or put anything on top of it. Really, I could have waited four. One thing I have noticed is that you should not put any paper products (like a box of tissues) on top of it for at least a week. It will stick to it.
Finally after a few days I put the drawer pulls on. I love the way it looks!
The finished dressers in our bedroom ALSO with our freshly laid floors. We used our DIY plank flooring for the third time on this project.
After letting them dry for about four days it was finally time to style the top! I found this adorable tray at Target which you can find online right here. If you have been with me for a while you know about my love of trays. I use them all the time as a decorative way to control clutter. I even dedicated a mom hack blog to it!
That's it! It is a really easy DIY project. I always say that I am amazed at how much a coat of paint can completely change the look of something. I am really happy with the way these turned out. We took dressers that we had for years and made them fresh and modern in just one weekend.
Have a piece of furniture to update? Have questions for me? Let me know!