We’ve put together a list of the top 6 things you need to know before you paint furniture. If you take the time to think about these 6 things, we’re certain your furniture painting project will go more smoothly (bad pun?)!
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1. Your style
Before you begin to paint your wood furniture, think about what kind of style or look you want to achieve. Clean, simple and smooth? Shabby chic, aged or distressed? Glam with metallic accents? Antiqued and elegant? Modern or rustic farmhouse? The possibilities are endless. And the good news is you can achieve any look you want using paint!! A good place to start is to search Pinterest or blogs like ours for ideas for the particular piece you are looking to refinish. For example, a search for “painted waterfall dresser” will yield a fantastic array of images. You can use these images as a jumping off point to decide what look you want to achieve. You may also want to consider keeping some parts wood and painting other parts. Personally, we like to try and keep some stained wood visible if possible.
You should also be prepared to hear “you can’t paint that!”. There will always be someone in your life that believes it’s a sin to paint wood furniture. But chances are, if you are reading this, YOU like the look of painted furniture. And that should be enough of a reason to smile politely and carry on with your painting. If you are ever in doubt, just google painted furniture – so much gorgeousness! Is there any doubt which of the two pieces below will be loved for years to come?
2. Gathering supplies
We all do it, start a project, realize something is missing and run out to the store to get it. Sometimes over and over and over again. We always find these interruptions not only cut into the time we have to tackle a project but also raise our level of frustration and make the experience less enjoyable overall. The exact supplies you’ll need will depend on the particular project you’re undertaking. We spend a couple minutes thinking through each step of the project and writing down the supplies we think we’ll need. After a quick perusal of what we’ve got stored away, we decide what we’ll need to head to the store to buy. Or better yet, find for sale at a fraction of the cost on resale sites like Facebook Marketplace.
3. Find the right work space
Refinishing furniture can get pretty messy. At least it is when we do it! If you have the option of working away from your main living space, we suggest you do so.
But if that’s not an option for you, don’t worry – just make sure you prepare your space well to save yourself a lot of extra clean up. We always try and do any sanding outdoors and make sure we have drop cloths and rags for work indoors. You will also need to make sure you’ve got enough light to see your project. We first started painting pieces in our garage. We’d think we were finished, bring them into the house and be shocked to see how much touching up was still needed. You’ll also want to avoid working in extreme temperatures. Not only can it impact the finish of your piece, it can be pretty unpleasant for you to work in.
4. Preparing your piece for painting
We’ve read a lot of articles and come across several products that claim to require “no prep”. That’s right chalk paint, I’m talking about you. We aren’t as happy with the final results when we don’t spend the time to properly clean, sand, putty, and prime a piece before painting. Although you don’t get the instant gratification of seeing what the finished product will look like with these steps, they do make a big difference to the quality of the finished product.
Do not skip the first step: cleaning! If you just start with sanding, you sand all that dirt and grime into the wood pores and your paint coat will not be as durable.
5. Think about your finish
It may seem unnecessary to consider your finish or top coat before you paint furniture, but it can make a difference to the paint or stain you choose to use. For example, if you are using chalk paint, do you want to use wax or a clear poly top coat? If wax, you may want to take into account the color or aging effects you can achieve before you select your chalk paint color. After you’ve spent all that time getting your refinished furniture looking just the way you want, you don’t want to see it scuffed and scratched before you’ve even started to enjoy it.
6. Expect the unexpected
It is rare that we set out to refinish a piece of furniture and have the final finished piece look just the way we’d imagined it without any hiccups along the way. And that’s ok – it’s part of the fun of refinishing furniture!
Me: Oooo, let’s save the walnut veneer on the top of this mid-century modern credenza and stain it dark and paint navy around the frame. Stuart: No problem babe.
1 hour later…
Stuart: Nope, sanded down to the chip board.
It can seem disappointing at first when something doesn’t turn out the way you’d hoped. But the beauty of painting furniture is you can try again until you get your refinished furniture piece looking just the way you want!
Now that you’ve considered the six things you need to know before you paint wood furniture, you’re ready to get down to it! You can read about how to get the best possible paint finish here.