How to paint old furniture

how to paint

One of my favourite things to do is to paint an old piece of furniture and completely transform it. There is something so satisfying about rescuing a piece of furniture one may consider to be junk..

Check this little bookshelf out for instance, which I saved from being smashed up and burnt and now has a prime space in my lovely shed!

It is so easy to to throw things out and just buy something new, trust me I used to do that all the time.. but since I have started exploring the web and reading about various projects, upcycling, looking at Pinterest for inspiration and reading various blogs I admire it has totally changed me.

There is just not enough time in the day to make everything, paint everything and try something new.. but I do try my best and my husband is your witness that my ever so tidy shed is now turning into a cluttered mess, where you can hardly move with all my things! This still doesn’t stop me from going to charity shops, amenity sites and craft sales just to have a look, just in case there is something…. Raise your hand if you relate to this…  thought so… 

So here are a few of my tips on how to paint furniture!

*I am not a professional so this is purely my thoughts and suggestions!*

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1) Before you purchase anything – check your furniture! Are there any chips, cracks, damage to it? Assess what you will need to do in order to fix it, how much it will cost and whether all the work will be worth it in the end. Don’t think that you will purely paint something and it will look amazing, great transformations, require great work!

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2) Once you have purchased your piece of furniture (or found it as in many cases with me!) – Clean your furniture. Make sure your furniture is nice and clean before you start any work on it.

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Some people use sugar soap liquid, I normally just use some dish wash diluted in warm water and wipe the furniture with a cloth.  If there is a lot of dust, hoover (vacuum cleaner) may come in handy especially for any drawers and cleaning the corners!

If the furniture has been stored for a long time, it may have a musty smell, which you also need to treat before you paint.  I found there are so many different ways to deal with the musty smell. The smell is coming from the furniture as there is some moisture trapped there. Remember you must treat it and not simply mask it, as it is not the solution.

I have used coal to soak the moisture up from the furniture, which does work, but is a bit of a slow process, so I tried the modern substitute – mini dehumidifier gel containers, which you can get from any pound shop.  They work like magic! Leave them for a few days and you will be able to see the moisture in the canister, also make sure the room is well ventilated and there is a good air flow.

3)  When your piece of furniture is nice and clean – you can see any damage you may need to fix and any preparation you may need to do, so next step is – Prepare the furniture for painting.  

Make sure you remove the drawers before you do any work and also take off any hardware, door knobs etc if you don’t want them painted.

There are three steps to this –

(1) fix any damage , (2) sand it and (3) prime the furniture if necessary.

FIX IT

You want to make sure that the piece you are working with is not damaged.  If it is – fix it before you start painting.  Don’t think that you will paint over and it will look great. If you are putting hard work into it, you want to make it right from the start.

I recently realised that the four chairs I bought and wanted to restore were damaged by wood worm, so I made sure that all four chairs are prepared properly for the paintwork. I am filling every single little hole with wood filler, sanding it and priming it! It is hard work, but will be so worth it in the end.

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SAND IT

I use my very trusted mouse sander and it is brilliant, so light and fits my hand perfectly.  Find sander that works for you and you will have a friend for life!

Wipe the surface gently to remove any residue left from the sanding to ensure the surface is nice and clean.

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PRIME IT

If you are painting over something and planning to use chalk paint, most likely you will not need to sand and prime the piece of furniture.  Chalk paint is so versatile, you can use it on any surfaces including glass, metal and plastic, which would not need any preparation apart from cleaning!  However, if you use bare wood or sometimes (most of the time) some older vintage pieces will require some preparation even if you choose to use chalk paint.

If you are using any other paint priming is one of the most important steps as this will allow the paint to go on nicely and stick on the piece of furniture.

I use wood primer and undercoat, I find that this works very well, but there are many primers that do the job.  When the surface is dry, sand slightly as this will allow the paint to bond with the primer even better.

4) Choose the right paint!  It is totally up to you what paint you want to use, there are so many different finishes and you just need to think what type of finish you want – matt, eggshell, distressed, aged, shiny..there are so many paints on the market available you will be spoilt for choice.  I personally like to use eggshell and chalk paint for my projects.

5) paint it! This is actually the easiest part. There is no particular technique just paint with nice gentle strokes and make sure it goes with the grain not against it.  I always paint furniture from the top down, with exception of chairs as they can be very tricky, so I normally tip them over and start from the bottom. Once you start painting, you will have your own way of doing it! Just enjoy what you are doing 🙂

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Do not have the brush dripping in paint and use nice thin coats to get the best finish.

TIP: Use a rubber band to ensure the lid of your paint tin is nice and clean, like this.

For bigger and flat surfaces use a nice firm foam roller, which will help you get a nice and smooth finish!

AND FINALLY – Enjoy your new piece of furniture!!

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P.S. If you are using chalk paint, you will also need to wax the piece of furniture to seal it.  I will do a post on chalk paint very soon, so watch this space for more tips and information!

Feel free to comment or email me if you have any questions.

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4 thoughts on “How to paint old furniture

  1. Hi Evija – I just tried my first painted piece and am so happy with the results! Of all things i chose my husband’s bedroom set from when he was a little boy. He is very attached to these mahogany pieces and has great stories about the set, but it was horrible looking. He tried to strip it but the woodwork is too intricate. I told him I was going to paint it and he freaked out! He came home mid-day and said nothing as I worked, when I was done, with tears in his eyes he thanked me for bringing it back to life. It looks amazing! And it was easy to do, wish I had been brave enough years ago 🙂

    Thanks for sharing this post, I will post pics of my project once I get the vanity finished. I look forward to reading more of your posts!

    With a smile, carlyn 🙂

    1. Thank you for sharing your story Carlyn, please do let me know when you have finished the project as I would love to see it! The best compliment for your work is the appreciation of your husband, which is so clear by his reaction. xx

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