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How to Paint Furniture {tips, tools & finding the perfect piece}

by | Aug 3, 2010 | Decorating Inspiration, Details

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How to Paint Furniture {tips, tools & finding the perfect piece}

How to Paint Furniture {tips, tools & finding the perfect piece}

How To Paint Furniture

If you are a regular reader of The Inspired Room, you know I am not skilled with painting furniture — but I attempt it anyways. Life is too short to live in fear. I love PAINTED furniture, just not the process of painting them. The reason for that is because I am not skilled. I do not take the time properly prepare a piece nor do I know how to make it look really good. I have grand visions in my head of how wonderful the pieces will turn out, but I really need to learn HOW to do it so I do not wreck things up first like I am inclined to do.

How to Paint Furniture {tips, tools & finding the perfect piece}

Case in point

This scary attempt at painting the interior of a cabinet with primer.

Complete and utter FAIL.

You could not recreate that disaster if you tried.

The paint simply peeled off like a sunburn.

How to Paint Furniture {tips, tools & finding the perfect piece}

My dining room is in various stages of having a top to bottom makeover, CLEARLY we are in early stages here, with plans to finish painting the armoire and the table (as well as the walls, add a new light fixture etc.).

You might remember my primer whim incident … I just randomly started painting things assuming I was awesome enough to wing it. It became clear with the table that I am not that awesome.

How to Paint Furniture {tips, tools & finding the perfect piece}

I had the wonderful idea of doing a white wash on the table so the grain would show through. I thought it would be easy peasy to achieve that look because I could picture it in my mind. “Paint it and it will happen.”

Well, it was pretty much a FAIL and looked awful. I had to wipe off as much paint as I could and I’ll have to try it again after I read some instructions first on how to properly prepare the surface.

How to Paint Furniture {tips, tools & finding the perfect piece}

I have a hand sander but it is awkward and challenging to use.

How to Paint Furniture {tips, tools & finding the perfect piece}

This bathroom cabinet turned out OK pretty much in spite of my lack of skills and my commitment to rule breaking, however I am not happy with my distressing with the brown goop and want to go back and work on it some more. I liked it for about 30 seconds but I just want to make it better.

How to Paint Furniture {tips, tools & finding the perfect piece}

This chair from last years’ Spring Procrastinator Party turned out cute enough, but honestly now I’m feeling like the finish is a little bit rough and crunchy. I wanted it to feel smooth to the touch. Ahhhh, whose furniture turns out crunchy? Mine.

How to Paint Furniture {tips, tools & finding the perfect piece}

Then there was this piece. It took some fancy paint in order to transform it, but I am too impatient to order that paint every time I want to paint something. And I don’t want ALL of my pieces to look the same. I don’t want a matchy matchy look.

How to Paint Furniture {tips, tools & finding the perfect piece}

Mandie’s work

Soooo, now that you know a few of my escapades in painting furniture, you are probably wondering when we are going to get to the “How To” portion of this post. For those of you who need help and inspiration like I do, I am going to introduce you to someone who knows how to paint furniture and can teach us all how.

Yesterday I got this nifty ebook from Altar’d Funky Chic Furniture and it has instructions and tips on everything from how to look for furniture to paint and what tools, supplies and techniques I need to get the job done like a professional. I’ve already learned a bunch of stuff I am going to use right away on the pieces I am working on.

I now know what I did to cause the crunchy paint! And I know what kind of sander I want to replace my very old difficult to handle one. And, I know how to work with more ornate pieces. This book really has a lot of great information and breaks it down into manageable bits of information for people like me.

Mandie from Altar’d Furniture has experience painting furniture professionally which means she knows what she is doing, and she also understands what I need to know.

How to Paint Furniture {tips, tools & finding the perfect piece}

If you’d like to a copy of this ebook to help you with your upcoming projects, you can find it right here! It is just $10.

So, what painting projects do you still have to work on the rest of the summer?

The Inspired Room is an affiliate of this ebook but I only talk about products I personally use and enjoy!
I’ve shared this post for Works for Me Wednesday (for me, WFMW should be called DOESN’T work for me “DWFMW”, since I have illustrated my painting fails and I had to find a book to help me, lol–so I guess THAT works for me.).


  1. Lynn from For Love or Funny

    I’m going to bookmark Mandie’s book, because I know I’m going to want it the next time I decide to try and paint furniture! :)

  2. Dana

    I have 4 Craigslist barstools that are honey colored. I want to spray paint them black. They have a shiny finish so I’m pretty sure they need to be sanded, but I don’t want to do it. But I’m pretty sure that if I just spray them, the paint will peel off. I feel your pain. I love painted furniture but hate to paint. Really hate it!

  3. Dana

    Oh yes – my sweet husband just sanded and painted some FREE, solid oak bunk beds that were given to our girls. They look beautiful.

  4. debbie

    What an an appropriate post for me. This week I’m in the middle of stripping 6 dining chairs I fell in love with and got for a song. When I first saw them all I saw was a vision of white (heirloom white of course) shabby chic chairs setting off my wood dining table. Uh, what I didn’t see was layers of polyurethane that had to go first. Ugh!!!!! I now spend a day a chair stripping, scraping and sanding. Not fun, and certainly anywhere as easy as I thought. What I have learned is the most important part of painting furniture is the prep. It’s a messy, stinky, disgusting part of the process, and like you I get so impatient. But I’ve discovered through many past disasters doing it the right way means you won’t have to do it again later. Heading over to check out Mandie’s book, I can use all the help I can get!!!

  5. Stacy

    Love painted furniture! I just finished painting my dining room chairs. Such a big difference I wish I had done this sooner.

  6. Shannon

    I committed to painting walls and doors at a non-profit place called Life Choices. I’m almost done….WHEW!!! It has been a good feeling thought to do something good for someone else with a servant heart!

    Now the furniture thing is another story for me. I’m much like you disaster strikes or my hubby doesn’t want me to paint the furniture. I”m so wanting to paint my daughters furniture, but hubby is not on board yet. UGGGHHH!!!

  7. Franki Parde

    Now we know whay it’s called PAINt!!!!

  8. sue

    Oh. What a perfect post and a quote from you, “Life is too short to live in fear.” Girl, that is me in a nutshell. I am so afraid of doing it wrong, that I don’t get it done. I think I need to go buy some ink for my almost out printer and print up that book for $10. I am the type who wants to read, read, read about how to do something so the paint doesn’t peel off like sunburn; unfortunately, I read myself into a corner and am so afraid of making a mistake. I have to keep reminding myself, it’s just paint.
    Someone send me a spine, I really need one.

    • Melissa

      I guess I am the opposite, I just want to dive in and then I WISH I had read about it!

      I hope you get the book, I’m really going to use it this time to make sure I don’t blow it. It breaks things down in to steps I think I can actually follow!

      Good luck with finding that spine! :-)

  9. Sharon

    I love painting furniture! It is fun and very rewarding. But you can not underestimate the amount of time, energy and cost involved. Even if you find a great deal on your piece of furniture, it takes supplies to get it done. And most projects take multiple steps and lots of patience. It’s a great do-it-yourself project, just be prepared for what goes into it. Happy painting!

  10. Sandy

    Most of the paint we all use is Latex, and it needs a “raw” surface to adhere to. The only thing I haven’t sanded first was a wrought iron dining set. That would have been fun to sand right?! No! So I used my paint sprayer loaded with an oil based paint. It worked great and was fast and easy (until I had to clean the sprayer with turpentine ;-) The finish has withheld the use and test of time.
    Thx for the tips, I’ll check out the ebook.

  11. Annelise

    PREP SMCHEP! Crunchy is in and you know it. In all seriousness, I need to get a better grip on the paint prep and soak it all in. I rush to the finished product and am often critical of my work. To my friends it looks great, to me a totally different story. Thanks for the info and sharing your story.

  12. Sarah

    I find that sanding and priming furniture is such a PAIN because all I ever want to do is go all crazy on the piece of furniture with a pretty new colour.

    I’ve learned from my mother and father-in-law that a good sanding and a good primer are always key.



  13. tammy

    I definitely need to check out this book before I start my furniture painting projects this fall :) I am a wing it type gal myself but I get easily discouraged if things do go right. I guess it will do me good to do a little research before I start :)

  14. Martha Grigg

    I thought I was the only one that couldn’t paint furniture. I love the look of it, but every time I try it , i think to myself why did I do this. It always looked better before I started. I will be getting this book:)

  15. Erin

    Definitely, it looks alot easier than it is.

    I still need to paint the interiors of the front, back, and garage doors. Also, the inside of my kitchen cabinets still need to painted (I only did the outsides when I moved in).

  16. Patricia Torres

    I must say.. you make it sound really simple! I need to try my hands at this.. The girlies and I have decided to paint the IKEA day bed… We got it in black and want to paint it pink or white.. Will let you know when I venture into it..and how it turns out.. Thanks for the inspiration.. :-)

    • Melissa

      I make it sound simple to mess it up, that is for sure! But no more, now I am armed with some tips I can use!

  17. Fiona Sanders

    I have a lot of things that need to be painted……..but which one do I start with?? So I will choose the one that will make me happiest once painted since there really isn’t one that NEEDS to be painted first.

    It’s a pretty victorian wicker sewing basket, about 3 feet tall, that will stand next to my wicker rocker on the sunporch………..I can just picture it.

  18. Luxurious Life

    I love finding pieces to paint. But I have to admit, I cheat!! I find the pieces and hire a cabinet maker to paint them!! Still cheaper than buying new, I have an unique piece and his finish is much more durable than mine. I have a few pieces lined up to go.

  19. Marla

    I finally found a ‘kindred spirit of furniture painting’!

    Melissa, you have no idea how comforting it is to know that I am not alone in the painting ‘oops’ department. Let me encourage you with this: You can always restrip/resand & repaint it! (Don’t ask how I know this…)
    After painting a small table-top drawer set in layers (aqua with a yummy brown metallic atop, sanding off corners, etc. so the blue showed through) I discovered I didn’t like the look so much and started over, but with white. Ahhh! Me likey!

    Right now, I am just finishing up a hammered copper that covers an ugly black metal upright file cabinet ~ it is lovely with the contrasting silver handles & label frames (& added casters)! Next, will be two small table top organizers, a ‘gifted’ set of the ugliest ‘wood’ bookcases you ever saw, an IKEA case for DS’s craft materials (w/white bins), and several ‘thrift find’ metal decor pieces that need ‘loving color’. {By ‘loving color’ I mean something OTHER THAN yellow/purple, peach/pink, orange/black, red/green – aren’t those great sounding combos?! ACK!}

    Thanks for the heads up on the e-book Melissa, you have NO idea how many times you have rescued me over the years! Thank you friend!:)

  20. Karen

    I’m bookmarking this instruction book, it will be well worth the $10 to learn how to master this illusive skill. I totally relate to your story.

  21. Rita

    Ok, that primer pile is entirely too funny. As the proud owner of a fairly similar picture (shiny paneling) I found that delightfully hilarious. I’m a rule follower though, like to read, plan and then go for it. I did learn this the hard way (inset shiny paneling here) and now I’ve learned that it’s less work for me to read a little first.

  22. Mrs.B

    We’ve painted LOTS of furniture at our house! Some things turned out great & the paint finish has held up…but…we have those little projects that turned out AWFUL too! Sometimes I re-paint & sometimes I act like they were supposed to look THAT way! ha! ;)

  23. Judy

    I downloaded the book a couple of weeks ago. It is wonderful! I have several projects I need to work on as soon as our 100+ degree temperatures lift. Looking forward to getting to work!

  24. Mary Jean

    I got the ebook about a month ago and read every word, bc I am OBSESSED with painting anything I can!!! I recently did my friend kitchen after reading the book . We use the Behr paint with primer and the RL glaze. It turned out great! The book is well worth the $10! I recommend it to anyone who is thinking about painting furniture. I’ve even taken classes before and still bought the book and learned new things! If you want to see the kitchen before and after of the cabinets here is the link

  25. jenjen

    thank you for posting the pictures of your fails! It’s nice to know that everyone has projects that don’t turn out quite the way we hoped :) The book sounds wonderful!


  26. Tatiana

    I have never been one to paint my furniture. I am too scared to mess up. So the job goes to my husband. There have been many times we (and by we I mean he) will re-paint it because it didn’t turn out how I wanted it. I think I will buy him this book for our future pieces. Thanks for the book!



  1. Inspired By! - [...] I admitted that painting furniture is not as easy as one might think and I shared an ebook where…

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