Most of us at one time or another have owned at least one old piece of furniture that doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of our décor at home. Perhaps it has been in the family for several generations and you don’t want to get rid of it. Maybe you bought it on a whim thinking you’d do something with it, but you don’t quite know what. Or, possibly you’re looking for a new project and you’re thinking of buying a piece of furniture to paint, but you need a bit of inspiration first!
I’ve been painting furniture for a number of years and I’ve learnt a lot of tricks along the way. Through this I’ve acquired my own style, but I’m always experimenting and looking for new techniques. This is a photo of me and the bureau I painted above which I named Beau. Whilst this may appear a little adventurous for your first painting project, I hope it shows you what you can achieve.
A lot of people are daunted by the thought of painting furniture. The truth is, you can make it as simple or as complicated a process as you like. However, when you’re just starting out, I always think it best to keep things simple. The last thing you need is to be overwhelmed with too much information about the different processes, but at the same time you want to be sure that your efforts will pay off and you’ll end up with a finished piece of furniture which you can be proud of.
This is a sweet little nest of tables that I restored and painted and named Laurie. This would be a nice starting point...
My simple step-by-step guide will give you the tools you need to get you started painting your own furniture. So, grab your brushes (and the rest of the bits and pieces you’ll need!) and let's get painting…
What you’ll need
- a piece of furniture to paint (obvious, but necessary! I suggest you start small and build up to something bigger)
- a plastic or cloth sheet to protect your floor
- fine sandpaper (220 grade)
- paint brushes
- primer (if required)
- paint or paints
- paint pot to decant paint into
- wax or varnish (if necessary)
- gold leaf and/or a tassel
1. First, lay down a protective sheet to avoid getting dirt or paint on your floor. Then, give your piece of furniture a light sand to create a smooth surface and to get rid of any loose bits of wood, varnish and paint. Sanding also helps to create a ‘key’ which enables the paint to properly adhere to the wood.
2. Next you will need to clean your furniture with soap and water. I use sugar soap which is great for cutting through grease and grime. Rinse off the soap with some clean water and wait for the furniture to dry before painting it. I tend to leave it overnight if possible.
3. If necessary, apply a coat or two of primer. Some paint manufacturers claim that you don’t need to prime. My rule of thumb is to always apply one if you’re using a light coloured paint and the piece you are painting is susceptible to bleed through (for example, antique mahogany furniture).
4. Once you have chosen your paint colour(s), give the paint a good stir to ensure all of its components are thoroughly mixed together. Decant the amount of paint you need into a paint pot so you don’t contaminate the paint in the tin. I use lots of different paints, but I love to use Annie Sloan's Chalk Paint® as it’s specifically designed for furniture and it’s environmentally friendly too. She also offers a gorgeous range of colours to suit every style.
5. Choose a paint brush. It sounds an obvious thing to say, but the type of brush you use makes a big difference to the overall finish. I love to use an oval, pure bristle brush to get into nooks and crannies and to create a textured look with the paint. For a smooth finish I use a flat, synthetic brush, although any good quality brush will do. Also, try thinning the paint out with a little water.
6. Apply your first layer of paint to your piece, making sure you use long even strokes (unless of course you want to create texture with short, more random ones). Avoid paint drips by not overloading your paintbrush with paint.
7. Once the first layer of paint has dried, apply your second coat. If you’re going for a smooth finish, try sanding inbetween coats. For a completely unique touch, why not use two different colour paints – one colour for the exterior of a piece and another for the interior. Or, apply one paint lightly over the top of the other so you can just see the first coat peeking through.
8. When the second coat of paint is dry, distress the piece for a natural, weatherworn look. Aim for the corners and raised areas which is where natural wear would occur. Use a fine grade sandpaper and start by sanding small sections, then build it up until you achieve the look you want. Alternatively, for a more contemporary and clean look, don’t distress at all.
9. If you’re using a water-based paint, seal it with either a water-based varnish or wax. With decorative pieces of furniture (i.e. ones which have a lot of detailed carvings) I tend to use wax as I love the feel and texture of wax on paint. With pieces which are likely to get a lot of use, I will use varnish as it provides a more durable finish. Whichever option you choose, make sure you follow the instructions to a tee.
10. For an extra special touch, why not finish your piece with a little gold leaf applied to decorative carvings, corners etc. You’ll need to read the instructions carefully as you will most likely have to apply this prior to using the wax or varnish. Alternatively, attach a pretty tassel to a handle (or even do both!)
Here are some pictures I took of a gorgeous little piece that I restored and painted a short while ago called Teddie. He's made of oak and is dated around the early 1900s. He was used to store fine cutlery and would have doubled up as a side table.
I used Annie Sloan’s Graphite Chalk Paint® on the exterior and Florence Chalk Paint® on the interior. I applied Annie Sloan’s dark soft wax over the Graphite and her clear soft wax over the Florence. I then covered the whole piece with a further layer of clear wax and then buffed the whole piece to create a subtle sheen. I rubbed a little gold leaf on the detailed trim around the bottom of the box and added a stunning, long gold tassel to the key.
For more information about me and my business visit my website where I sell a selection of beautiful and unique up-cycled hand painted furniture.
My furniture is for hire and I also accept commissions too.
And make sure you check out my other blog posts by visiting my blog where I regularly post design tips and tricks.
I buy all my Annie Sloan Chalk Paint®, waxes, brushes and other bits and pieces from Dovetails Vintage - do check them out.