How I Get Brave and Paint My Furniture

Monday, October 22, 2012

I finished up the bookshelves on Friday and made Marc sit in the room with me and pretend to care while I fussed around with styling them on Saturday. 

Here they are before I painted them.

And here they are after.
I decided to go with white and blue instead of silver. I'm back to wanting to use the silver on the dining room table. Anyway...

These bookshelves are solid cherry from Marc's old office and they did have a nice poly finish on them. The guy in the paint store would tell you, like he told me, that you have to sand and prime before you can paint something like these. But I thought to myself, "Ima risk it," and just went ahead and painted without any of that boring prep stuff.

I rolled on the Clark and Kensington paint from Ace hardware in semi-gloss latex interior enamel in "designer white." It took three coats, but since it drys pretty quickly I was able to do it in one day.
The roller I used was one of the little ones. Incidentally, sometimes when you open a new roller it can be a little sticky-like the roller part doesn't want to spin around easily...just pull it off and spray a tiny bit of WD-40 on the handle to take care of that.
While the third coat was drying I painted the shelves. Here you can see the difference between one and two coats of paint.
After the cases felt really dry I went ahead and taped off the back part that I wanted to paint blue. Sometimes I think I'm really good at cutting in, but the shelves were looking so nice and smooth I decided to make like a professional and use my blue painters tape.
Then I just rolled on the blue. It took three coats also to get really opaque coverage.

Since I used an enamel paint I didn't need to add a varnish or polyurethane to protect the finish and give it shine, it already had it. Bonus!

 I'm really happy with how they came out. I'll show you how I styled them tomorrow. 

If you're interested in more details about how I paint, last week I taught a class on painting furniture for the women's group from my church. Here is the handout that I shared. It explains the fast and easy way I paint. Be warned; I am not a perfectionist-but I do get stuff painted!

(Meaning I just make all this up as I go and am usually pleased with the results)

1. Do I need to sand? If you’re piece is in good condition you might just prime it. But if it has varnish or could benefit from a cleaning you can sand. You don’t need to sand down to the bare wood, just rough up the surface with a medium grit sand paper. It should only take a few minutes.  A small electric sander can be great for this.

2. Wipe off the dust with a tack cloth. If you aren’t sanding, clean the piece with a damp cloth and mild cleaner. Paint does not like to stick to dirt.

3. Do I need to prime? My answer is maybe.  If you want a super smooth finish you should prime.  If you are lazy or don’t mind a more distressed finish you might not.  It’s all good.

4. I rarely bother, but you can use wood filler to fix scratches and holes in wood furniture. It is sandable and paintable.

5. Use a good quality paint brush. I like a 2” angled Purdy brush. If you wash it well with a wire brush it will last a long time. Sometimes I use a small roller to put the paint on a large flat surface like a table top and then brush over it.

6. The fun part…PAINT.  I’ve had success using left over latex wall paint, latex enamel paint, oil based paint, and Annie Sloan Chalk paint.
            Latex wall paint-benefits are you might just have it laying around in a color you like and it cleans easily with water. This is good when you are feeling pretty casual about how it’s going to turn out- like “anything will be better than how it is.”
Latex enamel paint-benefits are that it is shiny and smooth (I like semi-gloss), easy to clean with water, harder and more durable, and comes in any color you want.
Oil based paint-benefits are a really smooth finish, the most durable, brush marks disappear. Draw backs are that it comes in limited colors, it smells bad, takes longer to dry/cure, and you have to use mineral spirits to clean it up.
Chalk paint-benefits are that you really don’t need to sand or prime (perfect if you can’t move the piece outside), it has almost no odor,  it dries very quickly and cleans up with water. Draw backs are that it is expensive ($40 a quart) and that you can only buy it in a few places.

7.  Varnish can be good after your latex paint is totally dry to protect it from scratches. Be sure to get latex polyurethane or polycrylic.   Do this outside or in a really well ventilated area because it is super smelly, like head ache giving smelly. If you are pregnant, make your husband do this part. Spray varnish or rub on varnish are both easier to use than brush on.

8. Enjoy your newly painted furniture and feel very proud of yourself! Don’t point your mistakes out to people!

*Do you have questions? Go ahead and email me, Shelley, at 

5 Responses to “How I Get Brave and Paint My Furniture”

  1. I think the shelf units look lovely the way you painted them. I see lots of things on blogs that I think look cool and contemplate trying them in my own home (like you did with wanting to paint your shelves silver) but then I rethink it and decide that sometimes it's better to just appreciate from afar.

    I have an infatuation with shabby chic (and at one time had my entire master bedroom in this style) but would never do my entire house in it because I have a husband and two kids and it's just not practical for us. So instead, I admire others who decorate their homes this way and I stick with a more neutral (pottery barn-ish) family-friendly style that makes me just as happy. But every time I see a white couch with big fluffy pillows covered in roses and birdcages, my heart still swoons. ;) Robyn at Robyn's Nest

    1. Robyn,
      I love the shabby chic look too, but I don't really want my house to read that look all over. Someday a white couch would be lovely...but I bought a white chair at the Pottery Barn outlet years ago and boy howdy does it look dirty. I've folexed the heck out of it to no avail :) Kids, dogs, husband...I guess their worth it.

  2. This is the first time i am reading your post and admire that you posted article which gives users lot of information regarding particular topic thanks for this share.

  3. The cabinet looks cool and classy! White and blue is just a great tandem. Well, the cabinet’s old look wasn’t boring at all, but the refurbished one looks way, way better! It’s very neat! =)

  4. Two thumbs up for a fantastic painting job! :) Thanks for the project guide.


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