How To Paint Furniture

How To Paint Furniture

Author: Lauren Coleman

As my dad is a decorator, I pretty much grew up with a paint brush in my hand. In our house furniture was sponged, stencilled (I’m looking at you Linda Barker) and painted within every inch of its life.

As effortless as it was to cut up a sea sponge and grab a tester pot, these days I think we all prefer more of a polished finish.

I’m still yet to use chalk paint (I know I can’t believe it either) which I know lots of people love to slap on as you don’t need to worry about prep, however this feature is about using regular gloss or satinwood to paint furniture. I do get lots of emails from people asking how I’ve painted various pieces so hopefully this feature will be helpful if you’re considering reinventing a piece of furniture.

It’s All About The Prep

  • Fill in any dents or old holes using a general purpose filler
  • Regardless of whether it’s a new or old piece always thoroughly sand. On previously painted surfaces you don’t need to remove all of the old paint but you do need to create a rough surface for the new paint to adhere to.
  • Wipe down the surfaces with white spirit to remove all the sanding dust and leave a clean finish
  • Painting Know-How

  • Use a primer as it gives better adhesion to the surface and increases paint durability. We always use Wilko Primer as it’s dirt cheap and dries really quickly.
  • Apply your paint. You’re always going to need two coats so don’t go mad on the first coat. A thin even layer avoids runs and build up in the corners.
  • Leave adequate time to dry and then apply your second coat
  • If you have large flat areas consider using a mini 4 inch radiator roller. Be sure to use one designed for the application of gloss (usually smoother rather than the shaggier variety). The Farrow and Ball Railings Chest of Drawers which used to sit in our old spare room was painted using a smooth mini roller and as you can see the finish is pretty good.

    Extra Tips

  • Paint in the direction of the grain of the wood
  • If you’re not waiting days between coats wrap your paint brush in a few layers of cling film to save brush washing
  • Use a good quality brush, it really makes a difference, especially on the last coat you apply
  • James and I have used the technique above on both melamine and wood. The Ikea Hemnes Sideboard in our bedroom is a wood finish but has an almost gloss like, melamine type finish. We bought the white stain version and created a more polished look by painting with two coats of Dulux Satinwood which we had mixed to be ‘white’. I realise this sounds a little crazy but they added a pigment to the brilliant white paint to take off the cool edge. You can see the full bedroom tour shot by Little Beanies in our archives.

    Paint Choices

    I always favour a more of a matte finish to my furniture rather than a glossy one so usually paint with a satinwood or eggshell formulation. I’ve been asked before if you can use emulsion and I wouldn’t recommend it if you want a hard wearing finish.
    You can get satinwood in both an oil or water based formulation. Oil based will take longer to dry and is prone to yellowing but often offers a smoother and more durable finish to a water based paint.
    For a very low sheen you can also use eggshell where as you might have guessed, the finish is similar to that of an egg shell. These paints didn’t use to be particularly durable but they’ve come on leaps and bounds recently. We painted our living room alcove shelving and fire surround using Farrow and Ball Cornforth White Eggshell and after eighteen months they’re holding up really well.

    Any tips you’d like to share for painting furniture? How do you get a good finish and what paint do you use?


    White, Blush and Grey Bedroom images by Little Beanies | All other photography by Adam Crohill

    Lauren likes Paris, Prosecco and Paint Charts
    Follow Lauren on instagram @mrslaurencoleman
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    18 thoughts on “How To Paint Furniture

    1. Hi Lauren!
      Is the alcove cupboard in the last photos from Jali? Silly question but how do you open the doors without handles?! Also what colour did you paint it in? We’ve just ordered a dresser from Jali to use as a book shelf and I’m wondering if I should have gone without handles…

      1. Hi Annie! I didn’t actually order any handles before this room was shot so had to go handleless for the room tour and use an elaborate trick to get them open! They now have handles 🙂

    2. I painted my uPVC door the other week with a chalk style paint (Frenchic) and I am SO happy with it. I had been pondering it for ages (something prettier in the interim until we can afford a beautiful 1930’s style door) but never took the plunge. It was the easiest thing I have ever done, no need to sand or prime and each coat dried within 20 minutes, with not a brush mark in sight! I had been trawling these pages for someone who had done the same so just thought I would mention in case anyone here is thinking of doing it! X

      1. Ooh, this is interesting? Was it an outdoor one? Do you think it will hold up to the weather?

        Lauren, what type of paint is the dark chest of drawers painted in? Satinwood or eggshell? It looks beautiful and very similar to what I want to do to a cupboard in my hall. My cupboard looks as though it is stained and varnished, is it possible to paint over that?

        1. Hi Jade, yes “Alfresco” range I think it was which is outdoor use and specifically recommended for uPVC so I think it will hold up to the weather. If not, it was so easy to do, I would mind repainting once a year, might even try a different colour next time x

    3. Love the look of those drawers in railings! I recently painted a cheap set of pine dining room chairs in Annie Sloane chalk paint – mixed old white and graphite to make a lovely deep grey… but – I think I would prefer the look to be a bit crisper and I’m thinking of repainting with ‘normal’ paint – would you recommend eggshell for chairs?

      1. I’ve got a chair in the snug painted with Valspar eggshell and it’s holding up more or less fine but there’s a few chips in it. Maybe satinwood would be a bit more durable.

    4. Fab post Lauren! I am currently looking at our classic but boring cream dresser and thinking how much it could lift the room if it wasn’t quite so bland. Don’t usually have the know how to embark on such a project but now I do! Thank you!

    5. Really useful post, thanks!

      Would love a post on chalk paint and how it differs (in prep, finish, advantages/disadvantages etc) from the paints mentioned here.

      Also something on tips for gloss paint, as I have a lot of new (primed) skirting boards and internal doors to do, never having glossed before!

    6. The F+B chest of drawers look stunning. I find their paints great for painting furniture as they seem to be really hard wearing, and only ever need a maximum of two coats. My top tip is to use sugar soap to clean and de-grease surfaces before painting. Probably does a similar thing to white spirit but perhaps a bit quicker as you can slosh it around more easily!

      Thanks for the Wilko primer tip – definitely going to stock up on some of that!

    7. It’s like you read my mind. I want to paint a bed but the fear has made me put it off for so long… lots of good tips to get me started, thank you! xxx

    8. Thanks for this really helpful post Lauren. I went on a chalk painting morning with my mum and really enjoyed learning the different techniques, but have been a bit disappointed with some of the things I have painted. A chair I did in the shabby chic style came out well, but I painted a nest of tables in a pale grey and they look a bit brush strokey for my liking. I’m planning on painting some old drawers for my son’s bedroom and I’d like a better finish, so think I’ll try the roller and satinwood tip. Going to attempt to paint mini tractors on the knobs which could be a total disaster!

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