The Proper Way to Paint Furniture

Vintage mid-century step table painted with Good Bones furniture paint in “Sweet.”

When done properly, painting furniture can be one of the most satisfying (and cost-effective) ways to revitalize a piece and refresh a space. However, to the uninitiated, a furniture-painting project can be daunting. To help those who may be thinking about giving new life to a piece with a fresh coat of paint, we asked professional “re-fabber” Christy Baker of Charlottesville, Virginia-based furniture refinishing studio Pigment to share pointers for making the process more manageable—and more likely to result in a revamped piece you’ll love for years to come. Here are her recommendations:

Assess your piece. Turn a critical eye to the piece of furniture you’re considering painting. Does anything need to be repaired, filled, or done away with? Take care of any issues before you pick up a brush.

Select your materials. Investing in high-quality materials—decent gloves, a good synthetic bristle brush, and the best paint you can muster—will pay off in the end. When choosing your paint, opt for a product that is specifically formulated for furniture applications or made for a variety of substrates to achieve a consistent and long-lasting finish. Benjamin Moore’s Aura, Good Bones Furniture Paint (which was developed by Pigment), and Farrow & Ball’s floor emulsion are all great options.

Do your pre-painting prep. If there’s hardware on the piece of furniture, you may want to remove it to protect it from the paint. Sand any glossy or uneven areas with 220-grit sandpaper, then clean the item thoroughly with mild soap and water and wipe it dry with a soft cloth.

Take time to prime. If you’re priming, use a quality primer and let it cure for at least 24 hours. Once dry, lightly sand any rough areas. Alternatively, you can opt for a self-priming paint (Good Bones is self-priming and self-sealing). At this point you’ll want to spot seal any wood knots or areas where the underlying finish is bleeding through with a shellac-based primer.

Be patient when painting. Apply your paint, making to sure to allow enough time for the paint to dry between coats. Bear in mind that some paint colors will require two or more coats due to the quality of the paint and the pigment content. Typically, oranges, yellows, and reds will require more coats than white and pastels.

Consider adding a top-coat. In most cases, applying a top-coat of a protective sealer will add additional durability to the painted finish. If you want to top-coat your painted piece, wait 24 hours for the paint to begin to cure before applying.

Clean up, replace hardware, and enjoy. Use lukewarm water and soap to clean your brush so it’ll be ready for your next project, replace hardware if you removed it, and sit back and admire your handiwork!

 TSG Tip 209 from Christy Baker of Pigment. Pigment Paint produces Good Bones Furniture Paint, and is the creative partner of Piedmont Paint & Finish.