How to paint furniture

I’m off on my hols today, so this will be my last post until September (no Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest either…eek!). Me, my mum and my two sisters are going to stay in a villa in Portugal, so hopefully I will return bronzed, relaxed and ready for the start of a new school year.

I’ll leave you, for now, with a handy tutorial that will hopefully keep you going until I return….

I’m constantly scavenging around whenever I see a skip or a pile of stuff left outside a house. You never know what you might find. Recently I came across this small chest of drawers in a skip. The front is white, the back is black and there are no handles on the drawers. The paint is chipping off and it’s been very badly painted, with ordinary matt wall paint, I would assume. However, it is solid wood and there’s no sign of damp so there’s no reason why, with a lick of paint and some new handles, it can’t be as good as new.

Upcycling a skip find

BEFORE: Sorry about the bad photo – I forgot to take a proper one. This shows the back, which is black. The front and sides is chipped, matt white with no handles.

You will need:

Small foam roller, small paint brush and paint tray

Masking tape

Paint – water based eggshell or oil based eggshell (I never use oil based paint as I find it very difficult to use and messy). I used Farrow and Ball’s Estate Eggshell Teresa’s Green.

Primer (optional)

Water-based polyurethane varnish (optional)

Fine sand paper and block (orbital sander if you are working on a wood veneer or varnished piece)

Wood glue

Wood filler and spatula

Dust sheet


I only paint solid wood or wood veneer pieces that can be sanded. If you try to paint laminate furniture you will end up having to use so many coats of paint (as the paint slides off it) and it chips very easily. Don’t be put off by varnished wooden furniture – just needs a sand.

1. Remove any hardware (knobs, handles etc) which can usually be unscrewed easily. If, for any reason you can’t remove them, cover with tin foil so you do not get paint on them.

2. Use the glue to stabilise any dodgy joints but only if necessary.

3. Use wood filler to fill any holes, gaps, dents. If you want to change the hardware and place the new handles in a different place, fill in the original holes. It’s easy to buy the squeezy tubes of wood filler that you squeeze into any holes or dents and smooth over with a spatula.

4. Sand all your filled areas and add more filler if necessary. Repeat this step as many times as is necessary to get a smooth finish.

5. If you are painting onto a piece that has previously been painted give it a light sand all over to give the surface a bit of grip to take on the new paint. You can do this with a piece of light sand paper that you can attach to a sanding block. If, however, you are painting a wooden veneer surface or varnished wood you will need an electrical orbital sander. Sand until the wooden surface no longer has a shine to it.

6. Use your hoover to get any dust off the piece and use a damp cloth to clean it all over and allow to dry.

7. Use the masking tape to tape off all areas that you do not want to get paint on. Tape off the sides of the drawers so that when you open the drawers you see a clean line (too late for my piece – it’s obviously been painted many times!). Tape off the inside of the piece to keep all runners free of paint.

How to paint wooden furniture

Hardware has been removed (the screw that held the handle in was still in the drawers when I salvaged it but I need to take this out too when I begin to paint.) My drawers have obviously been painted before and you can see that there is a messy paint line so when you pull the drawer out it looks scruffy. I have marked with taped where I need to paint to in order to create a clean line.

How to paint wooden furniture

Mark with tape where you will paint to along the runner of the drawers. Make sure you let this part dry thoroughly before replacing the drawers so they don’t stick.

8. Lots of people would now prime the piece of furniture but I think you can get away with not doing this as long as you paint your chosen colour with at least three coats.

9. Pour your choice of paint in the tray and get your paintbrush full of paint. Use your brush to cut in all areas of the piece that the roller cannot reach and then use your foam roller for the larger surface areas. You should work on one section at a time to make sure that you have covered the piece well and there are no drips. Paint the back of the piece as well as you never know where you will use it in future. If you prefer to use a brush for the whole piece, use long strokes painting in the direction of the grain. Always apply thin coats of paint, instead of one thick coat, as this will make the finish more even and solid.

10. Apply 2-3 light coats, giving it a very light sand between each coat, and then let it dry overnight. Replace the hardware only when the piece is completely dry. You can varnish the piece once the paint is completely dry, but this is optional and dependent on the finish you want. I didn’t varnish my piece.

How to paint wooden furniture

I’ve had to buy new knobs that I bought from John Lewis. I went for something really simple and plain as sometimes if you go overboard when painting a piece of furniture and you finish it off with ornate knobs or handles, it can end up looking a bit tacky.

TIP: Line your drawers with vintage wallpaper or pretty wrapping paper to make it extra special! Measure the area you want to cover and then use scissors or a craft knife to cut your wallpaper pieces. Then stick it down with some double-sided tape.

Sarah Moore vintage wallpaper drawer linings

I bought this vintage wallpaper from Sarah Moore Vintage. I will be transforming a bathroom cabinet with it in a couple of weeks!

And the finished transformation…

Transforming a skip-find

What do you think? See you when I get back from Portugal x




  1. 22nd August 2013 / 12:21 pm

    What a transformation! Looks fabulous, love the colour and liner wallpaper. Have a great holiday! 🙂

  2. katy
    4th September 2013 / 12:52 pm

    Thanks, Leanne. I am rather pleased with it. How are you? Hope your projects are going well x

    • katy
      28th October 2013 / 8:33 am

      Thanks Lisa! I found a wooden drinks trolley last week – that’s the next project. I’m such a big fan of your blog

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