How to Paint Furniture like a Pro

I just love when I find old pieces of furniture at an estate sale or one that is handed down to me that I can breath new life into. When I am working on client projects and I access their existing furniture I often recommend painting pieces or even kitchen cabinets. Think outside of the box when evaluating old furniture for possible re-use; below an old dresser gets an easy makeover by removing the bottom drawer, a coat of paint and adding a basket. Over the years I have tried re-finishing, distressing and painting furniture and I have learned what my limitations are. By far, I have had the best results with painting and wanted to share the steps I use when transforming a piece.


1. Assess Your Piece- Look at the piece thoroughly for cracks, imperfections and existing finish. You may need to repair or replace parts prior to painting. Not all pieces have to be primed, some can be de-glossed using a liquid you manually apply to strip the finish and then sand. I have learned that preparation is one of the most significant steps for a successful paint makeover ensuring the paint adheres to the surface.

2. Get Prepared- Remove the hardware (handles, hinges and knobs) and label, you may want to replace it or paint it. Then remove the drawers and doors if there are any. Decide what color your piece will be and purchase your paint and supplies. I really like Benjamin Moore’s waterborne Satin Impervo, it is a latex enamel and can be cleaned.

3 . Clean Thoroughly – Clean the piece thoroughly inspecting corners and crevices for dust and grit, I like to use a basic soap and water combination.

aasave1 4.  Sand the Piece – Start with 220 and then use a 320 grit sandpaper, until you are satisfied with the finish. Another option is a small iron-shaped hand sander that helps get into corners.

5. Apply Primer – If you do need to prime, I like to spray the primer on to get an even finish, you can also use a roller and brush.

6. Sand the Primer – For an extra polished finish, sand lightly with 320 grit sandpaper after spraying or manually applying the primer. Once sanded repeat cleaning.

7. Start Painting– Brush, roll, or spray the surface with paint, allow a minimum of 24 hours in between coats. Repeat with a second and sometimes third coat.

8. “Finish” Your Work- After your piece is thoroughly dried I recommend applying a polyurethane finish, choose a flat and gloss finish depending on your design aesthetic.

These steps can be applied to painting kitchen cabinets as well. The difference being I always spray the doors for a factory finish look. I recently found this amazing tutorial from Evolution of Style on the process of painting kitchen cabinets just in case you are up for a bigger challenge. Happy painting!


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  • Susan

    Thanks for these tips. I’ve painted some pieces of furniture in the past and they came out just O.K. I now see that the prep and sanding is the key. My next piece should be spectacular.

    • Cathy from Adore Your Place

      I have personally ruined several pieces through trial and error to come up with a method that works :) best of luck!