Two Tone Treasure + How to Paint Furniture

April 26, 2011

Wow, such inspiration from this week’s Paint Projects Party, you simply must visit so many of these links!  There are over 400 projects to browse, from furniture to floors to fabrics to home accents.  Oh the power of paint never ceases to amaze me!

Nothing makes me happier than a great second hand find, and the opportunity to revamp the new treasure for a great cause.  This one was for a good friend of mine who recently had a baby girl.  She’s been a little preoccupied with her little one, so her hub and I conspired to makeover this piece for her nursery, currently a work in progress, but sure to beautiful when the space is finished. 

I’ve been looking for the perfect dresser for her for awhile now, and finally scored this one at a local thrift store last week, I was so excited! I brought it home so I could paint it for her as a surprise.

dresser before left


dresser after left side font


With all the pieces I’ve painted over the years, I realized I should write up a full step by step for repainting an old treasure like this one, including cosmetic repair, priming and painting so here goes!

Supplies to Have Before You Start:  Power screwdriver (+ drill bits if replacing hardware), medium (80 – 120 grit) sanding wedge, primer, latex paint color of choice, Floetrol, 2” angled quality paintbrush, water based polyurethane protectant. 

How to Paint Wood Furniture: The Basic Steps

These are my tried and true techniques for repairing, priming, and painting an old hand me down, or a lucky Craigslist or thrift store find like this damaged honey tone wood dresser.


Necessary to Sand?  If your piece is in pretty good condition, you can skip the sanding step or the use of a power sander and go straight to priming.  Bonding primers don’t require sanding, even if your piece is heavily varnished, but I do find giving the furniture a good scuffing with a medium (80 grit) sanding wedge not only helps clean off any debris, but gives your primer a great surface to cling too.  No need to sand away all the varnish and get down to the raw wood, just give it a good 5 to 10 minute scuffing with a sanding wedge, then wipe away any debris with a soft cloth. 

Repairing Scratches, Dents & Holes.  I bought this particular piece because of its classic lines and solid wood construction, but many would pass it up due to the surface damage.  On the top of this dresser, there were deep scratches and a sticky residue, so the first thing I did was sand the scratches on the top with my power orbital sander to smooth out the surface. 

sand top to make it smooth

There was also a deep unsightly welt in the front corner. 

welt on top

No worries, this is a cosmetic problem easily addressed with wood filler, which allows you to repair scratches, dents, welts and fill holes in your wood furniture before you go about painting it.  I’ve tried other products, but to date Elmer’s is the best I’ve found.  It’s moist and moldable and washes off your fingers and tools easily, dries quickly, and is also sandable and paintable. 

wood filler


Gently sanding the top with my power sander combined with the proper use of wood filler (two applications for the deepest welt), led to this perfectly smooth surface. 

smooth top


Filling Holes for New Knobs or Pulls.  If you’ve opted for new knobs, often they will fit right in the old holes, but many modern pulls are sized differently than the old hardware.  Wood filler is also your best bet for starting over. 

filling holes in wood

old pull front

new glass pull

These glass pulls can be found at Restoration Hardware, they’re gorgeous, but pricey.  Definite bling for your furniture, but a worthy splurge for my very dear friend, especially since the dresser only cost me $40 dollars.       

Do You Really Need to Prime?   With wood furniture, the answer is yes and no.  Yes, if you want a smooth even finish and a paint job that will last for years.  No if you want a distressed look and don’t care about the paint peeling off over time, or if are using oil based spray paints, which I have found often work really well without primer.  (Yes, I have read about the newest product on the market, chalk paint, see below!) 

Nevertheless, I always advise if you’re seeking a straight up smooth evenly painted piece and a paint job that will last, using a good bonding primer is key.  If you’re going to take the time and energy to paint a piece, take the time to prime it too. 

My go to favorite has always been Zinsser.  You can use the water based formula with the blue label but it takes up to a week to fully cure and I haven’t the patience.  I prefer to use either the spray or brush on oil based Zinsser Cover Stain with the brown label, it has yet to fail me.  For this dresser, I used spray on Zinsser for the drawers for a super smooth finish – it goes on quickly and dries in about 20 minutes.  (If using the spray version, be sure to work in a well ventilated area and dispose of your cans according to your local waste regulations.)

zinsser primer

For the top I brushed on a thicker coat of Zinsser because it will get the most wear and tear.  It’s a personal preference to use the brush on formula, but for tabletops, desktops or other surfaces which will have lots o’ stuff sliding back and forth, a thick coat (even two!) of brush on Zinsser is a miracle worker, plus you can sand it smooth once it dries (in less than an hour per coat) making it easy to get really good bonding coverage in an afternoon.

In my opinion, this is the very best primer for laminate surfaces as well.  I’ve used this brush on formula on a laminate storage center and also this office credenza, and haven’t had any chipping or scratched paint to date, and both of those pieces experience a lot of daily wear and tear. 

Always Two Coats of Paint.  Once you’re primer is fully dry, sand any drips, brush marks, or paint residue and wipe down with a soft cloth. I never skimp with just one coat, two is always best for uniformity and even coverage, allowing 4 to 6 hours of drying time between coats.  There are two tools I won’t paint without.

1) Floetrol.  This product in the orange bottle is a paint conditioner exclusively for latex paint (use Penetrol for oil based paints).  It’s a product I have used time and again to extend the wet edge (or slow down the drying time) and also to minimize roller marks and brush strokes.  The most frustrating part about applying paint to furniture by hand is the drag that occurs when paint starts to dry too quickly, so the Floetrol helps avoid that drag.  I follow the directions on the back of the bottle, but I also let the paint’s workability act as a guide as to how much Floetrol is necessary.

Floetrol is not a paint thinner, it’s a conditioner sold at all the specialty paint stores, and it won’t change the color of your paint.  It was recommended to me by a professional years ago, and ever since I’ve always used it.  Floetrol is great investment if you’re also painting trim or doors around your house, it’s not expensive ($7 to $10 per bottle) and a little goes a long way. 

floetrol and purdy

2)  A high quality angled paint brush is essential.  If you don’t have the luxury of a sprayer, you’ll be using a paintbrush.  The last thing you want to be doing is picking loose paintbrush hairs out of your paint, which happens with cheaper brushes so don’t bother with them.  You can apply your paint quicker with a foam roller, but you still will end up with edge marks, so I always follow up a roller with a brush.  An angled brush also helps get into grooves and crevices better, plus with a steady hand it cuts in straight lines extremely well.  If you take good care of it, a good angled brush like Purdy will last you for years.

This dresser got two tones of paint for subtle but beautiful contrast.  The drawers are painted with Benjamin Moore’s ‘Prescott Green’ (HC-140, Regal formula) and the top, sides and frame are painted with ‘Prescott Green’ cut in half with white paint.   

prescott green paint


This dresser is for a baby girl’s nursery and soft green is the favorite color choice for the space, which is why I chose this particular shade for her.    

Should You Paint the Inside the Furniture?   I typically don’t because layers of paint can cause stickiness or prevent your drawers from sliding in and out, but it depends on the piece.  In this case, I painted just inside the frame, and nothing more.  With doors I usually paint the back too so there is uniform color when doors are opened, but that is a personal preference.  

paint inside frame


Adding New Hardware.  If you’ve filled holes from your old hardware and are drilling new ones, here are the steps I follow.  Precisely measure the location of your new hardware, then use the proper size drill bit to create new holes for your screws.  I do this before the protective coat, just in case there are any slip ups or mistakes that need to be patched or painted over. 

reattach hardware


A Note on Paint Sheen.  You can choose anything from flat to semi gloss to refinish your furniture, I typically go with eggshell or satin.  But it is the final protectant you use that determines the ultimate sheen. 

Protecting Your Paint Job.  These are the two brands I use: Minwax and Varathane, both in water based formulas.

water based protectants for furniture

You also have the option of using glazes and/or paste waxes for a more hand rubbed finish – see below for links to the sites I recommend that know all about protecting your piece with waxes.   

Both Minwax and Varathane’s formulas are available in either satin or gloss clear finishes.  When your paint has dried for at least 24 hours, apply a water based polyurethane to protect your surface.  Do not use an oil based polyurethane, it will amber or yellow over time. 

Minwax Polycrylic comes in both a spray or brush on formula.  Varathane in spray, brush on, or my latest discovery, a rub on formula in a tube.  This version is quick, easy, and dries the fastest.

wipe on varathane


Once the protectant is dry, you are free to bring the piece inside your home and make it work for your space! 

dresser before font

dresser after left side


There you have it, my step by step for a lasting paint job on wood furniture ~ these same steps also apply to wood cabinetry or laminate pieces as well. 

I’ve read a lot about the latest ‘no primer’ product on the market, Annie Sloan’s chalk paint, and it sounds very promising having read several reviews.  I have yet to try it because it’s more expensive than standard paint, requires an online order, and comes in limited colors, but I’m sure I’ll be ordering some soon just to see how I like it.   I found this helpful article on the pros and cons and also gained some useful information from Amy’s experience working with chalk paint. 

Distressing Techniques: I’ve repainted a piece here and there to achieve a distressed look, but there are three ladies who refinish furniture as a business that I highly recommend for this technique.  These inspiring bloggers have mastered the art of distressing, glazing, and/or waxing furniture, so be sure to pay them a visit. 

1) Shaunna from Perfectly Imperfect (I also recommend her eBook Creating Your Masterpiece), 2) Marian from Miss Mustard Seed (who also recommends both waxes and chalk paint), and 3) Holly from In the Fun Lane, who does the most beautiful white finishes on her pieces for sale.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this step by step today!  It may seem time consuming and labor intensive but remember a quick spray primer and a rub on protectant are the fastest steps, it’s the repair and painting processes that take the most time.  With a little patience, you’ll achieve a perfectly painted piece with smooth even coverage that will last for years to come.

Linking up to Layla’s How To’s Party & Tip Junkie’s ‘Tip Me Tuesday’




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310 Responses to “Two Tone Treasure + How to Paint Furniture”

  1. Gaby says:

    Hi Kate, I’m just starting my very first repainting project. You are a huge inspiration! I am painting a dresser, is it ok to use an oil based primer (zinsser oil based primer) and then use water based acrylic or latex paint over that (Ive heard that water based paints are easier to work with) Or should I stick with oil based the whole way through.
    Thank you so much for your instructions. So excited to get my project underway!

  2. Heather says:

    Great tips thanks Kate ! Do you have any tips for refreshing the inside of the draws? I have tried to liner them but they still look and smell thrifty mmmm yum !

  3. Mary says:

    Have you ever had a problem with the latex paint peeling?
    We have a TV armoire we are in the process of painting. We’ve followed your suggestion of an oil-based primer followed by a latex paint. In the process we discovered it was mostly laminate. We ended up purchasing a paint gun, since we will be using it to paint our fence every year. We’ve applied primer and paint with the gun, and because of the smooth finish, did not usually need sand in between coats, aside from drip marks.

    While sanding a drip mark, the paint began to easily peel off one side.

    Any thoughts or suggestions?

  4. Beth says:

    Hi Kate! I love following your sight. I am refinishing furniture in my soon to be nursery, and I would love to try the varathane rub on poly like you used. I can’t find it at home depot or lowes and just searched amazon too. No luck there. Can you tell me where you found the product? Thanks so much!

  5. stephanie says:

    I have very similar dresser sitting in my basement in desperate need of a face lift. Thanks for the tutorial. We had never refinished anything before and were scared to try. Looks like I have a 4th of July holiday project.

  6. Tamara says:

    Beth I found Varathane at Menards (after I tried Home Depot – who btw way said they did carry it but no longer do, Lowes and Ace), it was about $7 and I also an not sure about the rubbing in of it. The directions advise spreading it out with a bristle or sponge brush which I did and it worked fast and easy.

  7. Katie says:

    Love it! Thank you for the tutorial…my master bedroom furniture is a hand me down, 35+ year old set…it definitely needs some help!

  8. Janet says:

    Beautiful piece that has been redone. I did my bathroom cabinets over and I found that if you use a coat of Johnson Paste wax( like you use on hardwoods) works beautifully for repelling water.

  9. jamie says:

    FABULOUS!! Love to see your work and creations!!

  10. Mavis says:

    I don’t have a “shop” to do my painting in….do these products have a lot of fumes? Is it possible to do them in the house?


  11. Geri says:

    Thanks for all the good tips. I’ve been painting furniture for years and am starting a few new projects. I will definitely use what I’ve learned here.

  12. Diana says:

    This is one of the best written how to’s on painting furniture I’ve ever come across. Your instructions are clear and concise and your recommended product choices (based on your experience) gives me confidence I can do this! Thanks for this helpful information.

  13. Felicia says:

    Thanks for this article. I just got a mid-century dresser off Craigslist and your step-by-step tips have given me more confidence about refinishing it!

  14. Amy says:

    Thanks for this step-by-step. It has saved my life! I am almost done with my piece thanks to your help. One question, the top coat directions on the can suggests more than one coat, I’m wondering how many top coats you apply?

  15. Alicia says:

    W.O.W you are such an inspiration!

  16. MJ McConnell says:

    Awesome!!!!! thanks for sharing

  17. farrah says:

    I have a wood dresser with a beautiful shape that I am talking myself into painting… I’ve read all of your extremely good tutorials for painting, and wonder if you have a preference between spray paint and regular brushed painting? I have done quite a bit of spray painting, but only smaller pieces… I’m a little nervous to try spraying the dresser I have in mind.

  18. Jessica says:

    This was by far the most helpful site I found on painting wood furniture! THANK YOU!

  19. You are great. Thank you so much for the helpful information. I’ll keep this bookmarked for my future projects!

  20. Christine Gahman says:

    Thanks so much for this step-by-step pictorial on painting wood furniture. It inspired me to paint a friend bedroom and all her furniture, which she has wanted to do for years, but has been too busy taking care of other people. It turned out beautifully!

  21. Jen says:

    What sheen did you use for your top coat in this project? I love your blog btw, I stumbled on it this weekend on a rainy day and think I read every project you’ve done. It will now serve as my “user’s manual” for the many projects I have planned! Thanks so much for sharing.

  22. Hi! I love how this turned out and thank you so much for the step by step. I have a dresser that I scored at the local thrift store earlier this week that I’m thinking of painting. SHE’S GORGEOUS but shows some neglect. Any ideas on how/what to do with her would be much appreciated! Posted here:

  23. Kate says:

    Thanks for the great post! This is the most helpful how to paint furniture I’ve read online! Your dresser came out beautiful! Thanks for the great tips!

  24. Awesome transformation! Its very stylish! I like the glass pull.

  25. Sarah Gupta says:

    What a great blog! Thanks for the tutorials. Can’t wait to try one someday!

  26. Kate says:

    Do you have any tips for painting furniture that smells of cigarette smoke? I bought a hutch off Craigslist that’s a bit (well, a lot) roughed up and intend to paint it, but after I got it home I realized that it definitely had a smoke smell. I’ve been using a lot of tricks mentioned to reduce the smell (vinegar, baking soda, etc), but I think I’m going to end up needing to paint every inch of it (which was also recommended to fix the smell). Do you know if this will work? Would an oil primer be better than a latex one (I already have latex primer left over, but I could spend the extra if I needed to).

  27. Lori says:

    Hi Kate,

    I’m following your instructions painting my daughter’s old bedroom set. I have already sanded, primed and sanded again. My question is do you sand in-between coats of paint? I’m planning on painting two coats of paint. I then wanted to sand some of the edges to distress it a tad. I’m then planning on applying a rub on poly. Thanks for your tutorial. So far my project looks great!


  28. Nina says:

    I am repainting some furniture for my baby’s room (I am due Feb. 5, 2012) and your site has been INVALUABLE! Thanks so much for the posts and advice :) I love your blog!

  29. Anna says:


    I’ve been having some bad experience with the oil based Zinsser primer — I purchased it following your advice and have painted a set of nightstands. Unfortunately, instead of drying in about 1-2 hours it seems to require to cure overnight (I am still waiting 6 hours post painting)! After 2 hours, I tried sanding and the paint was still tacky to the touch and not cooperative at all. This is somewhat frustrating as now I feel I should have bought the latex version…
    Any suggestions or reasons why this might be happening?

  30. I cannot say enough how much I appreciate this informative post! It has been my go-to reference for too many paint projects to count. I just posted a dresser transformation on my blog this morning, and I linked my readers here so they can benefit from your experience, as well. Keep up the great work!

  31. Angie says:

    I heart you!! This is the exact hand me down dresser in my kids playroom taking up space. It was my parents when I was a baby and some how ended up with me. You have just given it new life!!! Thank you thank you thank you!!

  32. Ruta says:

    This article was so helpful. It took time to write exactly what you did, but it made all the difference.

    One question. What happens when you find a piece and it is already painted? Specifically I was concerned about the never use oil over latex.

    Do you assume that it was painted in latex and use all latex or water-based products?

    Do you take a chance and use an oil primer?

    Do you strip it and start all over?

    And what about chalk paint? Can that be used on any surface?

    Thanks so much for your help.

  33. Sandra says:

    How can you repair a damage drawer? Can wood filler be used??

  34. Donna says:

    Love your projects and this website. I am learning so much from your tips. I am about to start repainting my dining table, dining chairs and breakfast counter stools. Those are wood furnitures and doesnt match the rest of my apartment furnitures. I plan on painting them black and am very excited. I was googling tips on how to paint wood furnitures and saw this site. Very inspired on getting started. Thank you and your awesome.

  35. Jeannie-JB says:

    Just found your blog – love it! Great step by step furniture refinishing tutorial. Thanks!

  36. Tonya says:

    I am about to start my first “furniture make over” project. I must adm it, your post scares me. Is it necessary to use the big sander like that? Your finished product looks GREAT. I absolutely adore those handles/pulls!!

  37. Cindy says:

    Thanks for the great blog. You mention that you use the oil based Zinsser primer because the water based Zinsser primer takes a week to fully cure….what does this mean and how does that affect your process? I am using the water based Zinsser primer (because I already had it), and it says that a second coat can be reapplied after an hour. Presumably I can go ahead and paint without waiting a week. After painting, do you have to wait a week to put on the water based protectant?

  38. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Cindy, you can go ahead and apply another layer of primer if you like, I do believe it says on the can it can take up to a week to cure, so it’s best to wait at least a few days for it to harden sufficiently. Whether that’s a week or just a few is up to you, I’ve used that primer before and only waiited 2 or 3 days and it’s been just fine. Hope this helps.

  39. Laura says:

    This is a fantastic tutorial! Just one question, if using the Zinsser primes that is oil based, can I paint on top with a latex paint? I saw that someone else posted this question as well but didn’t see an answer to it yet. Thanks so much!

  40. CentsationalGirl says:

    Yep Laura, you can use either latex or oil based paint on top of oil based primer, but the opposite is not advised. Oil based paint (in my experience) doesn’t work well over a latex primer.

  41. Zhana says:

    Hi! I love your website and this post. I bought 2 large ( very inexpensive ) pieces , and after doing exactly what you re suggesting here, they look like a million bucks in my home! Thanks! I keep going back to your web for more diy advices. Next/ a headboard!

  42. I have discovered a new painting system called Caromel Colours. It requires no sanding, priming or stripping. The paint can be used on any surface from laminates to metal and of course, woods. Pretty neat…there are youtube videos demonstrating it and a good blog about it also.

    Furntiure refinishing will never be the same…can’t wait to try it out.

  43. Colleen says:

    We followed your instructions but the poly is drying too quickly on the top of the dresser and thus leaving marks…so added another coat. That didn’t help much…so we sanded down, painted, and started again. We wanted to put down 2 coats of poly since it’s the top surface and will get significant wear…but now paint is bubbling and looks terrible. Any ideas? As we did a lot of work and are very stressed about the outcome.

  44. Nadine in Nevada says:

    I just found this tutorial through and am very excited. I bought a dresser/armoire at a church thrift sale. It’s pretty “rough” but I want to paint it white and distress it a bit for use in my craft room/office.

    I’m going to print out your tutorial and follow it step by step. Don’t know when I’ll get around to it but hey…

  45. Excellent tutorial with great tips and photos! I paint cabinetry for many of my customers and do many old furnitur makeovers and have never seen any better instructions and advice. Thank you! I am also enjoying the “Growing Your Blog Series” and can’t wait for each part! Blessings!, Linda

  46. Michelle says:

    I am so excited that I found your site. I have about 5 pieces that are varnished that I was dreading sanding so I’m thrilled to hear about this product you use. With the last protective coating, do you paint everything, or just the top? I don’t know if you’re replying to anymore of these posts seeing as you posted this a while ago, but if so, I’d love to know. Thanks! And thanks for taking the time to explain the step by step!!!

  47. Loved your post! I have a pull down desk with almost identical wood as your dresser. My question is how do I handle the hinges of the pull down part? Do I dismantle the door? Do I paint or not paint the metal? I thought about using a tiny brush to just paint the visible parts but not where the metal actually rubs together. This piece is only going to be used in a craft room so i am not sure how much extra time I want to put into it due to many other projects but if you have any suggestions that would be awesome. Thanks again for helping all us newbies!

  48. […] it’s not deep enough to make it wobbly, but it definitely needed some TLC. I used these great step-by-step instructions from Centsational Girl for directions as I worked on […]

  49. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Mary Ann, it depends on the piece, I try not to add to many layers of paint around hinges, it can prohibit their ability to rotate back and forth. You can always treat hinges with a little Rub n’ Buff to spruce them up instead of painting them!

  50. Brooke says:

    That is Brilliant! I love the two tone colors and the glass pulls! Those really made the piece so elegant and nice!

  51. marsha says:

    I have the exact same dresser that I am attempting for my first project. I am having a problem with the paint peeling, any suggestions? I sanded the entire piece down, then painted it with Olympic latex paint, and then tried to distress it with a sanding block but now it is peeling. I want to fix the peeling before I polycoat it.

  52. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Marsha, did you prime it first? That certainly helps. Latex paint without primer can peel… let me know!

  53. Jackie says:

    Have you used paint and primer combos for painting furniture eg) Behrs Premium Plus Ultra Paint and Primer in one? I find them too thick and difficult to get a smooth finish, just looking for a second opinion. I have also heard Floetrol is a good product to use when spray painting with latex paints.

  54. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Jackie, I have not used the primer paint combon on furniture, only walls, and like you I find it very thick and it doesn’t cover as many square feet. Yes, Floetrol is great for conditioning latex paint in sprayers and via brush!

  55. Elizabeth says:

    I am working on refinishing a china cabinet at the moment and the Varathane rub-on sealer looks great. I checked Lowes and Home Depot and I couldn’t find it. Where did you purchase yours?

  56. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hey Elizabeth, a common question! It has limited distribution, I find mine at CA based Orchard Supply & Hardware, and can’t find it online, but I wrote to my contact at RustOleum (the parent of Varathane) and she told me they will make best efforts to make it more available both online and in stores like Home Depot and Lowes, yay there’s hope! Meanwhile you’re choices are the brush on (or I prefer to use a sponge brush) OR have you tried waxes? They are great too, for more of a hand rubbed finish. Try SC Johnson, Minwax, Fiddes & Sons, or Briwax.

  57. Stephanie says:

    I just found your site recently and love it! I have a question for you. I just found the varathane rub on poly (at Menards, by the way!), and it says to apply with a brush. I wanted to rub it on to avoid brushstrokes. How did you apply yours?

  58. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Stephanie, nope I didn’t use a brush for the rub on, just a soft cotton rag, worked great!

  59. Colleen says:

    My husband and I just repainted a dresser white, following all of these steps meticulously. The Zinsser cover stain did not cover smoothly at all (we rolled with a smooth foam roller) and left a lot of stippling/dimpling. In spite of the bottle-recommended amount of Floetrol and a nice angled Purdy brush, we have very obvious brush marks. And the water-based polyurethane yellowed in 2 days.

    WTF did we do wrong? We do live in Phoenix, so it’s very dry. Could the dryness and superfast time in which all these things dried be to blame? It’s a dresser for our new baby’s room, so being a kid’s dresser, we’re not too heartbroken since the kid will inevitably mess it up anyway. But it definitely didn’t come out looking even close to as flawless as yours.

  60. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Colleen, I’m so sorry for your frustration! I always follow up a rolled on primer with a good brush to smooth it out, and I also recommend Penetrol conditioner for oil based brush/roll on primers, they help condition the paint and increase your open working time to minimize brush strokes. I suspect the heat and dry desert climate does contribute to a faster drying time, especially with latex paint, so I’m terribly sorry you’re frustrated with your result! A little more Floetrol than recommended on the bottle might have helped. When all else fails and you’re not satisfied with the lack of a smooth surface with primer or paint, you can always gently sand it smooth before you add your final coat of paint. Hope this helps. Kate

  61. Grace says:

    I have always wanted to try this. I have paid someone else to do the work, but now I want to do a piece myself. Thanks for the great step by step!

  62. […] searched for a site to refer to for painting my bookcases and I like the one I found at Centsational Girl. So I am nervously anticipating my new DIY project. I will also be baking this weekend. Stay tuned […]

  63. Adam says:

    Great blog!

    So is the finish on this piece of furniture you refinished factory smooth? I mean is it completely free of brush strokes and looks like you picked it up from Pottery Barn? :)

    I’m just trying to get a realistic gauge of what to expect from my DIY efforts on a black Pottery Barn piece of furniture I am getting ready to paint an off white color for our nursery. I have 6 months to get the nursery done and need all the help I can get!

    To do list-
    1. A dresser repaint.
    2. Built in bookshelves and sitting bench with paint
    3. Crown molding and room paint. (she wants some custom stenciling on the walls too of course)

  64. Phebe? says:

    Hi there! I recently painted a dresser and I love it….I sanded it all the way down and after painting there was a huge welt mark right on the top of the dresser? Now what? I haven’t done a second coat and this is suppose to be a shabby-chic vintage dresser I’m turning into a bar. Do you think a second coat of the antique white paint I’m using will cover it? Or do I need to go back and sand that spot all over again…or the entire top again? And I did a no-no and did not use a primer…..will that help?? HELP.

  65. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Phebe, it just depends on what you mean by welt. Paint helps but rarely fills visible imperfections. How long your paint will last without primer depends on the surface underneath and the paint itself, but eventually it will chip or peel off over time without a layer of primer, but if that’s a look you may be comfortable with. If it was me, I’d at a minimum go back to the spot where there’s a welt, sand it down, fill it with wood filler, then sand it again to make it smooth, and paint over it.

  66. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Adam, it’s never perfectly smooth with a brush, but it’s pretty darn close. The better quality brush and paint you use, the better off you are. Also look into enamel paints by Ben Moore (Advance formula) and Sherwin Williams, their water based formulas will give you a harder finish.

  67. Kelli says:

    I have an old dresser that has been painted but it doesn’t have a protective coat over the paint so it is sticky to the touch. Can I prime over this and re-paint it, or should I sand it down, prime then paint? I am new to restoration and this is my very first project. Any suggestions?

  68. Pam says:

    Hello, I’m glad to find this how-to! I have been trying (unsuccessfully) to paint a vanity and stool. I sanded, used a primer and benjamin moore satin paint but can’t keep it from chipping! The primer is the same primer I have used on my walls. Could this be the problem? So frustrating.

  69. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Pam, do you recall which primer it was? I use different primers for walls (typically water based) than I do for furniture (typically oil based) – do share, I’ll try to help.

  70. Cathy Reeves says:

    Thanks for going into such depth/detail. We all know where the devil lives!
    I am contemplating an overhaul of a piece from my Mom’s that was
    originally a 2piece hutch. Both of us used the bottom as an extra dresser
    in our b’rooms. She used to prop her butts on the edge so there are little
    reminders of her scattered about. To eliminate or not….that is what has kept me
    from a complete overhaul.

  71. Christina says:

    Thanks so much for your information! Your dresser is beautiful. I am currently painting a bathroom cabinet using your instructions. I sanded, primed and appllied my first coat of paint with floetrol. I used all of your recommended products. I was wondering, should I add the floetrol to the Minwax water based polycrylic? This is my first of many projects, as I just purchased a home that needs a lot of work, next time, I will use penetrol for the primer, I just saw your response to someone else, although, I didn’t really have a problem with the primer, I did have brush strokes, hopefully they won’t show through the paint. Do you know anything about the Rustoleum cabinet transformation kit?

  72. Vivienne says:

    I just read your post. You gave a really great explanation of technique and tools required. I’m off right now to find some oil based primer ! Thanks for the inspiration and the expert direction !

  73. Pam says:

    It is Super Spec latex enamel primer. Thanks!

  74. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Christina, the Floetrol is just for paint, not for protectants, so don’t mix it in with the Minwax Polycrylic. You do have the option of using waxes too, which I’ve been using a lot lately, for more of a hand rubbed matte finish. Yes, I’ve used the Rustoleum product – wrote about it here:

  75. CentsationalGirl says:

    HI Kelli, if it’s sticky then it’s latex paint – you have two options, if the paint is thick, then you’re better off stripping it down because layers and layers of paint can actually prevent drawers from opening properly. If not, then you can use latex paint directly over latex paint as long as there’s no protective coat in between and it sounds like with that stickiness there isn’t. Try a deglosser first then give it another fresh coat or two of latex or water based enamel paint – you should be fine. Enamel paints don’t have that sticky after effect, but some latex paints do so be sure to give it a protective coat like Polycrylic or Varathane, or you can use furniture waxes for more matte finish.

  76. Marie says:

    THANK YOU THANK YOU! I have recently found myself very fond of crafts. From tufted headboards to repainting old vanitys. I wasn’t really sure where or how to start. You have said it all for me in a nutshell! I appreciate the time it took for you to explain every detail. I most definitely will be coming to this blog often. Its amazing what beautiful furniture you can find in flee markets, goodwill’s, thrift stores and auctions. :) I Look forward to learning more!

  77. Jewel says:

    Love your site!!!!!…we just bought a thrifted dresser and attempted to follow your directions…but we have brush strokes.. :( …we live in Pennsylvania and since it is so cold outside we used the brush on primer to stop it from smelling so much in our home with the kids…..can we spray outside in cold temps? Do you find the paint will not cure in a cold garage say 40 degrees or below? Any advice for being able to spray our projects outside in the cold would be awesome!

  78. Jewel says:

    Whoops…also is there anything we can do now that the piece is showing brush strokes?

  79. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hey Jewel! Are there brush stokes in the primer? You can sand them down – try a medium sanding wedge – and yes you can spray prime but it must be in a well ventilated area over 70 degrees according the can of primer… so sorry… the spray has to wait until warmer weather, but definitely try sanding the brush on, I’ve done that a lot!

  80. CentsationalGirl says:

    You mean in the paint Jewel? If so, then it’s tough to remove them completely but a light sanding should help.

  81. lucy says:

    Can you use the oil based zinnser as primer with water based latex paint?
    Thanks for any help.

  82. CentsationalGirl says:

    Yes Lucy you can! You can always use the Zinsser oil based primer under any latex or enamel paint.

  83. Bonnie says:

    I love this dresser you did for your friend. I am working on painting my granddaughters nursery furniture black. (her Mom chose Black, Hot Pink & white for baby bedding). I used Zinser Bullseye water based primer – 3 coats for full coverage. 3 coats of Valspar Black Satin waterbased paint (New Black). And I special ordered the tube varathane water based. (hard to find) I tried a small area to rub on – just didn’t work – I used a foam brush but it left every stroke showing on the black when it dried. I finally got advice from the local hardware to use Cabot oil based poly. Now I am concerned about putting oil over the waterbased products and that have I ruined the project. I hate the odor and the long drying time. I wanted it baby safe and now I just don’t know. Everything says it’s safe when it has dried. Can you calm my worries over safety? Signed Concerned

  84. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Bonnie, I don’t advise used oil based poly over water based paint, it’s designed for wood stain, not paint. The water based products are much better, so sorry to hear you had bad luck with the Varathane, they’re all sensitive to temperature and can dry too fast if over 70 degrees. I know little about the Cabot poly, I only use Minwax wipe on Poly and it’s pretty strong stuff. It’s hard to call it “baby safe” because everyone has a different definition of that, personally in a nursery I’d use low or no VOC products, and the Cabot is not as far as I know. Over time (I’d say at least a month) the VOCs are minimized and practically eliminated but in the future, stick to the water based and low or NO VOC stuff around kids.


  85. Jewel says:

    Thank you for your response….can you also tell me how much floetrol you used per gallon of paint? One quart? We tried our second piece of furniture and still brush strokes? Do you reccommend using a roller to apply paint or the angled brush?

  86. Stephanie says:

    So I’ve been wanting to repaint my old furniture for a while. Only thing is I have a thick hard almost lacquered type surface to the top of the dresser and desk. They both have deep scratches that I’d love to fix and repair. How on earth do I refinish the tops of these pieces? These pieces are currently antique white and I plan to repaint them the same color so if there’s a great product to use in white I’d love to know about it.

  87. Kim says:

    What store did you find the Varathane Rub on Poly? I’m having trouble finding it.
    You’ve inspired me with this article!!!!

  88. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Kim, it’s not readily available yet, I found it at California based Orchard Supply & Hardware, but I’ve been told my the folks at RustOleum they’re going to try to get it on the shelves of HD and Lowes, good news!

  89. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hey Stephanie, it depends on what kind of laquered surface it is, wood, laminate, veneer? Let me know!

  90. ashley says:

    love your step by step how to. i have a dining room table that has been in my husbands family since he was a kid. we would love a new dining set but its not in the cards just yet. i was thinking of painting the table. it is wood but the top has a laquer of some sort on it. am i able to paint it?

  91. CentsationalGirl says:

    Yes Ashley, you can, the trick is to prime it properly with a good bonding primer, and for tabletops it’s best to use low VOC paints IMHO – I’m redoing a pedestal table now, will post all about it soon!

  92. sherry varga says:

    Thank you for this wonderful tutorial. I am going to paint my daughter’s white furniture and
    your website is most helpful to me as I have never painted furniture before.

  93. […] different ways people tackle their projects. Here are some resources I found the most helpful Centsational Girl, Young House Love, and Alter’d Designs (she has more information in her ebook about […]

  94. Lacy says:

    Hi, I have inherited my mother’s early 1920’s ornate wood bedroom furniture. It is beautiful but her hopes were that I would use it for my daughter’s room. I am nervous about repainting it as it is the brown wood. I am starting with the headboard which has very intricate groves and details. Does that require perfect sanding with a dremel tool sander?

  95. CentsationalGirl says:

    No Lacy, with that primer there is no ned to sand the grooves and details, you might even damage it, so don’t worry about it. That primer will bond to the wood surface but consider the spray version to get into the detail work and be sure to do it in a well ventilated area.

  96. Christine D says:

    I was just browsing around on your site, and I have to say you are AMAZING at what you do!! :)

  97. Jen@mamaZEN says:

    Thank you so much for this step by step! I have been looking around for some “plain English” tutorials that are easy to follow along with and I found yours on Pinterest.

  98. Corin says:

    How many coats of polycrilic do you recommend?

  99. CentsationalGirl says:

    One coat of polycrylic should be just fine Corin.

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