How to Paint Furniture: Refresh with Color and Shine

There it sits. The solid oak table from your grandmother’s house. The lines are good, the style timeless, the construction unmatchable.

But how do you get past the brown?

Paint it.

Nothing transforms drab to fab quicker than a coat of paint. Imagine that old table with a sleek black finish or a brilliant white. Inspiration is all over the web, and design bloggers can’t stop raving about the transformative power of paint.

Here are a few pointers to get you started.

Payback with Prep Work
You’ve heard your painter say it: Prep work makes all the difference. Any furniture surface you paint should be clean, dry and dust free. Depending on the paint you choose (oil or latex) and the existing surface (e.g., raw wood, painted or stained), you will need to prep the surface appropriately. For example, if the table has been waxed with a silicone-based product or stained, oiled or varnished, you’ll need to treat the surface with a deglossing agent before priming.

Taking the time to add one or two primer coats can ensure a smoother finish, deter chipping and keep stains from seeping through the new paint. Make sure to choose a primer in a similar tint to your end color.

For expert advice, find a quality paint store and consult with them on the right products for your project. Two North Shore favorites are Inmans Paint Spot in Highland Park and JC Licht/Epco Paint & Wallpaper in Barrington, Evanston and many other locations.

Spray, Brush or Roll
Depending on the finish you desire, you can use a paintbrush, roller or even spray paint. “A firm-bristled brush that’s comfortable in your hand is preferable in most cases,” recommends Dave Martin, manager of Inman’s Paint Spot. “If you choose to use a roller, look for a short-nap as you want to avoid any stipple in your finish.”

For a high-gloss, lacquer-like finish, Martin suggests spray painting. Unless you need a special color or are tackling a big project, usually spray paint in a can will do the job (professional-grade sprayers can get pricey).

Whatever you choose, note that a spray-painted piece that requires touch-up will require a complete redo, versus just touching up an area that’s been brushed.

And while everyone has their favorite brand, paint junkies swear by Fine Paints of Europe Hollandlac Brilliant for a premium high-gloss finish. This marine quality, ultra high-gloss enamel can cover any surface, inside and out, and comes in unlimited colors.

Take it to the Body Shop
For those of you who crave the shine but despise the slog, think auto paint. Just ask Ernie Woerner, general manager of Auto Krafters of Des Plaines. He took a worn but treasured bedroom set from his youth and covered it in GM White. “We can basically paint anything—wood, metal, fiberglass,” he explains. “The end product is incredibly durable with a high lacquer finish. And for outdoor furniture, the UV protection in the clear coat protects the color.”

The only downside? Cost. Explains Woerner, “Because of the labor intensity of painting furniture and the cost of materials, you will pay more for an auto paint finish but the result is amazing.”

So whether you do it yourself or hire it out, remember nothing restores a piece of furniture faster than a fresh coat of paint.

Interested in refreshing your traditional home?

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