Walk into most of the big furniture shops these days and you will no doubt find some great stuff, but it will often look pretty generic and rather unoriginal. For some people that is not really an issue, they want a no fuss home decor scheme that simply looks neat, tidy and functional. Others however want a home that reflect their personality and generic furniture is not always very conducive to doing that.

One alternative is to refinish and rehab older, more eclectic furniture, the kind that you can find at flea markets, charity shops and even in your Granny’s loft. The easiest, and least expensive way to do this is often to paint a piece. There is however a right way to go about doing so in order to get an effect that not only looks good but that will last as well. Here are a few of the basics:

The Prep

No matter what the item of furniture is that you are rehabbing you cannot simply slap a coat of paint on it and be done. All that will happen if you do that is that the new paint will peel, chip and look awful in less time than you might imagine, so therefore prepping the right way is a must.

Begin by giving the piece a good cleaning. Using an oil soap is a great idea as it works very well and is safe for use on any piece of furniture, including delicate woods.

If you are working with wood, which is likely to be the case, you will also need to sand the piece to ‘de gloss’ the surface and prep it to hold onto the new paint. You do not need to strip down to the bare wood if you are painting the piece in most cases, simply using a medium grit sandpaper to ‘roughen’ the surface should be sufficient unless you are dealing with a dark colour that you want to add a light one to.


No matter what kind of paint you are eventually going to use a coat of primer is as much of a must as it would be if you were painting your walls. Oil based primer is an excellent choice for wooden furniture and if you are looking for ease you can even buy it in spray form these days.


Technically you have a great many choices when it comes to choosing what kind of paint you want to use. It is worth remembering though that a glossier finish is always going to be easier to keep clean, so often the best choice is an interior latex in a semi gloss finish.

For most colours two or three coats should be sufficient. And as odd as it may sound if you really want to get an even finish you should lightly sand the piece again between coats of paint. This will take longer of course but the long term benefits will be worth it.


After your final coat of paint has been allowed to dry for at least 24 hours, you should be ready to seal it. Sealing your furniture provides adds a layer of extra protection for your new paint finish and also creates a wipeable, easy to clean surface.

If you have used a white or other rather light it is usually recommend that you do NOT use polyurethane to seal your finish as it will yellow over time, although it should be fine for a darker color. For these lighter pieces though a clear coat sealer than is not oil based is a better idea. Porter’s make a great range that is low VOC and Australian made and is non yellowing. When you have finished sealing leave the piece where it will not be touched for at least another 24 hours.

Not sure that painted furniture can look good? Check out our gallery below and see for yourself.


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