I know, I cringed when I thought about painting antique furniture. I have been picking up pieces that were beautiful in their day and my goal is to rein-vision them for today’s design aesthetic.

I’m looking for aged and disregarded treasures that can become statement pieces. A bargain or giveaway that can blend with all interior design styles from classic and modern to rustic farmhouse. I’m not one that thinks you have to be stuck in one style, but it’s my opinion that you should weave a style theme throughout our home.

I am in love with this new hobby/business adventure. I recently took a class at Willow Tree Furniture Company in my hometown of Fredericksburg, VA. Tina and J.J. are amazing. I learned so much in this 4 hour class, it was so worth the investment of time and money. Check them out on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/WillowTreeFurnitureCompany/

Pick Your Piece

I look for pieces that will add flair to a room. Something that stands out but fits the space and is eye catching. Our home in Charleston, SC is contemporary mixed with modern. I know, so how does an antique find its home in our home. I am selective when searching for an accent piece. For us something slick, not too over sized and unique is a perfect find.

Don’t let the minor damages or color distract your vision. The general rule of thumb is, if it’s perfect – its beyond my budget. Also, taking a piece that has imperfections doesn’t make me feel like I’m disrespecting its history when I paint it. My goal is to bring new life to something that been disregarded and make is cherished again.

I have a real appreciation for Federal period furniture. The Federal Period references the time following the Revolutionary War rather than one specific style of furniture. Furniture at that time moved away from the ornate looks of the past, such as heavily carved and massive pieces and embraced Neoclassicism. Federal pieces have underlying clean lines and more delicate forms.

I had my sights on set on a buffet for our living room and have been searching for the perfect piece at the right price. I found it – and it’s lovely. Needs some work but its just the right size and style to fit the spot I have in mind.

Gather Your Supplies

I prefer to be very organized, I don’t want to have to make a run to the hardware store in the middle of a project. So, if you are like me, make a list of supplies and have them handy from the start. A quick check list might be: 1) Cleaner, 2) Lint Free Paper Towels, 3) Sander (I used Bosch Rotary Sander, purchased from Lowe’s), 4) Sandpaper, 5) Hand Sander, 6) Paint, 7) Paint Brushes, 8) Foam Brushes, 9) Top Coat, 10) Rubber Gloves, 11) Stain, 12) Lint Free Rags, 13) Drop Cloth, 14) Wood Glue and 15) Painter’s Tape and I’m sure I forgotten something.

Make Necessary Repairs

It is not necessary to fix every little flaw – age adds character. Something that would distract from its beauty is what I focus on when making repairs. Make sure the piece is functional – the drawers should slide easily and the doors open and close properly. Sometimes it only takes a little wax on the drawer slides or a little sanding so that snug fitting drawers or doors close easier.



A little wood filler can fix most flaws and sometimes you will find it necessary to use wood glue to repair veneer that may be lifting.

We have added new wood drawer slides and repaired loose arms and legs on several pieces. Clear drying Elmer’s wood glue is a must supply.

As you can see in this picture, the trim is lifting and the veneer is chipped. Elmer’s wood glue and a few clamps to hold the lifting trim while it dried did the trick. I use paint-able/stain-able wood filler when necessary to fill wood damage that would be distracting on the finished product.

Prep for Paint

Always clean you furniture in preparation for painting. If the piece has lots of dirt and grime, use Krud Kutter. You can find Krud Kutter at Lowe’s. I also use a lint free paper towel also from Lowes. Spray a little Krud Kutter, scrub, then use a water soaked paper towel to wipe down and remove the cleaner and finally rub down your furniture with a dry towel. If your piece is clean, simply clean with distilled alcohol before painting.

I also like to tape off the wood that I am not painting. If you have a steady hand, maybe it’s not necessary but for me it goes faster and there is less cleanup if I take this extra step.

Pick Your Color

I want my selections to make a design statement in my space, so color matters. The color scheme of our home is gray. I am trying to create harmonious color combinations throughout our home. Gray is the base color – the walls are various shades of gray and the hardwood floors have a gray tent. I have selected Royal Blue, Teal, Purple and White as my color combinations. These colors flow from room to room in an attempt to bring harmony to our home.

Tina and J.J. at Willow Tree Furniture Company use General Finishes Milk Paint. This is what I learned, so for now, this is my choice of paint. It is self leveling and flows on so smooth. So far, my results have been amazing. So, I’m sticking with General Finishes Products.

We recently purchased new dining room chairs. They are royal blue velvet and I love the look and feel they bring to the space. The buffet will be on the far living room wall and I want the royal blue to be the color tie for the the space.

I began with General Finishes Coastal Blue and added Antique White until I achieve my desired color. I painted a strip of scrape wood and matched the chair color adding a small amount of Antique White until I achieved a near perfect match.

Paint Your Piece

The transformation begins. The real work is behind you at this point. The paint flows on so smooth it really is a breeze. Tina and J.J. suggested a synthetic brush and they sell them at their shop so that is my brush of choice and it works great so why mess up a good thing. I did find them on Amazon for those of you who don’t live in Fredericksburg, VA – here’s the link. https://www.amazon.com/Plaid-Enterprises-Inc-50557E-2-Piece/dp/B00J8HCPAY

When I’m using a dark paint, it normally requires two coats of paint. I do apply the paint fairly heavy with each coat, be sure to allow it to thoroughly dry between coats. If you paint begins to dry, your brush will drag in the paint and create lines. Just wait and even out the paint on your second coat. If painting with a light color or white, it will often take three coats of paint to ensure the wood color does not bleed through the paint.

Stain The Top

I really prefer staining the top of my furniture, letting the wood shine. Sometimes, it may be necessary to paint the top or you may prefer a painted top.

When would it be necessary? 1. If the piece has significant damage that you cannot sanded down to good wood grain or 2. if the veneer is too damaged or thin to sand enough to stain.

I had one piece so far that the veneer was too damaged to sand and stain, so paint it I did. You can see the results in this picture, this piece is in General Finishes Coastal Blue and resides in our bedroom.

Preparing the wood for stain, requires an added step. You will need to sand down the piece until it is smooth and mostly varnish and stain free. I use a Bosch Rotary Sander with 80 grit sand paper for the first several passes. When the wood is exposed, I will do a final sanding with 120 grit paper.

As you can see, I was inspired by the natural wood on this piece. I made a mixture of stain that would be slightly darker than our gray tented hardwood floors. I mixed Minwax Classic Gray (stain we used on our hardwood floors) with General Finishes Java Gel Stain to get the desired color.

Sometimes, I use a foam brush to spread the stain and then wipe it off with a clean lint free cloth rag from Lowe’s https://www.lowes.com/pd/Intex-500-Pack-Natural-Fiber-Blend-Cloth/1000126135

Other times, I use a rag to apply stain. It all depends on quickly the stain is soaking into the wood. If it soaks in quick, I use the rag for a faster application.

Apply a Top Coat

I use General Finishes High Performance Top Coat Flat for my top coat. Their top coat comes in Flat, Gloss or Satin. I prefer the Flat, I’m just not into shiny furniture. Each to their own.

According to General Finishes it is the hardest, most durable consumer polyurethane top coat on the market today. It contains all the consumer-friendly characteristics of a PolyAcrylic Blend. In addition it contains a UV Stabilizer to protect it from breaking down in sunlight and to protect the underlying stains from fading.

Most General Finishes Milk Paint does not need a sealer, but if I am painting with a dark color I like to use the top coat. Also, you always want a top coat on stain or the top of your furniture to protect it from damage. I normally do two coats on the main furniture piece including the legs and three coats on the top.

Staging Your Furniture

If you are staging your furniture to sell, let the piece stand out. Locate it on a well-lit painted wall that is a contrast to the piece. Don’t clutter the top with tchotchkes. Less is best. Let the furniture be stunning, bring the focus to your piece not to your collectibles. Proper lighting is crucial. Adequate lighting will prevent shadows and allows your paint color to shine. Also take your picture at eye level with the furniture to achieve an accurate dimensional result.

When staging your piece for your home, it is once again a personal choice. I am mostly a minimalist. So, how I would stage it to sell, is how I would stage it for my home. If your piece serves a purpose, like a coffee bar or guest welcome table, then displaying appropriate objects is a must.

I am loving this hobby/business and find myself thinking about my next furniture addition or my next select to paint and sell constantly. I hope this has inspired you to explore painting and restoring something old into something new and beautiful.

9 thoughts on “Newest DIY Adventure – Painted Furniture

    1. James, It is a real pretty piece. My house is contemporary and I try to use a beautiful antique piece as a statement piece. I love the stained tops so much more than painted myself. Only if the top is not salvageable do I paint the top.

  1. Your piece turned out great! I love the idea of turning something old into something new again. The hardest part for me is the prep work because I have very little patience, but it is so important to the finished product. I hope you get to continue enjoying your hobby!

    1. MaryJo, Thank you, I am really enjoying all aspects of this hobby. I love to be on the hunt for a special piece of furniture that has character and is priced just right. I hope one day to make a little extra vacation cash from selling my products. We will see. Living Grand, Catherine

  2. Hi Catherine
    I enjoyed your detailed instructions of painting the furniture. The final outcome is stunning. I love the shade of blue that you have chosen
    regards Jen

    1. Jen, I was hoping to give enough insight into painting furniture without boring the reader. I mixed the paint until I had a match to our dining room chairs. I love the results. Living Grand, Catherine

  3. Love your refinished buffet! It is gorgeous! Thank you for the tip on Krud Kutter- I’ve never used that before and will plan to use that on our next DIY project. Love your style!

    1. I learned about Krud Kutter from Tina and JJ at Willow Tree Furniture Co. I have always used around the house for tough clean-ups. We use on the siding and gutters. It takes all the streaks off gutters – miracle cleaner. It will strip away the years of grim in no time at all. We really like the buffet and fits our space in the den perfectly. I am storing games in the drawers and adult beverages and glassware in the cabinets for when we entertain. One thing great about using a tray is you can easily clear the top to turn it into a beverage station.

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