How to Paint Furniture Like a Real Pro

how to paint furniture

This painted hutch and table were featured in Better Homes and Gardens Do It Yourself Magazine. Yee haw!

better homes and gardens do it yourself

I painted them myself!

If you are a regular around here you know I’m always forthcoming with step by step instructions with how I do a project.  Usually that involves some hot glue and a high heeled shoe. This project isn’t any different.

For years people have been asking me how I paint my furniture and for years I’ve been doing it all wrong and honestly, It’s never really mattered. My paint usually sticks just fine and the finished product is pretty great. Not perfect but good enough.  But there are lots of tricks and tips I’ve learned from people smarter than me.

I’ve had this furniture for 6 years and from the moment I got it home I kind of secretly regretted getting black.  A big black piece like this hutch demands attention. It’s all, “Look over here, look at me!” and “Come here light, let me suck you in and make the room dark.”

Which is fine unless you don’t want it to demand attention and you don’t want a darker room. And since it’s so big, I felt a little limited in what paint colors I could use on my walls.

And since I know you are wondering…here are some before photos:

You can see the table here, it’s a thin wood grain, kind of orangey.

Here’s a close up of the hutch in all of it’s black glory.

For years I’ve been thinking about what color to paint it.  I knew I wanted to paint it but ugh, the work, and what if I didn’t like the color?

Going to the painted cottage changed my perspective.  Remember how Angela talked about her layers of color?  Finally, I realized that if I didn’t like the color I used, I could just add another layer.  That was so freeing, motivating and inspiring.  Since I like the look of layered, weathered, chippy paint, I figured I really couldn’t mess it up.

paint your furniture!

So, I just grabbed my left over paint from my family room.

From the family room walls.  Gasp. Did you get that? I used Satin/Eggshell left over wall paint for my furniture.  The color is Village Square a BEHR color from Home Depot.  However, I can pretty much guarantee that whatever color it looks like on your computer screen is not the color it looks like in real life.  Never pick a paint color from seeing it online, OK?

I wasn’t too worried about painting the right way.  I just wanted everything to be a new color and for the paint to somewhat stay.  Did I sand?  Nope.  But there wasn’t a super shiny finish to begin with.  I just slapped paint on. I did it all wrong.  And it turned out good enough.

I hesitated to even tell you how I did it because I just played around.  I painted a layer of that wall color and while it was still wet I painted on some blue from another room.  The blue was a shinier sheen so it helps make it a little satinish.  And I used the dirty brush.  I had two containers but one brush and just went back and forth whenever I felt like it. Very scientific.  Really, if you have a piece of furniture you don’t love, grab some satin paint and paint it.  Unless it’s an heirloom or an antique, it’s not much risk if you already hate it.

My advice: start with a small piece like a side table and once you get that good enough {not perfect} move on from there.

If you hate a piece to begin with, even better–you can’t ruin something you already hate.

However, when it came time to paint my table top, I knew I had to do that part right.  Next to the toilet seat, kitchen counter tops and sofa, the table top gets the most wear in the whole house.  I didn’t want to mess that part up.

So, I went to the experts: other bloggers who paint furniture for a living.

I ended up using a sander (like this) just for the table top, but then still used my flat wall paint, but I finished it with a few thin coats of clear wipe on poly.


There’s a PLETHORA of information out there, hard earned tips and tricks and types of paint that can make your life easier–the kind of information you don’t even know to ask or google. If you haven’t painted furniture yet, or haven’t had much luck with it, it’s nice to have someone hold your hand. Someone who’s learned how to make all types of wood and finishes and paint look spectacular. Someone like Allison…

paint tips

I think you’ll love The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Furniture Painting : 115 Tips, Tricks and Shortcuts to Save Your Time, Money, & Sanity. It’s 114 pages and it’s only $10. I have read it and laughed and learned, and decided I’m going to tackle another project after reading it.

Allison knows what she is talking about.

There are a ton of photos, tips on where to buy supplies or hack them, and information on wood types, when to sand/when not to sand, when to prime/when not to prime, using latex paint, oil paint, chalk paint, and milk paint, waxing, distressing, sealing, curing, and of course tips on best painting practices.

we really use the table

all the time we use the table

did I mention, we use this table?

If you are ready to paint, or wanting to paint or needing motivation to paint and my “I do it all wrong but it still works ok” isn’t enough for you and you want someone to hold your hand, click here to get your ebook. As you can see her work is amazing.  And I’m already thrilled with how my table turned out.  The secrets I’ve learned work and we’ve already spilled food and used our newly painted table and it’s holding up just great.

see the wall behind the striped curtain?  that’s the same paint as the table and hutch!

painted tablethe table over 4 years after I first painted it with no touchups!–we now use it in our refinished barn/gathering space and it still looks fantastic! (see more here)

{update as of July 2015:: it’s been FIVE YEARS since I’ve painted this table and our family of 5 including 3 boys have used this table and it’s still held up–our boys are much taller now! It hasn’t needed a second coat and we moved and still use the table! see past photos here}  I used to walk into the home improvement store and buy what the paint guy told me for furniture:: shiny, glossy paint.

DO NOT DO THAT. There are so many better ways to get the look you are after that will last and not peel off.

Here’s the link to buy/find out more about the ebook, How to Paint Furniture, enjoy!

Furniture Painting ebook
Nesting Place is an affiliate The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Furniture Painting : 115 Tips, Tricks and Shortcuts to Save Your Time, Money, & Sanity and will get a percentage of each sale generated from this post. 

Related Posts::

The Striped Drapes


****This post went viral on Pinterest a year and a half after I wrote it (I wrote it in 2010 before Pinterest even existed?) read about that and how I’ve been surprised at the reaction of what has happened here.

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  1. Oh wow… I can’t believe you’re painting it! I remember wanting to buy the chairs at your garage sale. They’re beautiful. I love them black, but I am sure they will be just as beautiful when they’re all painted over too. I never cease to be amazed at how beautiful your projects turn out.

  2. I picked a paint color online.

    And I love it.

    But you should def. listen to Nester. :)

    • ok so SOMETIMES you can pick one online. If your name is brenda and you are cute as a button you can totally pick one online.

  3. I love the hutch color and the accent color. Your collection of creamware really works well.

  4. Lauren@SimplyLKJ says:

    I love how it turned out! I am a huge fan of painting furniture to make it new and unique.

  5. I love it! The colors are so soothing and tranquil. I know exactly what you mean; I have a black china cabinet too, I love how it allows silver to really “shine” up against that black paint however I’m getting a bit bored with it. Great job.

  6. It’s perfect! Nice touch with the aqua trim and all your white dishes.

    Did I ever mention that we had the same black ladder-back chairs in Houston? We sold them before our move to NC.

  7. Your hutch looks fab-u-lous! I want to paint our kitchen table and chairs so badly, but my hubs is absolutely dead set against it. I’m not willing to fight that battle. Yet. :s

  8. It’s beautiful! I love the blue trim!

  9. Christy says:

    It looks fab-you-lo-so! LOVE the aqua trim!

  10. Love the hutch. Such pretty colors with the blue and brown. I would never thought of that combination, but it is stunning. Hugs, Marty

  11. I really liked your black furniture, so I was really looking forward to seeing your un-black furniture–and I love it!

    I like the idea of painting furniture. Somehow it just seems RIGHT to me–sort of a reminder that our furniture works for us, not the other way around. When I was a little girl, my mother had an oak dresser that she prized. We had to be very careful of it because it was “good” wood. Then when I was pregnant with my oldest child, I needed a dresser and a changing table–and my mother gave me the oak dresser. I’ll never forget my surprise that she would paint that dresser white. She would never have done that when I was a kid, but for her first grandson she was glad to do it! I still use that dresser in my house. Currently it’s black and serving in the guest room. I think it looks better as a painted piece than it ever did when it was pristine “good” wood.

    Congratulations on your beautiful new pieces!

  12. It looks beautiful. I just painted an antique chair for my daughter’s desk today. I wanted it to look shabby (which really helps) and I did it in an hour. It has brush strokes and the old finish showing through. I love it! Maybe I’m in denial, but I think it’s done!

  13. The finished pieces look great! I love how you two-toned the cabinet {although I did like it black when I’d see it in the background of your other posts}. : ) Mandie’s pieces that you are showing look fantastic; I love that red she used in the one picture.

  14. Stop the madness-this looks amazing! I covet your vision, girlfriend.

  15. Just the inspiration (and the eBook!!) I needed to paint my own {ugly} china cabinet =) can’t wait to check out her tricks!!

  16. ooooh can’t wait to see the whole room! I’m curious – did you use wax after painting? I have a couple of newly painted pieces and did the wax as the last step. I like the look.


  17. Ok, I just bought my ebook. I have a hope chest that my parents gave me when I graduated from highschool. I’ve been dying to paint it, but totally afraid, until now. Wish me luck!

  18. I think you really did an excellent job. The pieces you painted “all wrong” are brilliantly done. Good for you! :) Thanks for sharing.

  19. Oh my gosh, that black hutch was one of the first crushes I had when I landed in the Nest the first time. And now you’ve gone and changed it all up… and it looks FABULOUS!!! Dang. I wanted to be so mad at you. But you’re The Nester. And you’re genius. And I can’t be mad. Please don’t hack the chairs all to bits out of frustration because I want to see them all painted, too. Off to drool some more. You even got my husband’s seal of approval on this particular project, and he’s a tough cookie. Unbreakable, even. I write this as I sit at my black dining table in front of my black china cabinet. Sigh…

  20. Thanks for the painted furniture high!!! It looks so fabulous! I just can’t get enough painted furniture! I took a rocking class last year at Thrill of the Hunt in Greensboro. I learned so much and had a blast. We did glazing too and it is super easy…so don’t be afraid of the glazing!!!

  21. OK, I just downloaded and read the entire book word for word! I think I will be purchasing some paint tomorrow and get busy on all my projects!

    • I KNOW! I’m getting some glaze ASAP–I should have mentioned how motivating it is when you have the steps written out for you I can conquer the world! Or at least paint it.

  22. beautiful! My ugly hutch is staring at me from across the room wishing I would paint it… maybe this weekend!

  23. This turned out beautiful and looks great with your white dishes (that I love, too). Will you post pics of the finished table soon?

    • actually, the table was finished in that photo of it with all the leaves? leafs? pulled apart. it’s such a HUGE table and with that bay window with glaring lava sun outside, I never can get a very good pic.

  24. I thought I loved your hutch black… until I see it now and WOW-WEE it is BEAUTIFUL!!! The non-scientific thing worked!!! =)

    I just got my copy of the eBook! I’m always so afraid of messing things up that I needed some inspiration. ;)

  25. I love the way your hutch turned out! Sounds like you paint like I do lol! I have a black dining set that I’ve been always wanting to paint, but my husband doesn’t….makes it a little more challenging than just my phobia of destroying it. Have a great day. ~Stacey

  26. it looks GREAT!
    And…I went and bought her e-book because I just purchased an AWESOME antique chest of drawers from craigslist and I wanted to do it right! NOW I CAN!!! YAY! :)

  27. Squeeky says:

    I have the EXACT same buffet. I didn’t buy the hutch to go on top as I thought it was too big. Anyway, we used the buffet in our dining room in our tiny house in the city but now that we’ve moved to a MUCH bigger house in the country I am now using the buffet as a TV hutch. We bought a large flat screen and the black buffet is the perfect stand for it. I flanked it with large bookcases and it works really well!

  28. I lovelovelove how it came out. I feel so encouraged to break out the ol’ paint and furniture. I think I NEED that book :)

  29. Your hutch turned out amazingly. I am trying to work up the courage. I will check out Mandie’s page and consider the ebook. I wonder if she has any tips for getting more hours out of the day? LOL

  30. great post. i have the same issue. hutch, table, and chairs that i’ve been wanting to paint for 5 yrs. my 3 yr. old daughter just partially ruined the stain on the hutch so it’s time to kick it into gear and paint it. i’m having a hard time deciding on color for the hutch. love the idea of layering paint. so next week will be the starting time. might have to get your friends ebook. thanks!

  31. we just painted our first piece on Monday – LOVE it! now if I can only find the right pulls…without spending a fortune, that is! must check out the e-book!

  32. Megan L says:

    Your timing is impeccable! We just moved from the Pacific Northwest to the Emerald Coast of Florida, with all of our mismatched pseudo-college days furniture that somehow worked in our previous house. And do not work in the new house we’re renting. Now that we have a real job with a real income (yay, no more grad school!), I can start replacing pieces but it will take some time. In the meantime, I have some painting to do, and now I know how to do it!!

  33. The blue trim is perfect…great job!

  34. Thanks for sharing – this is exactly what I needed! I have been buying furniture to paint – but had no idea where to start. The ebook will be a great resource!!!

  35. I so could have used this before I started my project. Oh well-I still think it turned out exactly like I saw in my head. lol :)

  36. Hi Nester!
    The hutch is beautiful with the blue trim and amazing collection of dishes.
    We moved again last month (I might just pass up your record for moves :) so I’d love to have you pop over for a peak at my bedroom which is about the only room in the house I’ve finished, sort of. :) As we say here, “poco a poco”.
    Blessings on your day!

  37. Nester, Your hutch and table turned out great! I love the colors you used…awesome! The hardest part for me when I’ve painted furniture, is waiting for it to dry to put stuff back in it. LOL Impatience in my middle name…or it should be! ;)

  38. Cool! I bought an eBook today! So, money comin’ to ya! Perfect timing for me too!

  39. Wow! Your home is beautiful. You did a wonderful job on the hutch. Well done!

    Good luck with the rest of your projects.

  40. Barbara Kingston says:

    I have to say the book is awesome. I just bought it and can’t wait to get started!

  41. I have to say that this post totally inspired me to re-do a buffet and hutch. Thanks!!

  42. Looks awesome! xoxo Susieqtpies

  43. Distressingis a sure way of adding depth and interest to a dresser, table, or nightstand. When I first began painting, I always made sure I primed my furniture, because I wanted the paint to stick to the furniture I was finishing. I was afraid of the paint lifting off the furniture, so I always made sure I primed. As I experimented and advanced in my painting, I found I was pretty limited when it came to distressing because you cannot buy primer in black.

  44. Just what I was looking for. Lots of great ideas here, I just wish I could have read the article. I’ll keep searching for a tutorial. Your things are amazing.

  45. I love your painting style!! It sounds a lot like mine! I do take special care in sealing surfaces that will be used often, but I am incredibly impatient with waiting for paint to dry before moving on to the next step… but (so far) I haven’t regretted my steps, it always turns out kinda cool! And I love how yours turned out!

    Leanne @ because (i think) i can

  46. Looks great! Grey is such a wonderful color… at least that’s how it looks on my screen. (I can’t believe you didn’t sand! Gasp! ) (o: ~Pattie

  47. LOVE LOVE your blog!!!! I am so inspired to do something!!! Really!!!

    Tell me about your curtains? Where do I find those ?


  48. whee did you get the drapery fabric?

  49. i paint my furniture with the same exact notions. i actually buy the “oops” paint that people don’t end up buying or gets mixed incorrectly at home depot or lowes and use that!! i have painted my bathroom vanity, a prety side table, and basically 50 other things and have never had a problem. i have always secretly known it is wrong but the results are always fine so, no harm no foul. beautiful blog, so glad i found you.

  50. Looks great- I just had my dining room furniture painted a slate gray…I love the results!