Mistakes when painting furniture will be discussed in this article. This winter, my boyfriend and I moved into an unusual two-bedroom apartment in the West Village in Manhattan. We couldn’t believe our luck when we discovered this. “It’s perfect,” we told our friends and family, “because we’re moving in January and we’ll have a couple of months in the winter to do some projects with our own hands and really do it on our own.” I decided to repaint the table, several crossbars, and a massive wooden wardrobe ordered from Ikea, so that, among other things, it would serve as my wardrobe.
But, thankfully, I’ve changed my mind: my theory is that painting furniture is the kind of tedious, frustrating experience that you completely forget about once you’re finished and have a transformed, bespoke new piece to admire. It is true that preparation is the key to success (and that the prep is boring, messy, and time-consuming). But I also learned a few things I hadn’t heard before (even working at a design publication). Here are so
There’s no getting around it: sanding is a dreadful chore. Take it from me, who spent several hours sanding my painted Ikea wardrobe. I began by sanding with my boyfriend’s random-orbit power sander, but it was too noisy (it was late at night), and sanded unevenly. So I tackled it by hand. It’s difficult to work, you’ll break a sweat, and the dust will get everywhere—we discovered a fine film of dust on a nearby painting, and it took days to get it out from under my nails.
However, sanding is required if you are painting something that has already been finished or painted. If you’re working inside, make sure to completely drape everything, wear a mask with a proper filter, vacuum frequently, and wipe your furniture with a tack cloth (not paper towels or a rag) to prevent dust from showing up in the finished product.
Mistakes when painting furniture, if possible, sand and paint the outside. This eliminates the problem of dust and fumes and also provides you with enough space. However, it was impossible to draw on the street in New York in January. Painting inside is possible, but in a small space, it is difficult, because everything will be covered with rags, and you will have to bypass freshly painted objects and cans of paint. And, of course, the project is likely to take longer than you expect. Keep an eye on your installation and maintain order (and open the window slightly when priming and painting). Also, just know that outsiders will invade your living space for a while.
I thought I’d adequately draped my apartment with drop cloths until I discovered a stray fleck of white paint on a wool coat on the other side of the room. Even if you paint neatly, expect errant drops to get everywhere if you’re painting inside. Purchase several drop cloths (plastic, paper, or cloth are all acceptable) and liberally cover your floors, walls, and furniture.
Also, get some knee pads. Unless you have enough room to prop everything up on tables, you’ll be painting on the ground, and your knees will suffer as a result.
Take your furniture apart before painting it if possible: flat surfaces are easier to paint evenly and you can be sure to get every crack and corner. However, painting a deconstructed piece will require more space. Also, remove all hardware and tape any areas that you do not want to be painted.
When I work on projects, I have a tendency to cut corners because I am eager to see the finished product. However, it is true that careful preparation is essential for a successful paint project, which includes priming your piece. It doesn’t have to be perfect; my boyfriend Matt (who paints in art galleries and museums, among other places) told me it just needs to block some of the color coming through (if your piece was previously treated or painted) and provide something for the paint to adhere to. I didn’t want to risk my paint flaking or bubbling after a few years, so I used Zinsser B-I-N Shellac-Based Primer, which helps paint adhere to almost any surface.
It’s easy to misjudge how much paint you need. When I chose the paint for my wardrobe, I opted for a gallon, and now have three-quarters of a gallon left over. (And getting rid of paint is tricky.) When I painted the wardrobe over again (more on that later), I got a quart of paint and quite literally used every last drop. Gauge carefully, so you don’t fall into either camp. If it’s a small paint project you’re working on, chances are sample-sized cans will be more than enough. I painted six maple peg rails, each 36 inches long, with one sample can of paint from Home Depot—second coat included.
I had no idea what I was doing when I first started painting. Matt decided to put me out of my misery after hours of watching me roll the thinnest layer of paint possible onto the furniture while pressing as hard as I could. Here are the six keys to achieving a professional-looking paint finish:
At a hardware store that doesn’t have the paint color you want? Inquire with the experts behind the paint counter. In my experience, they can tell you everything from what color to choose to tone down orange-hued floors to what finish is best—and they can mix up just about any name-brand shade you want, according to them, with 98 percent accuracy.
I agonized over wardrobe paint colors. I returned from the hardware store with dozens of paint swatches, hung them on the wall, stood back, thought about it, left them there for a week, went back for more paint swatches, thought about those, and so on. When I finally decided on and finished painting the wardrobe, I moved it into the bedroom, only to discover that the deep grey shade I’d chosen looked far too dark in the much brighter light. I bit the bullet, bought more paint, and started over after a few more days of agonizing over paint colors.
The good news is that, despite its tediousness, paint is fairly forgiving. You won’t need to re-prime if you use the same finish (eggshell over eggshell, for example). And, in my experience, the second time around was faster and more efficient. The moral of the story is that choosing a paint color is difficult, and no matter how many swatches you look at, you can’t really tell what it’ll look like until you’re done. If necessary, don’t be afraid to start over.
I’m sure you could complete a painting project for less than $50; after all, paint isn’t too expensive, depending on the amount you choose and the brand. But you’ll also need drop cloths, rollers, roller covers, painter’s tape, brushes, primer, tack cloth, and sandpaper to do it right. Overall, I spent more than $150 on supplies—not outrageous, but certainly not as cheap as I’d anticipated.
Still, I wouldn’t trade my finished projects: painting furniture yourself allows you to completely customize it to your liking (and you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you did it yourself). Budget for a little more of everything—cost, time, mess, and hassle—as with many DIY and renovation projects to get it done.
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