How to paint wood furniture–with or without an existing varnish

I buy a piece of furniture for its shape. I ignore color, finish and hardware completely and focus on the lines. That’s because I paint almost everything that comes into my possession—chairs, tables, dressers and cabinets.

That being said, I also don’t think it’s necessary to purchase new furnishings if you have a piece that already works. Maybe the color or current purpose doesn’t suit your needs, but a few coats of paint and a little room rework can make you love that old hand-me-down again.

The salon I redid needed a long, narrow table with a few drawers for storage and areas to display merchandise and keep compacts and tools available for guests to sample. My client already owned this dark console.

Sanded console
(This has already been sanded. I forgot a true before shot.)

It was the wrong color for the light, airy feel we were creating in the salon, but the shape and size were perfect. With three coats of Martha Stewart Gingerroot paint in a semi-gloss finish and new mercury-glass hardware, this dark furnishing became a feminine foundation for makeup and merchandise.

Painted console

Here’s how:

1. Sand all surfaces with 150-grit sandpaper. Use 80-grit if you are sanding a furnishing with an existing varnish. Be careful not to gouge the surface.
2. Wipe down the surface with a tack cloth to remove any residue
3. Prime (I like Zinsser) using a mini foam roller. Use a foam brush to get into any hard-to-reach areas. Let dry according to can instructions. Once your primer is fully dry, sand away any drips with a 220-grit sanding block, and wipe your piece down with a soft cloth.

Primed console

4. Use a mini foam roller to apply three thin coats of semi-gloss latex paint. Allow six to eight hours in between coats. It is important that you sand in between coats if you have any drips or residue on the piece. Use the same sanding block I mentioned above.
5. Finally, use a new sponge brush to apply a thin coat of Varathane water-based protectant in gloss. It will seal your piece. Allow 72 hours for it to dry before using.

Close up of the console