Years ago, I painted an old dresser white with turquoise knobs. It looked really cute, but it was apparent that it was painted – the surface wasn’t anywhere near the quality of the furniture you would buy from the store.
There are so many tutorials online about painting furniture, and so many say that you can skip sanding or priming. Here’s my advice – don’t skip sanding, don’t skip priming, and use a high-quality paint.
Lately, I had been in the market for a new desk in my sitting room.
I was currently using an old kitchen table. Ash was in the process of updating our sitting room with beautiful built-in bookshelves and a window seat, so it was time for my kitchen table-desk to get the boot.
I didn’t want to pay $200 for a new, modern-looking desk, so I scoured a few flea markets and thrift stores. Finally, at a Habitat for Humanity thrift store. I found a brown wooden desk that I could work with. It was originally $40, but with a 50% coupon – I paid $20.
Being that my sitting room would have mostly white furniture, I decided to try my hand at painting a wooden desk white.
Here is the before picture – it’s not a great picture. It had only been in the garage for about two hours, and Ash had it covered with tools and wood from another garage storage project. (I should have taken a better picture, but I am always so excited to start my projects that I forget.)
Preparing the Wooden Desk
The first thing I did was remove the drawers and knobs, and then I cleaned the desk really well – wiping off dust and anything else that had collected on the surface.
To sand, I used a random orbital sander with 80 grit paper. This worked well, as it got down to the bare wood quickly.
Even though the desk was smooth to the touch, I probably should have gone over it with 220 grit paper afterward for a more fine finish.
Here is the desk after the sanding.
Priming the Wooden Desk
After I was finished sanding, I started on the primer.
I had a 2-gallon bucket of indoor/outdoor primer leftover from painting the shed last summer, so I was all ready to go.
I used a regular, large roller brush for the top, a regular, small roller brush, and a 1-inch brush for corners and tight areas.
In addition, I used an 1-inch foam brush for the rungs.
The most challenging part was painting the rungs because of their close proximity to each other.
As soon as I would paint one side of the rung, paint would build-up on the bordering sides.
I would then smooth this, and once again, the bordering sides would have some build-up, continuing the cycle.
Thus, I had to very meticulously paint these, being careful not to use too much paint and being conscientious about going around and around to smooth everything.
If your furniture has a design like this, be sure to leave lots of time (and have plenty of patience).
Also, since the foam brush put on such a light coat of primer, I knew I would have to do at least two coats on the rungs.
After two coats of primer on most of the surfaces (I did 3 on the top of the desk as well as the rungs), I was happy with the results and continued on to painting.
Painting a Wooden Desk
After priming, I was ready to start painting. I was already happy with how the white primer was looking and was excited to finish up the project.
Using a High-Quality Paint
For this, I used a high-quality enamel paint (urethane acrylic satin).
This type of paint differs from regular paint in that the paint pigments are floating in a urethane solution so it dries to form a very hard, protective surface – much like how polyurethane dries.
It is expensive (about $50 a gallon), but its recommended for furniture that gets a lot of use. (Also, I only used about 1/3 of the can on the desk, so I had a decent amount left for future projects.)
Applying the Paint
To apply this special paint, I used a foam roller brush.
It is recommended to use a foam brush with this type of paint to give it a smooth finish.
If you use a regular nap roller (like the ones you use when painting walls), it will soak up and waste a lot of the paint, and it leaves a textured finish.
In addition to the foam roller brush, I also used a 1-inch foam brush for the rungs and tight areas.
I applied a thick topcoat on all of the surfaces of the desk, taking my time with the rungs.
After it dried, I put a second coat on the top of the desk only. This provided extra protection on this surface since it would get a lot of wear and tear.
Also, this probably goes without saying, but if it’s a windy day, paint in the garage if you can, so particles don’t blow and stick to your piece.
Here’s how the desk turned out:
The Finished Desk
The surfaces had the nice protective enamel that made it easy to wipe, and it looked professional painted.
However, it still looked like there were ridges in the wood; it wasn’t a sleek, smooth finish like the brand-new furniture you buy directly from the store.
Don’t get me wrong, I was still very happy with the way it turned out. However, in hindsight, when I sanded it down to the bare wood (even though the wood felt smooth to the touch), I probably should have gone over it with 220 grit paper for a more fine surface.
The 80 grit paper quickly got the old finish off, but the 220 would have given it a smoother seal.
I still loved the way the desk turned out – it was a welcome addition to our bright, airy sitting room.
Here’s a side-by-side view of the before and after pictures:
Time & Cost of Painting a Wooden Desk
The time span of the project was the course of a week – including dry time and airing out time. The paint fumes were not strong, but a little extra time never hurts.
The total cost came to $70. The desk was $20, and the paint was $50. We had previously purchased the primer and the painting materials, so that wasn’t a cost for us.
And, there was primer and paint leftover for the next project 🙂