TIPS FOR PAINTING LARGE FURNITURE, AS SHOWN ON A BUFFET HUTCH
It’s been a while since we DIY’ed anything here on the Girl, Crafted blog, mostly because I’ve been just painting a lot of furniture and that can get a bit dry (no pun intended). But I finished a really large piece this week and I wanted to share how fabulously well it came out. There are some great tips that came to mind while I worked on it, so I’ll share them here.
SANDING AND PRIMING IS A MUST.
I have two nightstands, circa 1970, that I did not sand before painting. The result is that their wonderful Cozumel blue paint is slowly chipping off. I know sanding sucks. I know you want to skip right to painting, and I know that lots of paints come with built-in primers now. But you will pay for your impatience with touch-up coats. Save yourself the hassle and do a good job sanding and priming to start with.
I used a mouse sander for most of this job. A mouse sander is really cheap (usually under $20.00) and even an urban-raised city slicker like me can use it. Choose a sandpaper that will rough the surface up without actually damaging it. You can ask your local hardware store clerk for help with this. You really just want to create some ‘tooth’—some texture to the surface.
Priming seems tedious, but I can tell you that on this dark piece of furniture, even with primer, I had to apply 3 or 4 coats of every colour.
CHOOSE YOUR FINISH CAREFULLY
Paints come in a range of finishes: eggshell, semi-gloss, high-gloss, etc. The higher the gloss, the better the paint will typically hold up to wiping and use. But the trade-off is that often, the high-gloss paints require more coats to be truly opaque. If this is a problem and you want to use a matte finish paint (for instance, if you grab just the right colour from the mis-tints bin at a discount) be sure to varnish your piece afterwards. There are great water-based varnishes available now.
Also, and this should go without saying: use proper house paint for this kind of work, not craft or artist acrylics. The extra cost will be worth it, and you can find great mis-tints on summer weekends in the hardware store for cheap.
If you’re doing a multi-step piece like this hutch was, be sure to have your drawing or guide picture with you at all times. You do NOT want to paint a section the wrong colour and have to change it afterwards. Chances are, it’ll make that one section look just a tiny bit different in tone or texture.
CHECK THE WEATHER
We did check the weather, and the promised two days of sunshine was a lie. This meant that my hutch got rained on overnight, had to be dried thoroughly, and was dragged by two girls with stick-like arms for the second day where I had to finish it indoors. Be ready for anything if you’re painting outside.
PAINTER’S TAPE IS YOUR BFF, BUT IT’S NOT PERFECT
I used a lot of painter’s tape to keep edges smooth and perfect in sections where two colours join up, but it’s not a perfect system. There is usually some minor bleeding around the edges, especially on a three dimensional piece of furniture. Be ready to wait until all the paint is dry and then use a sponge brush or other high-control brush to carefully touch up the bleeding.
TAKE OFF THE HARDWARE
This is a step I always forget, except this time my best friend stopped by and caught me before it was too late. Sometimes you can’t get the hardware off—the hinges on the bottom cupboards, for example, called for some strange martian screwdriver we didn’t have—so you’ll have to decide: do you paint that hardware or try to keep it paint-free with tape? We painted the hardware here, but in a pinch I could use a q-tip with some paint thinner later on and clean them up again.
A project this size is going to take time. I watched an entire season of The Mindy Project and a half-season of Scrubs while doing this project. Put the appropriate time aside for your work, otherwise if you’re like me, you’ll get halfway through, have to put your paints away, and then it’ll be months before you find time again to finish it.
This hutch was free, as it was headed to the trash. Yes, it’s a lovely piece of wood, but no one wanted it and the dark colour was wrong in my home. I hear it’s a sin to paint solid wood, but the reality is this piece was going to the junkyard unless I found a way to love it. Now it holds all my ponies and unicorns, plus all my craft fabric and all my in-progress paperwork for my business. Worst case scenario? The paint job could have gone wrong and I would have had to start again. No big deal. Be fearless and try your best!