How To Paint Furniture | Easily Update & Modernise Your Oak Furniture

Phoenix Furniture Studio / DIY  / How To Paint Furniture | Easily Update & Modernise Your Oak Furniture
oak furniture makeover

How To Paint Furniture | Easily Update & Modernise Your Oak Furniture

In this post, I’ll walk you through the process of transforming a dated chest of drawers into a modern piece of furniture with a fresh coat of paint. This is a great DIY project that can be completed in a weekend, and it’s a perfect way to update an old piece of furniture that you don’t love anymore.

Materials List
  • Cleaning solution (e.g., TSP cleaner, dish soap and water)
  • Sponge or cloth
  • 120 grit sandpaper
  • Zinsser Bin Aqua Primer (water-based stain blocking primer)
  • Zinsser Cover Stain (oil-based stain blocking primer, if needed)
  • 320 grit sandpaper
  • Paint (any color)
  • Paint sprayer or brush
  • Microfiber roller
  • Painter’s tape
  • Clear varnish (e.g., Ronseal Diamond Hard Satin Clear)
  • Furniture wax
  • Soft cloth
  • Safety equipment (mask, safety glasses)
  • Drop cloth

Remove Hardware: Start by removing all the hardware – I love using my Bosch Mini Screwdriver for this. Removing the hardware will make it easier to paint the furniture and will also help to prevent the hardware from getting damaged. Plus, you would be surprised at how much dust and dirt accumulates behind the hardware!!

Clean: Make sure to thoroughly clean the piece of furniture. Use dish soap and water to remove any dirt, grime, or grease. This is essential for ensuring proper paint adhesion. Dry thoroughly before moving on to the next step. For a list of my recommended cleaning products CLICK HERE. I also have a blog post breaking down the cleaning process, step by step which you can READ HERE.

Repair (If Needed): If there are any scratches or gouges, use a wood filler to fill in the affected areas. 

Scuff Sand: Using 120 grit sandpaper, give the entire furniture piece aa scuff sand, and smooth out any areas you have used wood filler. This is important to remove any gloss or shine from the existing finish. Paint adheres better to a scuffed surface.

BEFORE and after scuff sanding

Apply Primer: Zinsser Bin Aqua Primer is a water-based stain-blocking primer. I chose this primer because I wanted to use a sprayer to apply the paint, and I don’t like using oil-based primers in my sprayer because of the clean-up required! Primer helps to block stains from bleeding through the paint and creates a smooth surface for the paint to adhere to. 

If you notice tannin bleed-through, apply Zinsser Cover Stain after the water-based primer dries. Tannin is a natural substance found in wood that can cause bleed-through if not properly sealed. Bleed-through are brownish-red stains that appear in your paint as it dries, which you can see here:

tanin bleedthrough in primer

In these instances, Zinsser Cover Stain is my ride-or-die primer! It tackles bleed-through like no other primer I’ve used!

Apply another coat of water-based primer. This is done to ensure that the tannin bleed-through is completely sealed.

Lightly sand the primer with 320 grit sandpaper once it’s dry. This is done to smooth out any imperfections in the primer coat and give you a smooth base to start applying your paint onto.


Apply two coats of paint using a sprayer or brush, allowing each coat to dry completely. For this project, I used Frenchic Paint in the shade Virgin.

Use a microfiber roller to even out the paint and remove any excess if you lay down too much paint using a sprayer. This will help to ensure that the paint is applied evenly and that there are no drips or runs. For a list of my recommended painting tools & products CLICK HERE.

Lightly sand the painted surface with 320-grit sandpaper. Lightly sanding in between paint coats will smooth out any imperfections in the paint and give you the best chance at a smooth finish.

Finishing Touches

Use painter’s tape to create a clean line for the dovetail edges. This will help to ensure that the paint is applied evenly and that there are no drips or runs. I think that painting the dovetails adds a lovely detail to the finished piece, but do check that you have enough clearance in the drawers so that it isn’t going to rub.

Paint the dovetail edges with a roller. This will give the edges a clean, finished look.

Apply two to three coats of clear varnish using a sprayer, overlapping each coat for even coverage. This will help to protect the paint from scratches and wear and tear. For this project, I used Ronseal Interior Varnish in Satin.

Apply furniture wax. Use a soft cloth to apply a thin layer of furniture wax to the entire piece. This will give the piece a beautiful sheen and an extra layer of protection. Allow the wax to dry and buff to a shine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. For this project, I used Rust-Oleum Furniture Wax in White. You could use a clear furniture wax if you didn’t paint your piece white.

painted dovetails on drawers
Additional Tips
  • Consider the existing colours in your room when choosing a paint colour.
  • Use a drop cloth to protect your floors and surrounding areas.
  • Wear a mask and safety glasses when using a sprayer. 
  • Allow ample drying time between coats of primer, paint, and varnish.

With these steps and a little effort, you can transform your old furniture into a modern masterpiece you’ll love!

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See you on the next flip!

Brenda xx

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