How to Paint Everything
You may feel like your home is in dire need of a top-to-bottom makeover, fighting urges to toss everything out and replace furniture, lighting, flooring, and other accents with completely new finds. But there's a solution that gives your home a fresh look without having to redecorate—and its easier to pull off than you would ever believe.
Paint can breathe new life into any room in your home, but your walls aren't the only place that can benefit from a fresh coat. Did you know that you can paint furniture, floors, cabinets, and even pottery? The most important tip when using paint to transform your living space is to take some time to understand it in all of its forms, from spray paint optimized for metal items to semi-gloss acrylic paint used on brick and other exposed surfaces. With the right formula and a little planning, a paint-focused makeover isn't just possible; it's easy, too.
In fact, with the right tools and the right approach, we're of the mind that you can paint just about anything in your home, from fireplaces and lampshades to wicker furniture and even glass itself. There are a few ways to give old furniture a face-lift using paint, even if they're not made of a wooden base; using spray paint on metal stools, for example, will help maintain the piece's quality while giving it a completely new look. We're walking you through how to paint a number of design accents in your home, as well as sharing expert tips for executing a professional finish on interior design elements like cabinets and structural framework.
Before you burn out on a total redesign, consider what a difference a few of the following projects could make in your space, then learn how to refresh practically every material and object in your home with paint.
Painted Wood Barrister Bookcase
In your basement or at the flea market, there's probably a knockout piece of furniture hidden under a dated stain or chipped paint. Or maybe you see the star-is-born potential in an unfinished dresser. The secret to a sharp revamp is thorough sanding, before you paint and between coats. Some people skip this step, but it's what separates slapdash streaks from lasting luster. So take off the hardware, give your find an allover scrub with 150-grit sand-paper, wipe it down, and prime. Then use a mini roller to apply your color for fast, even coverage. Finesse nooks and details with an angled sash brush. Let dry, and repeat two to three times, using finer, 220-grit paper for the sanding.
Spray-Painted Metal Lamp
Antique steel items like lamps and midcentury patio furniture have looks and quality that won't quit. But a dull or oxidized exterior can squelch their innate style. High-coverage spray paints will disguise light rust, and come in a range of glossy colors, like this cool blue-gray. The difference between uniform and splotchy results is in the technique, says Mark Wilgen, senior marketing director of small project paints at Rust-Oleum. Read the can to know how far back to stand (the distances can vary considerably), and shake it for a full minute to mix the paint properly. Another trick: "Always start spraying off the object, then sweep across and past it," he says. "And keep it moving; never stop in one place." Apply multiple fine coats, letting each dry before you mist on.
Painted Brick Fireplace & Screen
A dated red-brick fireplace can fade to fresh white—you just need the right stuff for the job, per Kevin Jones, a product manager at Pratt & Lambert. The challenge: Brick and grout have different textures. To get paint to adhere to both, scuff the entire surface and loosen grit with a wire brush, vacuum up the debris, and wipe everything down with a damp sponge. When it’s dry, pick up two kinds of brushes to put on primer: a stiff one-to-two-inch nylon/poly one for grout; a high-nap roller for bricks. Complete your high-style hearth with two allover coats of paint designed for masonry.
You can also customize your fire screen, which becomes even more attractive with age and character. Add newfound inspiration to your fireplace by remaking this accessory to be even more striking with a coat of heat-resistant copper spray paint.
Painted Wicker Sofa
The gaps are the quandary here: Too little paint and you get patchiness; too much and you gum them up. A sprayer makes the job foolproof. (We like the Graco TrueCoat 360 Airless Paint Sprayer) "In two thin coats, you'll get all the nooks and crannies without clogging the channels," says Benajmin Moore field integrations manager Mike Mundwiller. Inspect your piece from different angles as you go to catch any bare spots.
Painted Glass Vase
What to do with a cluster of mismatched vessels collected over time? Adopt a sunny, half-full attitude and tint them from the inside out. Combine glass paint with a little thinner, and pour about two tablespoons of the mixture into a clear bottle or vase. Swirl it around, then place the item upside-down on the opening of a cup or open pint container so its lip is suspended and the excess can drip out. Let it dry for at least a day, then heat-set the paint—and make your handiwork washable—by baking it on a sheet at 325 degrees for 40 minutes. Add flowers, or display these light catchers on their own.
Plain, inexpensive pottery can look absolutely artisanal with a little customization. Your supplies: a small pot of ceramic paint, some newspaper to spread out on your work surface, and a fine brush. Then it's up to you whether to be spontaneous or precise. Give a vase a Pollock-esque splatter with a few flicks of your wrist, or use a pencil to draw lines along a rim and paint over them. Let dry for 24 hours, then bake pieces on a sheet at 300 degrees for about a half hour to set your artistry in stone.
Painted Cabinets & Stool
Painting these kitchen fixtures saves you a bundle: It costs about a tenth of what new ones do. And if you put in the prep time, the rest is gravy. Remove the doors and drawers, unscrew and label the hardware, and spray and wipe down every last inch of the boxes, fronts, or shelves with a degreasing cleanser; try TSP-PF or Zep. "Then let it all dry for at least a day," says Dave Murphy, training director at N-Hance Wood Refinishing. "Even a tiny bit of moisture can cause bleed-through in the final finish; it looks like yellow or brown dots." Cabinets are made of myriad materials, from solid wood to plastic laminate; if you're unsure what to use on yours, bring a door with you to the paint store and ask an expert. When you're ready to go, sand or use a deglosser (a liquid that dulls the old coating), prime, and sand again. Apply multiple thin coats of semigloss or gloss paint with a microfiber roller. They'll look shiny and new in short order.
If you're looking for another kitchen DIY, we also updated a metal stool with just two coats of heavy-duty, chip-resistant spray paint. You could also take it to an auto shop to be professionally powder-coated.
You can add new complexity to any room with customized floors—you'll start by choosing a base color and applying two to three coats of paint before adding customized graphic finishes. We're sharing five of our favorite ways to paint floors with instructions on how to pull the look off in any space.