How to Transform Furniture With Creative Paint Applications

Breathe new life into your furniture and cabinets with outside-the-box paint, stain and sealant ideas.

By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Go Geometric

Mix it up! Spice up dressers, consoles and cabinets with graphic impact and bold color by first painting the entire piece a solid color, then applying a hand-painted pattern to the inset portion of paneled door fronts.

His 'n' Hers

Designate storage space and add graphic punch with his-and-hers silhouette cut-outs added to cabinets or vanities. To do this project, paint the cabinet or vanity a solid color, add trim around the edges of the door fronts, then attach the plywood his-and-hers silhouettes with liquid bonding adhesive.

High-Gloss Lacquer

To add one-of-a-kind flair, try updating a vintage credenza with a sprayed two-tone finish. To achieve a professional high-end look, rent an HVLP (high-volume, low-pressure) paint sprayer from a rental store, then paint the piece using high-gloss lacquer in contrasting colors. Using bold tones on the furniture and lighter tones on the hardware often works best in achieving proper balance.


Modernize chairs with traditional cane detail using metallic paint. First, remove the existing finish with a fine-grit sanding block. Next, add a spray coat of primer. Last, apply a metallic finish coat of spray paint in semigloss or gloss finish.

Wax On

Waxed finishes are great for maintaining the natural, organic features of rustic furniture while also ensuring durability. First, a wash of paint or stain is applied to the wood. Once dry, furniture wax is added to the desired surfaces with wax pads or cheesecloth.

Dual Finishes

For understated elegance with a surprising twist, consider updating wooden chests, consoles and cabinets with a combination of painted and stained finishes. By keeping the exterior stained, then revealing a solid painted interior, a room's color scheme can carry onto the furniture in a sophisticated manner.

Matte Finish

To use rustic wood furniture outdoors, it's important to properly seal it. The organic look of this outdoor table is protected from the elements with a sealer in a matte finish. Matte is best for pieces with rough texture, since it minimizes flaws and imperfections; gloss finishes are best for smooth, sleek pieces.

Auto Finish

Automotive paints applied to wood and metal furniture result in glossy, sparkly factory finishes. Strip paint with an electric sander, then drop the unfinished piece off at an auto body shop. Many body shops charge by the bay and the number of paint colors used rather than by the piece. By dropping off several sanded pieces in need of the same new paint color, homeowners can get more bang for their buck.

Rustic Charm

If you are interested in a distressed, primitive look, bring the look to life with layers of paint. First, remove the existing finish with an electric orbital sander. Next, apply single coats of different paint colors in random areas, one at a time, allowing two hours for each color to dry. Lastly, rough up and partially remove the paint with the orbital sander, apply a stain over all the surfaces with a rag, then apply a sealant.


Re-invent tables or stands as showstopping statement pieces with high-gloss, bold-colored paint. This TV stand previously featured a natural yellow pine wood finish. After a quick sanding, a sprayed coat of tinted primer and two coats of sprayed hot pink lacquer, it's become an eye-catching conversation piece.

Metal Options

When it comes to updating metal furniture, two types of paint ensure the most durable finishes: direct-to-metal paint (also referred to as DTM) and urethane paint. If the project requires a brushed application, it's best to choose direct-to-metal paint. For pieces in need of sprayed finishes, urethane paint — which requires wearing a protective mask and working in a well-ventilated area — is the ideal choice.

Custom Colors

Give a space the look of custom millwork by picking up ready-made cabinetry from the home improvement store, roughing up the existing finish with steel wool or sandpaper, then using a paint sprayer to add a colorful finish. Add another layer of designer detail by doubling up on drawer pulls and knobs.

Mix Tops and Bottoms

Pine tables are often the best fit for country- and/or farmhouse-style spaces. To turn them into pieces that are a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll, simply seal yellow pine tops with a satin or matte sealant, then update the legs with bold, glossy paint.


Add a bit of antiquity to furniture with a limed finish using lime wax or white shoe polish. This effect can be used on both stained and painted pieces. Once the proper coats of paint or stain are applied and dry, use cheesecloth to apply lime wax or shoe polish into grain and millwork details. Remove excess wax with steel wool, then seal the limed detail with furniture wax and finishing oil.

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