how to paint furniture ikea wardrobe transformation
Budget, DIY, Furniture Restoration, Home Decor

How To Paint Furniture: DIY IKEA Wardrobe Transformation

I’ve painted all kinds of things before (art, leather items, walls), but never had the guts to repaint a piece of furniture. Being sensitive to smells, I was always worried about the furniture smelling like chemicals and being unusable after. I was pleasantly surprised to prove myself wrong! It was all about the right choice of paint. Today I am going to share with you my decorating story and teach you how to paint your own furniture.

From Black to White – YES! It’s Possible!

Ikea Hemnes Wardrobe Makeover hack Before and After
IKEA Hemnes series wardrobe transformed with white paint

The problem

We moved into a new place that didn’t have an entrance closet. That was a bit of a shocker – where are all the coats going to hide? And here in Toronto we get nearly 6 months of winter, which means lots, and lots of coats. I was in desperate need of a large wardrobe. After searching for ready-to-buy wardrobes I discovered one trend: nothing was made out of wood. Most of the (somewhat) budget friendly options were all particle board with laminate finish, which tend to break down quickly. I am a big fan of quality and furniture that can last many years. So I looked into solid wood options, which skyrocketed the price into the thousands! I wasn’t ready for such a big commitment, considering that this place was a rental.

Decorating consultation service in Richmond Hill Aurora Vaughan King Maple
What the entry looked like before – just look at that dirty floor! To the rescue came my favourite Steam Mop!

The solution

It had to be a white wardrobe, because a dark coloured one would just overwhelm the space. I had plenty of dark furniture before – now I wanted something light and modern. Then I stumbled upon the IKEA hemnes series wardrobe. Hemnes is almost always made from solid pine, so this was a fantastic, reasonably priced option. It EVEN CAME IN WHITE! But alas, it was discontinued! Why do the stores always discontinue the best products, and right before you need them? So my only option was to cross my fingers and hope to find a used one on kijiji.

PRO TIP: If you’re looking for a specific item on kijiji, set up automated alerts and receive matching results right in your email. For example, I searched: “ikea hemnes wardrobe” and subscribed to alerts. All matching items popped up in my inbox daily.

How to paint furniture step by step tutorial

Eventually I found the exact same wardrobe that I wanted, but in black. The price was right, so I decided to repaint it. It was my first time ever refinishing a piece of furniture. I was nervous at first, but did plenty of research, and now I can confidently share my experience with you. For a list of materials, scroll down.

First step: Remove all hardware. It helps if you can disassemble your piece of furniture into smaller parts. Mine already came disassembled.

Overall this piece was in great condition, but one piece had a large damage. I repaired it with wood filler.

How to paint furniture step by step tutorial

Second Step: Sanding isn’t necessary (unless your furniture has a previous paint job on it, in which case you can use a chemical stripper to remove that paint), but it helps to smooth out any blemishes and for the primer to adhere better. The results are well worth it! I quickly (by that I mean it took several hours) went over all surfaces with an electric sander using 150 grit paper. After sanding vacuum all pieces and wipe down with a damp cloth.

PRO TIP: Go over with a tack cloth to remove any last debris. You should do this every time right before applying any finish.

click on pictures to see full size

Third Step: Primer. THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP! Choosing a good primer is a must, because it will ensure that your finished product will last a long time. Your primer should be stain blocking and tailored to adhere to smooth surfaces. I was working with pine here, which has multiple sappy knots. If a primer isn’t used, the sap can seep through the white paint and leave the finish looking yellow or blotchy. I went with Zinsser BIN Shellac Based Primer for several reasons. First, it is a sealing primer, which means that the sap knots in the furniture would be sealed and not leak through the paint job. Second, it is shellac based, which means that it’s non toxic and virtually odorless once dry.

I first tried the spray can version, but one can was barely enough to cover 1/8th of my overall surface area – too expensive. So I bought the Zinsser BIN 946-mL can, and that was enough for my entire project. I used a foam roller to apply it. It takes a bit of practice to get the application technique right, since the primer dries really fast. You need to work quickly and avoid going over the same area several times. Practice on a scrap piece of wood or the back of your project. Don’t worry if you mess up – you can always wait for it to dry, then sand lightly to smooth out the problem area.

PRO TIP: Stir the primer before using, and don’t pour too much into the tray. This is a quick drying primer, which has a tendency to gum up in the tray and on your tools, so make sure to always keep your can lid closed, and use smaller batches at a time.

BEFORE PAINTING: Using 200 grit sanding paper, do a quick hand sand over the primer, focusing on areas where you messed up or the primer didn’t go on smoothly. Then remove all dust with a vacuum or damp cloth. Remember your tack cloth.

Continue reading to learn how to apply paint to your furniture

click on pictures to see full size

Fourth Step: Painting. This is where the fun begins! I wanted a pure white wardrobe, so I went with BEHR Ultra Pure White in Eggshell finish. Use a brand new foam roller to roll on the paint in a long smooth motion over all the flat surfaces on your piece of furniture. Use the small detail brush to apply paint in the corners and smaller edges, where the roller can’t reach.

Be patient and let your surfaces dry thoroughly before touching them and between layers. I generally let 24 hours between each coat. I did a total of 3 paint coats. If I made any mistakes during painting I sanded those parts before doing the next coat. I was careful on the last application though.

And this is the final result!

how to paint furniture ikea wardrobe transformation

I’m quite pleased with how it turned out. I must say, I was worried about the durability of this paint job, but I am pleased to report that 2 years later (with daily use and some abuse from the kids), the wardrobe still looks great! None of the paint chipped off and the colour is just as clean as ever.

This is how the new entry looks. All cleaned, with plenty of storage for our outerwear and accessories.

Materials you’ll need:

  • Furniture of choice (preferably solid wood, but painting works over any material really)
  • Wood filler (if the furniture has any damage)
  • Sanding paper (150 grit, 200 grit)
  • Electric sander (optional)
  • Tack cloth
  • Latex based paint
  • Stain covering primer (I used Zinsser BIN Shellac Primer)
  • 3″ or 4″ roller with foam refills (aim for at least 3: 1 for primer, 1 for painting, and 1 just in case)
  • Small painting tray
  • Small brush for touch ups

If you enjoyed this tutorial on how to paint wood furniture, subscribe to my newsletter!

Don't miss out on new exciting posts! Subscribe now!

If you don’t feel comfortable tackling your own furniture paint job, I will be happy to do it for you! Visit the Services section to learn more!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *