Paint Vintage Furniture: A Step-by-Step Guide to DIY Refinishing

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Before & After Makeover of Vintage Curio

Blue Curio Flip

Let me tell you a quick story about how I became interested in painting vintage furniture.

When I was a child, my grandmother played the piano. She kept several bisque ceramic figurines on them which I always admire during my attempts to learn the piano. A couple of months ago I won a Cybis “Lady Godiva” Bisque Figurine on an auction site. She was my first piece like that and I couldn’t wait to put her on our built-in bookcases. 

Cybis “Lady Godiva”

The day she arrived, I took photos of her and sent them to my mom. Then I strategically decided to place her on the top shelf to prevent my nieces and nephew from knocking it off. One day while they were running around the house with our dog, I noticed just the tiniest movent! I panicked. 

I bought museum gel and some other kind of putty to try to secure her to the shelf but none of that seemed to work. My mom suggested I purchase a glass curio. I looked all over and couldn’t find the style I wanted. I even looked at Ikea but I couldn’t believe how expensive Ikea’s furniture is now! 

That is when I decided to make my own curio by painting a piece of furniture I found for cheap. Searching on Facebook Marketplace, I never really found the right piece until I saw one on Everything But the House’s auction site. We are lucky we live close enough to be able to win items and pick them up at their warehouse here in Cincinnati. 

Thomasville Cabinet

I found a Thomasville lighted cabinet and was able to get it for $112. Then I needed to find someone to help deliver it and I found a man on TaskRabbit. He picked up a couple of pieces for me and it took 2 trips so it ended up costing me $100 for transporting both items. I found an app called Dolly instead of TaskRabbit and met a couple of guys who did a great job so I will hire them directly next time. I really prefer the Dolly app to TaskRabbit when it comes to moving items. 

Now comes the hard part, prepping this thing to paint!

Painting Vintage Furniture: The Prep Work

  1.  I used a degreaser-style cleaner to really scrub the wood and made sure I got off any residue or stickiness. I used Krud Kutter to help cut through any grime that may be on the curio. You can get it on amazon but I found Ace Hardware to have the lowest prices. I think Amazon is overpriced for these products. 
  2. Once it was clean, I removed ALL of the doors and hardware from the whole curio. I’ve seen some people paint with the doors and drawers on but I wanted to take everything off in case I wanted to change the hinges and closures. 
  3. Before I had an actual sander, I used sandpaper blocks in 120 grit to prep the surface for paint adhesion and even out any imperfections. Let me tell you this is hard work! I am so glad I ended up purchasing a sander to do future pieces because I was exhausted by the end of sanding down this piece by hand. 
  4. After you are done sanding the piece, your focus now needs to be on removing ALL of the dust off the item or your finish will look bumping and spotty. There are a couple of things I do to make sure I get them all off. I use a plain paintbrush to scuff up the dust and vacuum it with my shop vac. Then I take a tack cloth and wipe away any remaining residue. Finally, I do a quick wipe-down with mineral spirits to insure all the particles are removed.

Once your painted furniture is completely prepped, it’s time to prime it. I used Kilz primer for my piece but other people on Instagram recommended BIN and I’ll try that for my next project.  

I used a 2” brush to apply the primer over the whole piece. Once a couple of hours passed, I sanded and touched up any spots that were uneven. 

To prep for the painting, I wanted to cover all the glass and mirrors with a product I saw on TikTok. Jasco Mask & Peel looks a little bit like Elmer’s glue. You apply a thin coat all over the glass and mirror and it will dry clear. Thankfully, one of the TikTok tips was to use multiple coats of it to ensure it pulls off clean. This was by far the best tip! I ended up doing 3 thin coats all over. This stuff is not cheap either and I was really hoping it worked. 

The reason I used this instead of tape and paper or plastic is that there were intricate rounded edges that were very hard to tape evenly. The liquid allowed me to get into all the areas easily. 

When all the sections were clear, it was time to add the paint. I did end up purchasing a HomeRight paint sprayer on Amazon. I love it and I’ll do a full review of it after I use it a couple more times. Many of the bigger influencers use the Wagner sprayer but it was more expensive and also had mixed reviews. 

I already knew I wanted painted furniture a bright blue color, which is completely out of my comfort zone! But the Rustoleum Gloss Deep Blue was exactly what I wanted. Because of the nooks and crannies of this piece and having to do the inside and out, it took me several coats before I was finished. Between each coat, I sanded lightly with a 220 sanding block to ensure it was even and waited about 24 hours before adding another coat. It is warm here in Ohio and our garage was pretty warm as well so I wanted to be sure it was completely dry before adding another coat of paint. 

Be careful of any drips! The drips were my worst nightmare and what ended up taking the most time was fixing them. 

I used Minwax Polyurethane for this piece and I really had a hard time working with it. I didn’t like the way it applied or dried, it dripped like crazy and caused streaks on my piece. For other pieces, I’ve used Varthane and liked that much better. I use water-based polyurethane so I didn’t need to use harsh chemicals to clean my sprayer or my brushes. 

Painting Vintage Furniture: Adding The Details

Once I reinstalled the doors, I painted the hinges a soft gold color. I ordered some cabinet pulls from Anthropologie and Amazon. The flower pulls from amazon are AMAZING, I can’t recommend these enough.

Amazon Pulls

The Anthropologie floral pulls are adorable and I ended up using them on the top larger doors. I also ordered floral handles but they are on backorder and won’t arrive until the end of August. 

Anthropologie Kasia Wisniewski Handle

For the bottom section, I wanted to use it as storage and be able to hide stuff in there. I added the mesh cane webbing to add a bit of grand millennial flair. This was very tricky to use and on the inside, I ended up just hot gluing it around the corners on the inside of the lower doors. I’m sure there was a better and more professional way, but this got the job done.

Overall, I’m really happy with the way this piece turned out and it is just perfect for my office! 

A few final thoughts and lessons learned from this project.

  • I need to watch how much product I am applying to prevent drips
  • Purchasing a sander, paint sprayer, and drill was money well spent.
  • In the future, I am going to reevaluate my usage of the Mask and Peel product. It is $30 at Menards and I used quite a bit of it on multiple layers.

Overall, this is exactly what I wanted for my office! It’s not perfect, but it is perfect for me.

Thanks for stopping by!

Until the Next Flip,


Painting Vintage Furniture: Supplies Used

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