Top 4 Tips for Selecting a Color to Paint Your Furniture

Vintage Green Lather top desk 1970's France Available from "HOLLYWOOD AT HOME"

A coat of paint can resurrect old furniture, breathe life back into a dull room, and bring an entire motif back to life. It's one of the least expensive and easy DIY projects that will ever pack such a punch.

Follow these steps to make sure the color you pick will leave you without any buyer's remorse to dampen the excitement you feel every time you walk into your brand new, old room.

Paint a Sample

It seems obvious, but sample swatches can lie. Samples are a good jumping-off point -- a place to start. Florescent tube lights humming above you on the ceiling at a hardware store (hopefully) don't replicate the lighting in the room you're going to paint.

Paint can dry lighter or darker, and with no frame of reference, the "perfect" color in the store might not be so perfect when you get it home and see it next to your other things. You got your brushes and tape and you're excited to do it now. Don't. Be patient. Pick a few maybes, get a few samples, take them home, and paint them on small areas of the furniture that are out of the way. The moment they dry, you'll know.

Let it Shine

There are several different kinds of interior paint, and their names all concern how the dry paint's finish reacts to light. Flat and matte finishes have essentially no sheen. Instead of reflecting light, they absorb it. These finishes are perfect for concealing minor imperfections. Eggshell gives off some sheen. Next up are satin, semi-gloss, and high gloss, which give off the most sheen, appear shiniest, and reflect the most light.

Know Your Paint

Oil-based paint is recommended for most indoor wood furniture because it tends to last longer and soaks into the grain of the wood more quickly. Melamine, an oil-based paint that is generally used to paint wood cabinets, can also work well for indoor wood furniture.

For outdoor wood furniture, stick with latex paint because it won't dull as quickly. If you're painting metal furniture, oil or latex paints will work, unless it's galvanized or wrought iron -- then avoid oil. For plastic furniture, consider acrylic spray paint.

Take the Extra Step and Prep

Your furniture might not be dirty, but you need to clean it before you paint and trap any foreign particles, lint, dirt, or grease that you won't even notice until the paint dries. Your paint job will look better and last longer if you clean your furniture with a mild detergent and water, let it dry, and apply any primer that is necessary for your paint to stick. Make sure you choose a paint that is labeled as "washable."

Painting your furniture can change an entire room with just a few hours' work. Take your time, prep, make sure the room is ventilated and -- once you've picked the right paint -- get ready for your interior makeover. Your only regret will be that you didn't do it sooner.

Andrew Lisa is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles. He writes about home decor and design strategies, and has profiled business leaders like Steve Wynn.


On the second-floor landing, Barbara Bestor turned a nondescript wooden built-in into a focal point by painting it a gleaming sunny yellow. "A shiny finish makes a piece pop out, adding character to the room," she says. To keep glossy colors from looking "candy coated," as Bestor puts it, she recommends painting by hand. "When high-gloss colors are rolled or sprayed, they can look lumpy or manufactured. You should see the human hand in it, the evidence of the bristles."
Acrylic paint, in Van Gogh Yellow, More Painting ideas from Martha Stewart

Tall Campaign-Style Mid-Century Dresser -Tall dresser dazzles in exuberant yellow. Quality piece features seven dovetailed drawers and oak hardwood construction. The chest of drawers sits on small bun feet. Campaign-style hardware and drawer pulls are all intact and the metal has a beautiful patina. In very good vintage condition with a few scratches to the yellow finish. 1960s.- Open Air Modern

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Mighty Maharajahs: Forts & Palaces of India by Amita Baig, with photographs by Joginder Singh (The Vendome Press).

The glorious arts, architecture, decoration, as well as the maharajahs and maharanis and sultans who lived there and ruled the surrounding landscapes and kingdoms are presented in this richly illustrated and highly informed book. Singh’s photographs of interiors, landscapes and escarpments are bold, intelligent.
Author Amita Baig is a consultant to the World Monuments Fund for its India program, and I’m very grateful for her commitment to protecting and preserving the heritage and beauty and treasures of India for us all to visit. The embellishments and ornamentation are dazzling. These pages and the detailed histories and bibliography make me want to jump on the next flight to Delhi…and will inspire designers and architects to plan a tour, I have no doubt.

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