Overwhelmed by how to paint wood furniture?

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You found the perfect table for your entry. A middle drawer can hide mail and keys. It fits in the trunk. Meant to be!  After dragging the perfect table home it’s still sitting in the garage…waiting for paint.  Not wanting to ruin the table you’re not sure what’s the next step.  I can help with latex paint, yet good old latex.

Latex paints are still deep in my heart my personal favorite paint.  Here are the reasons why.

  • Inexpensive
  • Readily available
  • Great choice of colors
  • Color matching is available
  • It the base for homemade chalk-based paints
  • You can paint a table or your whole house
  • Many of the new paints have low or no VOC
  • With proper prep, the paint can adhere as well as other expensive paints

How to paint wood furniture

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Before we get into how to paint using latex paint, let’s talk about what is latex paint.

What is the difference between latex and acrylic paints?

Latex is the name most used for water-based paints.  Latex rubber was added to water-based paints.  Today paints have no latex.  Acrylic resins are added to higher quality paints.  What’s in a name anyway.   So now that we know, for the rest of this post, I’ll call the paint latex.

What is VOC?

VOC is the acronym for Volatile Organic Compounds. It is organic compounds that become vapors or gasses.  Think nail polish, nail polish removers, glue removers, some cleaning products, dry-cleaned clothes, upholstered furniture, carpet, and mothballs.  Not long ago, all latex paint contained VOC’s.  Now many brands have a low or no-VOC option.  It’s hard to get completely away from VOC’s, but you can try not adding more to your home.

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Above is a door to my blogging desk repurposed from an old buffet.  Painted with latex paint.

What is my favorite brand of latex paint?

My personal favorite latex paint brands are the two “B’s” Behr and Benjamin Moore.  I do believe there is a huge difference in brands.  I also believe everyone has their own unique choice in brands of paint they like.  To find your favorite buy sample sizes to test on thrift shop wood items.

Are you faced with a room that needs painting?  Grab my room painting tips below.

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How do you know if a paint is an oil or water based?

Paint labels are full of fine print and with my old eyes, they are hard to read.  Always check the cleaning instructions if you’re in doubt.  Soap and water clean-up are water-based and paint thinner clean-up are oil based.

Overwhelmed-on-how-to-paint-wood-furniture sq | Country Design Style | countrydesignstyle.com

Above is a close-up of one side of the scrap wood mantel.  I chose not to distress the latex paint on the mantel.

Painting wood furniture with latex paints


My prep is the same no matter what type of paint I’m using.

  1. Sand if the finish is shiny to add “tooth.”  The tooth is the grip.  Note:  I sand overly dirty wood pieces too!
  2. Check for bleed through on dark wood furniture.  Especially mahogany.  Use a primer or paint with primer added.
  3. Clean the wood piece with water and a splash of white vinegar or TSP.

Painting Tips

Mix the paint well.  Especially if it’s been sitting for awhile.

Protect the area with drop cloths.

Use a quality synthetic brush.  Natural bristle brushes are for oil-based paints.  Dip the brush no more than 1/3 into the paint.  Tap the brush on the inside of the can.  The tapping distributes the paint around the bristles.  Do not scrape the brush across the edge of the paint can.  This makes a mess when sealing the can and does not distribute the paint.

Pick an area on the furniture to paint first.  For example, one side, the drawers, the legs.  Complete that area and then move to the next.  I save the top or front for last.

Apply paint with the brush at almost a 45-degree angle, letting the bristles flex slightly.  Paint back into the wet paint.  This means to touch the brush to a dry area on the surface and brush back into the wet paint.  This leaves a smooth finish.  Note: if you’re new to painting, you can also get the paint on an area of the furniture the best you can.  Then finish the area with a layout.  The layout is a light pressure of the brush moving from one side to the other.  I believe in painting a piece well even if I plan on distressing.  Pieces that got the old chippy distressed look over time were first painted well.

Let the paint dry completely.  Sand lighting.  Add a second coat.  Everyone applies paint differently.  I write with a light hand and paint with a light paint.  I paint two coats of paint.  Sometimes three.  A richer depth of color I find is reached with two coats.  Even with one coat paints.


If you’ve been using chalk-based paint or milk paint, I know they are popular to distress.  Latex paints can also be distressed.  I use a fine grit sanding block or sponge.  The areas I sand are raised areas and areas that would be knocked or rubbed.  Things like corners and around knobs.


When using latex paints 80% of the time I would use a soft wax to add a protective finish.  The wax is applied with a soft cloth in circles.  Let dry and rubbed with a clean soft cloth to a shine.  Yes, you can use any of the soft waxes for latex paint.  The other 20% I used a water-based satin finish applied with a brush.  Then lightly sand.

Types of Paint Pros and Cons | Country Design Style | countrydesignstyle.com
How to paint wood furniture | Country Design Style | countrydesignstyle.com

Below is a section of our bed.  I built and painted the bed 20 years ago with latex paint.  I aged the wood with tea and vinegar.

Overwhelmed-on-how-to-paint-wood-furniture pin3 | Country Design Style | countrydesignstyle.com

Let me know in comments below any tips I missed or your thoughts on latex paint.

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I found a new paintbrush in the drawer of my blogging desk!  Wahoo!

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  1. Thanks for the great tips! I do have a question however that I think
    you could probably answer. I was wondering, Does the number of process steps effect shopping cart
    abandonment rates? Do you happen to have any experience
    with that? Any insight would be greatly appreciated!

  2. Cornelia L Short says:

    Meant to say blue not blus but hey you never know until you try 😀 Love blue in any shade!

  3. Cornelia L Short says:

    Super post, I was out shopping yesterday and grabbed a pint of flat latex paint in the “goofs” bin for $2.50 😀 Woohooo and it’s the prettiest duck egg blus 😀 Right even better so I’m having my hubby put up a large framed Pegboard in our small laundry room and I’m going to paint it in this color! I will take before and after pictures!
    As Always Thanks for the inspiration and encouragement, I love your blog

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