Painting IKEA Furniture: Do’s & Don’t’s

Painting IKEA Furniture

The beginning...

I'm sure you've had a piece of IKEA furniture at some point in your life that was just the right price and style for what you needed. If you're like me, you have a few of those pieces. When we moved in to our new house, these pieces were still functional, but not quite the style I wanted any more. One piece in particular was a nightstand I used back when I was living in an apartment in college (shown below). As you can see by the one piece above the drawer, I put it together myself. I knew this was still a very functional piece of furniture I could use in my guest room, but the color was all wrong. Naturally, I took to the internet to see if anyone else was painting IKEA furniture and how it went. 


The decision...

After doing my research, I discovered many people were attempting to do this very thing. There are a million great articles that I would recommend checking out if this is something you want to do. The article over at Homeli was very informative as well as the article from LiveLoveDIY. Their tutorials are pretty good. 

My experience...

Once I decided to make this a DIY event, I went to the paint section of Home Depot to get my tools and make sure I wasn't missing anything. Sometimes when I go to the hardware store, I end up having miniature panic moments considering all the things I may need that maybe I didn't think of beforehand. Sometimes this works out great, but this time my mini-panic probably cost me some hours on this project. So, here's what I would and wouldn't do:

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Don't skimp on the primer. 

Everyone who painted IKEA furniture that I found online either used Kilz or the ever popular

As you can see in the picture of my materials below, I did not go with this one and I definitely wish that I had. Because I didn't, I ended up painting approximately two coats of primer and seven (yes, you read that right) coats of paint before sealing it. According to the articles I read, the primer I have listed above versus the one I used allows you to do one coat of primer and two coats of paint before sealing. That would have made my life a heck of a lot easier. 

I originally went in to get the primer listed above, but I cheaped out because the only one they had available was a giant tub for $50. Had I been a little smarter, I could have bought the good stuff on Amazon (link above) for way less. Lesson learned.

Do clean your furniture piece before priming.

Of course, after sitting in my first apartment, moving in with my parents, and then making it to Indiana, there was a build up of a lot of "stuff" on this piece of furniture. The paint girl at Home Depot said to make sure to clean the surface you will be priming and painting really good, so the primer and paint adhere and you don't have any surprises when you're done. I ended up getting the little 4 oz. bottle in the concentrated formula because it was only $6 and you could just put it in a spray bottle with water for a less concentrated dose. 

Of course, I'm glad she told me this because I had a flashback as I was cleaning this of a past Halloween party in which a "doctor" spilled a red candle all down my nightstand. Luckily, a little scraping and some Krud Kutter did the trick. 

Clean thoroughly

Do use a paint sprayer or foam brush/roller versus a paint brush.

As you can see from the pictures above, after the seven coats I needed to do from using the wrong primer and using a standard paint brush, I was left with a not-so-smooth finish in some areas. The brush lines were impossible to cover up. From the articles I mentioned earlier, I do believe I should have invested in a little paint sprayer to avoid this. If that isn't in the budget or doesn't make sense for your one project, then make sure you fight the urge to pick up the paint brush.

Because I used the wrong primer, I got annoyed and figured everyone was wrong and a paint brush would be just fine... not so much. The foam brushes I have shown in the picture of my materials earlier worked pretty good, but it was very tedious. I did wait about 3-4 hours, sometimes a full day, between coats just to make sure everything had dried fully. I found that I was having to slop on the paint pretty good for the first couple of coats while being careful to spread it evenly so it didn't drip. Obviously, I'm no pro-painter, however, I'm just speaking from my real experience.

I have heard great things about the sprayer listed below, but I have not given it a try yet. 

LiveLoveDIY, one of the articles I linked to earlier, says that the one in the link below is her favorite because of the adaptability with mason jars and no need for a huge air compressor. 

I plan to do more research on paint spray guns. When I do, I'll update this post! (Psst... let me know if you have a good one you love)

Don't forget to spray a clear coat over the top.

After all the paint had dried (name of the paint and top coat I used below), I found that the piece was a little rough and didn't have that natural smooth furniture feel, so I went out and bought a top coat spray to give it more of the glossy, smooth to touch feel. I'm sure there is a better top coat spray out there, but this did the job. 

The generic top coat from the local paint store.

The paint I used from Home Depot to get the espresso finish.

Finished Product...

Again, if you don't skimp on the primer, use the write sprayer/brushes, you could do this without half the strife it caused me. Regardless of my mistakes, I am happy with the result and it now matches the other pieces in the room.

Cheers to you learning from my mistakes and making your IKEA furniture painting a much easier experience because it is truly a great, cost-effective way to repurpose furniture you already have in your home. 

What do you think? Have you tried this before? Any painting tips you would add? 

Not ready to tackle this project yet? Pin this article for later using the image below!

With love,

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  1. As an Ikea fan, I’m SURE you could have purchased a new nightstand cheaper than the cost of these materials. Just saying.

    1. You’re probably right, lol. It came out the way I wanted, but we don’t have an IKEA yet that is closer than 3 hours away. Supposedly it’s coming soon which will be lovely!

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