Photo of black and hot pink polka dot cabinet © 2014 by Lynda Makara

Whimsical painted furniture ideas, painting DIY

When I inherited my mom’s wood furniture, most of it had already been around for a good 50 years. I was grateful to get it, but also tired of looking at it. So I decided it was going to get a fresh whimsical look with paint.

Many people are reluctant to paint wood furniture, but it makes such a dramatic difference for a small investment of time and money. By creating fun designs on furniture, you can break out of the beige box and your give your home a unique personality.

This furniture painting tutorial provides the basic instructions along with a gallery of photos to inspire your own whimsical designs.

The basics of furniture painting

A good video demo.

Step by step instructions for preparing and painting wood furniture

  1. Remove all the hardware and clean it. You may also wish to prime and paint it using Krylon spray paint.
  2. Clean the piece thoroughly. I recommend washing with Murphy’s Oil Soap. If you intend to sand all the old finish off, you can skip this step.
  3. Lightly sand the furniture with fine grit sandpaper. Wipe down after with a tack cloth.
  4. Apply a coat of primer. I recommend Kilz brand if not using spray primer.
  5. Apply at least two coats of paint. You can use Krylon spray paint, latex paint or acrylic craft paint in semigloss or gloss. Use a small foam roller (if you’re not using spray paint) for faster painting. You’ll also need a small brush for tight areas.Let dry completely in between coats. Lightly sand before the next coat.
  6. Add your decorative paint designs. Go crazy!
  7. Apply a coat of sealer (optional). This will make the surface more durable.
  8. Put the hardware back on.

Tools for painting furniture

roller and brush for painting furniture

Roller and brush for painting furnitur

My funky furniture transformations

Before photo: Microwave stand/cabinet

before photo: cabinet

Before photo: cabinet

I thought I had a better photo of this without a chair being in the way, but I think you can still see most of it.

I never liked this setup with the microwave stuck in a corner of the kitchen. After my mom died, I relocated it to the countertop and debated whether or not to chuck the cabinet. It was one of the few pieces that was not solid wood, just particleboard. So I banished it to the garage for a while.

Later I decided it could be salvaged after all.

After photo: Black cabinet with hot pink polka dots

Photo of black and hot pink polka dot cabinet © 2014 by Lynda Makara

After photo: black cabinet with hot pink polka dots by Lynda Makara

By far my favorite furniture transformation! This cabinet now has a proud place in my living room. The colors coordinate with my furniture, a hot pink sofa and black club chairs.

I also modified the design of the doors. I took off the old cabinet pulls and added that round piece of wood in the center, a craft store wood plaque cut in half with my jigsaw. Then I glued and screwed it onto the doors, covering up the two holes left by the old cabinet pulls.

I had two crystal knobs left over from making curtain rods and finials, and they were added to the doors. Now I love it!

Glitter anyone? Yes, please! A closeup of the cabinet detail.

crystal knobs and glitter on cabinet

Crystal knobs and glitter on cabinet

The outer edge of the wood circle is painted silver then layered with silver glitter. A fun accent for the crystal and silver cabinet knobs.

The wavy stripes were penciled in, then painted.

Before photo: Chest of drawers

before photo: chest of drawers

Before photo: chest of drawers

I liked the size and relatively simple design of the chest, but it was just blah (and in desperate need of cleaning!).

After photo: Chest of drawers painted white and black with polka dots

after photo: black and white polka dot chest of drawers

After photo: black and white polka dot chest of drawers by Lynda Makara

This one shows a bit of restraint for me, but it still pops. I decided to accent the top and bottom trim, along with the knobs, by painting them black. Then I simply added white polka dots here and there. It sits in my craft room, along with the cabinet pictured below.

Before photo: cabinet with shelf

before photo: cabinet

Before photo: cabinet

Another uninspiring piece. It had been used to hold a large stereo with enormous speakers, along with other assorted junk.

After photo: Cabinet with black and white swirls and dots

after photo: funky black and white cabinet

After photo: funky black and white cabinet by Lynda Makara

This cabinet has been turned into a table for my craft room by using it with a file cabinet and a piece of wood laid on top. It now holds my printer, Betty Boop doll and trash can, with storage below.

Gallery of whimsical painted furniture

Funky painted bench

funky painted bench

Funky painted bench by Lynda Makara

This was just a plain wooden bench I got at Walmart. I added all the little triangles, finials and doodads such as wooden beads and ceramic animal heads. Then I painted it a bunch of different fun designs.

Note: If you’re painting outdoor furniture, make sure to use outdoor paint.

Really clever dresser makeover with paint and decoupaged Marilyn Monroe poster, a video tutorial

Side table

painted table by patti haskins on flickr

Sunflower painted chair

colorful painted chair by donna reed on flickr

Red stool with purple motif

Colorful red and aqua bench

custommade bench by sarabbit on flickr

custommade bench by Sarabbit, on Flickr

Glitzy makeover of old dresser with white paint and silver glitter—LOVE!

Whimsical chair

an artful chair by marilyn roxie on flickr

Revamping a girl’s dresser. Repairing, painting and decoupaging tips.

Rustic cabinet

Rustic commode by Meg Lessard, on Flickr

Fun parrot chair

Parrotdise by grahamc99, on Flickr

Small funky painted table. Furniture painting motifs.

Swirling vines painted chest

Treasure Chest - Nadeau by Seth Anderson, on Flickr

Abstract blue and yellow table

Painted chairs galore. Photo gallery of funky painted chairs.

Funky furniture design tutorials

Projects and inspiration

Painting Furniture (anyone can do it!)
Lots of furniture makeovers including this turquoise dresser with asymmetrical flower motif

Gallery of whimsical end tables
Inspiration and tutorials from the Decorative Paintbrush

Painted Ikea Furniture
A boring Ikea cabinet transformed

Furniture painting shortcuts
Purple fantasy dresser tutorial and no sanding involved!

How to paint whimsical furniture
Dresser with handpainted flowers by Shizzle Designs

Recommended reading

Furniture Makeovers: Simple Techniques for Transforming Furniture with Paint, Stains, Paper, Stencils, and More

Painted Chairs: 25 Fresh and Fun Projects “Print on Demand Edition” (Pastimes)

Painting and Decorating Furniture

Fabulous Painted Furniture

3 replies
  1. Kerry
    Kerry says:

    Hi, I’m having a hard time painting bright colors over my darker spray painted backgrounds…do have any suggestions?

    • [email protected]
      [email protected] says:

      Yes, you’ll need to underpaint those areas with white paint. I had to do that on my black cabinet with the pink polka dots. It’s an extra step but the only way to get those colors to pop.


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