How to paint your furniture sort of like a pro

Welcome to The Home Projects Blog! I know it doesn’t say that at the top of the page, but use your mindpowers to cross off my name and replace it with The Home Projects Blog. You good now? Cool.

Now, you probably thought this was A Serious Blog? “Man, that Kate Schell,” you thought, emphatically and reverently, as you clicked this link, “she tackles the issues.” Yeah, like, guarding your heart and, uh, myspace. Well, I’m sorry, but as the writing adage goes, write what you know — and right now, all I know is I’m painting my dresser.

paintproI recently moved again, as I have moved many times in these post-collegiate, pre-retirement years. (And I avow here and now to never move again. I am setting up shop. I am putting down roots. I am settling down. I am sinking in. I am doing ALL the idioms and cliches.) Since with the move came partial unemployment, I have some spare time. I mostly repressed my creativity while in temporary, white-walled apartments, but the Ghost of Pinterests Past has arisen from her bedazzled grave now, and I’m getting my craft on. My first project? Coordinating my bedroom furniture.

I know lots of things about painting stuff. My dad’s a landscaper handyman extraordinaire, the most fastidious and ethical worker I know, who has passed on some tricks of the trade. And I was a caretaker at a couple of apartment complexes one summer — which mostly involved me digging up a bunch of infectious grasses every other week and driving the Idaho backroads in a glorious old beater truck with the windows rolled down and the country music turned up — so I’m not exactly a professional painter, but maybe, like, CollegePro.

So yeah, I have proper preparation and execution down to a science. I didn’t do much of it for this project, but I could have. I may not be a Serious Blogger, but I am a seriously skilled painter, okay? Here, let me prove it by offering some #pro#tips:

– When you arrive at the home improvement store of your choice, do not ask the greeter an idiotic question, like, “Do you have a paint section?” This will give him an opportunity to point straight ahead, smirk poorly suppressed, and say, “Yes, right under that giant sign that says ‘PAINT.’”
Affirm your adult-ladyhood. When the middle aged salesmen come by acting like some Knight of Home Improvement here to rescue you, the hapless damsel, confidently say, “Thanks, I’m finding everything just fine.” Then text any questions to your dad.
Invest in quality supplies. A good brush will help you keep an even texture. A paint pan will allow you to pour out the amount you can use before it gets tacky in the sun. A paint-can opener will save your butter knives from getting bent up. A sanding grip thingy will prevent your fingers from catching on fire from friction. So don’t skimp here, like I may or may not have, by pulling out any old plastic brush from your Fred Meyer value pack, grabbing a couple loose sheets of sandpaper, and hoping for the best.

Always wear protective eye-gear when sanding. Or at least those knockoff Ray-Bans you got for five bucks at a Denver gas station.
Do not just scrape at the veneer willy-nilly, especially if you bought the wrong kind of sandpaper with much too large a grain. Whatever patterns you make in the wood may show when you prime it.
Primer is the worst. It’s like thawing a pound of veal with a blow-dryer before you cook an ornate meal. It’s time consuming, and there’s no tangible reward. Maybe dinner is delicious, and everyone compliments your spice pairings, but no one is ever like, “Wow, my fine chef friend, I’m so glad you stood at your kitchen counter with a blow-dryer for two hours, I can really taste the effort.” So it’s easy to get impatient and throw the veal into the oven partially frozen. Don’t do that. The ugly black veneer will show through and no one will come to your next dinner party.
– Seriously, go slow and steady. Even I, a Very Experienced Painter, get overeager. But wild brushstrokes will fling primer everywhere. Plus, whatever crappy, slap-happy pattern you make might show through the final coats of paint. Plus, you’ll get primer all over your ironic cat shirt.

This is the cool part. Consider moving your primed furniture into the front yard so your neighbors can see your domestic talents in action. They’ll likely be so impressed, they’ll bring you baskets of cookies and invite you to the block party they’re throwing in your honor. They’ll redecorate their homes in the same shade as your dresser and name their next baby after you.
addacat– I’m serious, slow and steady. Do not be hasty, you little orc-hobbit. Think like an Ent. Watch the lines, the texture, the clouds passing over the Northwest sun.
Do not get bored and go inside to watch Netflix.
Do not leave your furniture out in the rain for two days. (Whoops.)
No, one coat is not enough.
No, it isn’t dry yet.

And then, voila! It’s painted!

Next time you’re passing by my bedroom (you creepy stalker), please compliment the furniture. Acceptable affirmations include: “Did you have to serve time after thieving this priceless installation from some fancy furniture museum?” and “Gee, this looks like it was built by an Amish wunderkraftsman then painted by your dad!” and “Golly, that doesn’t even look like hand-me-down Ikea!”

Come over any time. I’ll be in my front yard painting.


  1. Jamie Wright Bagley · · Reply

    I love The Home Projects Blog! For serious, I will read a post by you any day. On any topic. Because I love HOW you write as much as what you write about. Brilliance has many branches. Let it happen.

    1. Jamie, it is possible you are, in fact, Too Nice. (;

  2. Oh, Kate Schell! I love this. You really take on the issues!! And I adore house projects. :)

  3. This made me laugh and raised my spirits. I just read you excellent post on Bathsheba (reminded me of something I wrote on Esther, and also gave me lots of new things to ponder)and then I poured my coffee and started browsing. Very glad I did. I have a home improvement project in mind when I finish my course this summer and it may involve furniture painting. I promise to sand and prime!

    1. Ha, thanks Juliet. Glad my silly rambling is a helpful reminder. (:

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