Re painting old furniture – a how to guide

I have a lovely old drinks cabinet that my father gave me a long time ago. I believe it dates from the 1930s or 40s when the sole bread winner, i.e. a man, would return home to a nicely dressed wife wearing lipstick. He would sit in his nice comfy leather armchair and put his feet up, while his wife would make him a martini from the drinks cabinet and got his slippers. Yeah, totally NOT how it’s used in my home (though I’m pretty sure secretly my husband wouldn’t say no to having a 1930s housewife).

My drinks cabinet is used to house the phone and modem, plus bits and bobs like name labels, business cards and sticky tape that need hiding away. It even stores old phone books, but who uses phone books anymore? It was painted red, but it was looking a bit tired with several knocks in the woodwork, a dodgy handle and it needed a good freshen up.


When re painting old furniture, preparation is key. Sanding off flaking paint and smoothing out surfaces is really important if you want to get a nice finish. I used medium white 120 grit sandpaper and finished it off with a super fine 180 grit sandpaper. After sanding each time I wiped down the cabinet to remove the dust. I decided to hand sand instead of using an electric sander as the cabinet was made of plywood on a pine frame and I didn’t want to sand down to expose the wood.



I also decided to upgrade my handles, which were looking very battered. I found a wonderful online shop that sold only decorative handles and knobs…the choice was amazing. In the end I decided on getting two ceramic pumpkin knobs instead of handles. I therefore had to fill the existing holes with wood putty as well as drilling two new holes for the knobs. More sanding after the putty had dried and the cabinet was ready to paint. I also used some painters masking tape to protect the glass lead light inserts and the trolley wheels.

Wood putty to fill holes and dents
Use painters tape to protect surfaces you don’t want paint on

I used an oil based semi-gloss enamel paint. It’s smelly and a pain to clean up, as you need mineral turpentine, but the result is well worth it. Water based enamel paint can be used, but isn’t as long lasting.   I also chose semi-gloss instead of full gloss as it doesn’t show the brush strokes as much. As the paint fumes are strong always paint in a well ventilated area, or in my case outside…but out of the wind.

When painting large areas, it is important to keep brush strokes going in the same direction. If you do need to go the opposite way, lightly brush over the painted area with the brush going the correct way, so that the brush strokes are consistent. You could always opt for a mini roller to make life easier, but you’ll still need a brush for the fiddly bits. I like to use an angled brush as it’s easier to get into corners and painting along edges. Purchase a good quality brush. Cheaper brushes always loose their bristles and can easily mess up your hard work.

Paint strokes in the same direction

The first coat is the most important; good coverage and careful application will make life easier. But don’t apply the paint too thickly as oil based paint has a tendency to form drips.

Oil based paint takes longer to dry, so I left it for a whole day before applying the second coat. My paint tin said touch dry in 4 hours and fully dry in 12 hours. I also gave it a very light sand in between coats, in case any dust or sand blew on to the cabinet while drying outside. As my first coat was thorough, the second coat was easy to apply and took half the time.

First coat done
First coat done

I left the cabinet outside for a few days to reduce the paint fume smells. I removed the painters tape and screwed in the handles. Voila! Very cute and it probably won’t need painting for at least another ten years…or unless I get bored with the blue colour 😉



What did I use?

  • 1 litre oil based semi gloss paint (Dulux colour – sea drifter)
  • angled good quality paint brush
  • mineral turpentine bottle for clean up
  • paint stirrer
  • rag for cleaning any drips or messes, i.e. mainly my hands
  • old container or glass jar to clean your brush in
  • drop cloth to protect your floor
  • painters masking tape
  • wood putty
  • drill
  • 4 sandpaper sheets ( 2 x medium, 2 x superfine)

4 Comments Add yours

  1. jossseline says:

    Love it!!! the color is perfect!!! 🙂


    1. aseparovic says:

      Thank you Joss. It’s a lovely grey blue and I love it. Cheers Amy 😊


  2. Lovely colour,I usually end up painting furniture white so I may try to be braver next time 🙂


    1. aseparovic says:

      It is a lovely blue grey colour. I like white too, but I have a lot of dark brown wood at my place and the white is too bright when it’s in the same room. Cheers Amy

      Liked by 1 person

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