Oops, we did it again! And by it I mean gave these funky little IKEA Rast nightstands of ours another new look by way of a little fresh paint! If you’re not up to speed, what feels like 100 years ago now (but what’s actually only 4 or so) we snagged these super affordable Rast nightstands or chest of drawers at IKEA for our master bedroom – they don’t sell them anymore, but they do sell a similar, unfinished chest of drawers (that’s even better than the Rast, IMO) called the Tarva. Our Rasts came unfinished and when we brought them home we gave them a fun DIY makeover using some really cool driftwood stain, playful bun feet, a larger top and some fun mix and match knobs from Anthropologie. We absolutely loved how they turned out at the time, but I’ll admit that recently I was ready to give them a fresh look as we updated our master bedroom a little bit thanks to the water leak that happened in the master bathroom (head HERE to hear all about that and see the bathroom makeover).
I really wanted to do away with the driftwood stain and cover them in something sweet, neutral and fresh and landed on a plan to use some shade of light tan to make that happen. Of course, for this chick paint is never that simple. In fact, no matter how much paint I work with and how many projects and years pass by, choosing a paint color remains one of my biggest home design and DIY pains in the bum. Paint is SO hard – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! It thoroughly rattles me that all paint shades look vastly different in different rooms, different lights, at different times of day. It turns my brain to mush, and my hunt for the perfect tan paint was no exception.
Left: Before; Right: After
As I hunted I quickly realized that I had a few requirements for said new tan paint. 1) It couldn’t be too dark or muddy 2) It couldn’t have green or yellow undertones 3) It couldn’t read completely pink, either. 4) It couldn’t read too “bright” or orange – it had to be subtle and muted, but light and fresh enough to not weigh down the space. 5) It couldn’t read purple, which some tans or beiges tend to do. Shew! Talk about a tall order! This, my friends, is why paint is kind of my nemesis. I wish I could express a certain level of expertise about paint or feel like I have a really firm handle on choosing paint colors, but to be honest I’ve learned that in every space, every corner, every light, paint colors look so vastly different that it’s almost impossible for me to feel comfortable telling you guys that X paint will look amazing in your home. I can certainly share my experience with certain paint colors in certain rooms, but that doesn’t mean those experiences will ring true for you in your home.
In the end, after tons and tons of testing in the bedroom that these nightstands would live in, I landed on a tan that I’m really in love with and this is all personal preference. Yes, it reads slightly pink-ish, but I actually love that and feel like it’s more of a subtle “clay” or “nude” tone. It’s called Townhouse Tan by Sherwin Williams and it’s my personal favorite “tan” paint color I came across in my search. Super into it! I went with a satin finish because that’s my preferred finish when painting wood furniture, but just for the record, I love a semi-gloss or gloss finish, too! It just feels so polished.
Now onto the good stuff. I’ve written what feels like a thousand DIY furniture painting tutorials here on the blog over the years, and that’s been more about me sharing me experiences and the results of my trial and error than it has been about sharing my expertise. I’ve loved the process of learning what works and what doesn’t when it comes to painting furniture, and hope that you guys have enjoyed learning right along with me! The biggest thing I’ve learned is that though several steps of the furniture painting process are important for a polished, professional finished product across the board, there are also a lot of methods to the madness here. So many people approach the same furniture painting project in slightly different ways, use products in different ways and have different methods of achieving their own version of a perfect finish, and I think that’s ok! So much of it is about your personal preferences and what makes the process easy, affordable and approachable for you. That said, I feel like with this project I crossed a threshold and kind of nestled into my preferred process for getting what I think is a perfect finish, and that’s what I’m outlining in the tutorial below. I don’t usually toot my own horn here because I feel like I’ve had more DIY failures than I can count, but if you want to try your hand at painting wood furniture and feel like you need an easy, approachable, affordable and most of all tried and tested step-by-step to follow to get that perfect, professional finish, this is for you!
Supplies for Your DIY Painted Bedroom Nightstand Makeover
How To: Easy DIY Tutorial to Perfectly Paint Wood Furniture
- Remove any hardware like knobs and any other attachments like the bun feet we have on ours. For a perfect finish it’s important to paint your surfaces without any hardware attached and to paint any other attachments separately. The bun feet just screw right off though so it was no biggie to take them off and put them back on at the end.
- I started by giving all of my surfaces a once-over with a fine 220-grit sanding sponge. Over the years I’ve come to accept that properly prepping my wood surfaces by sanding them with a grit of sandpaper that matches what the surface needs and wiping them clean is one of the keys to getting a great finish. I solely used a finer 220-grit sanding sponge for this project because these nightstands were stained, not painted and my surfaces were already really nice and even. If you’re painting over existing paint or have really uneven, rough surfaces, you’ll want to start with sanding your surfaces using a medium-grit sandpaper or sanding block like 120, wiping clean, priming and then using a finer grit like 220 before painting.
- After sanding I wiped all of my surfaces clean with a damp, soft cloth and let them dry completely.
- I wasn’t going to prime these because I thought I wouldn’t need to and that the stain was light enough that the color wouldn’t bleed, but after applying one coat of paint on one of drawer fronts to test that theory, I realized that this would all be so much easier if I primed all of my surfaces. So that’s what I did! I used one of my 4” foam mini paint rollers (these are my go-to for paint projects with mostly flat surfaces like these and latex paint – they’re so easy to use and give the most flawless finish) to apply a coat of KILZ2 Latex Primer that I had in the shed to all of my surfaces. Since I was going to be painting these with a latex-based paint, I used this KILZ product instead of the oil-based KILZ Original that I also have in the shed, which is more appropriate for use with oil-based paint. Remember, primer isn’t intended to make every surface completely opaque white – it will look a little uneven and that’s exactly what it’s supposed to look like.
- The primer dries pretty quickly, but I waited 2 hours before moving on and applying my first coat of Townhouse Tan paint.
- Using another one of those same small 4” foam rollers, I applied my first coat of Townhouse Tan paint to all of my surfaces, on both nightstands. For the sake of efficiency I always recommend applying a first coat to ALL pieces of your project in one go rather than running through all steps with one piece and completing that, and then tackling the second piece, start to finish. It makes the process less time consuming because you’re not washing rollers and waiting for them to dry so many times and in general, I think it makes your finish more homogenous between the two pieces.
- Then I allowed that first coat of paint to dry for 30 min to an hour. A warmer, dryer climate will make for faster drying, which is kind of why Phoenix is ideal for furniture painting projects. Paint dries so quickly here! Make sure all of your surfaces are dry to the touch before moving on to a second coat of paint.
- Using that same small foam roller again I applied a second coat of paint to all of my surfaces. That did the trick for me – 2 coats was perfect. But, if a 2nd coat still doesn’t feel opaque enough for your project, depending on your paint and the wood piece you’re painting you may have to apply a 3rd coat. If that’s the case, just make sure you let your 2nd coat dry thoroughly before you do that. If you don’t let that dry thoroughly, your finish may have a tough time curing or completely drying.
- Then I let the entire project dry completely for 24 hours. You want your paint to be totally dry before the last step in this process – applying a protective topcoat.
- Using a 3” wide foam brush, I applied my first coat of Varathane Ultimate Polyurethane – Water Based in Crystal Clear Satin to all of my surfaces. Applying a polyurethane topcoat like this with a wide foam brush makes the process so easy and the finish flawless. I simply apply the polyurethane in strokes that go with the grain and only apply one stroke to each spot on my surface. Don’t layer up – all you need is to do one long stroke across the surface, and then keep on going down the line until you’ve covered the entire surface stroke by stroke.
*BEST TOPCOAT EVER! There are some notes that I think are super important to share about this product because bottom line, I feel like it’s 100% life-changing if you paint furniture. This is by far the very, very best topcoat of any kind that I’ve used to protect my painted wood furniture. Not only did it not alter the color of my paint in any way shape or form (no darkening, no yellowing), but it didn’t mess up my finish at all and it went on like a dream with no bubbling or fuss! What’s more, I absolutely LOVE the end result when it dries. It looks SO professional I just want to cry! This is a revelation for me, friends because I used to loathe the idea of protective topcoats because they always altered my paint job that I worked so hard on in some way. Another important note is that I used the satin finish for this because that was the finish of my paint and that was the finish I was going for, but it dried more like a semi-gloss, which I actually ended up loving. Just wanted to give you that heads up because it did come out a bit more glossy than a satin, in my opinion.
- Once I let my 1st coat of polyurethane dry for 1 hour, I applied a 2nd coat to the tops of my nightstands. I didn’t feel the need to apply a 2nd coat anywhere else because the tops are really the only part of these nightstands that see traffic and they also hang over the rest of the nightstand, kind of protecting the rest of it from any mishaps.
- Then I let my 2nd coat on the tops of my nightstand dry for another hour and applied a 3rd coat. I really wanted to be sure that I’d have a teflon tough top so they wouldn’t get damaged with everyday use and a 3rd coat was by no means too thick or obnoxious. This goes on and dries relatively “thin” and is meant to be applied in multiple layers to protect painted furniture.