Transforming an End Table with Spray Paint

About 9 years ago I picked up a solid wood end table for $10 at a flea market.  The guy wanted $15, but I drove a hard bargain :)

He was really proud of the shiny red finish he’d added to it, but I was more interested in the fact that it was solid wood.  All the affordable furniture nowadays is particleboard or veneer which is so disappointing.

I knew that someday I’d want to paint or re-finish the little bargain table, but someday took about 9 years to become a reality.

After I left my job earlier this summer, I crafted a long to-do list of the nagging projects I wanted to tackle now that I have more time on my hands.  Among the items on that list was painting my living room end tables.

This one was a $10 flea market find and the other one is a free hand-me-down from Andy’s parents.  Both are in good shape, but look dated.

Flea market bargain table.

I’ve been on a mission to brighten up my dark living room on a dime.  Painting these tables gets me one step closer to a brighter, more modern room!

I plan to show a “before and after” look at our new, improved living room once I’m finished :)

As you can tell in the photo above, the table is pretty dark in color and is also kind of shiny.  I took measures to reduce the shine before re-painting it, but in hindsight I should have primed it too.  Oh well.

So here’s the breakdown:

1. Set the table up outside on a large tarp and give it a good rubdown with sand paper.

There is probably an ideal grit level to use, but I’m lazy so I grabbed the only scrap I saw in the basement and went to town.  It was a pretty course grit and likely should have been finer but in the end it was all OK.

2. Your table with be all roughed up after sanding and will also be covered in dust from the varnish you’ve just removed.  Now is the time to take a damp rag and wipe it down to remove all the dust.  You may need to rinse your rag a couple of times through this step so that you don’t just rub the dust around.  You want to get it all off so that your table is clean, dust free and ready for paint.

See how that strip across the center of the table is dust free? That’s what you want to do all over.

3. Grab your spray paint.  Before starting this project, you should have gone to the store to get paint in the color and finish of your liking.  That seemed like an obvious step so I didn’t include it at the start.  If you don’t have spray paint by this point, go get some!  It’ll give your table some time to dry after the damp cloth step.

I chose ivory colored paint in a satin finish.

4. After waiting a few minutes for your table to dry, you will start applying your paint in THIN, EVEN coats.  The table should not be even the slightest bit damp when you start painting.

*Also, if you are painting a dark piece of furniture a very light color, be smart and start with a coat or two of primer.  I didn’t do that and ended up using WAY MORE spray paint than I expected (can you say two and a half cans?!).  Don’t be dumb like me.  Prime first.

You can see that you won’t get good coverage in the first few coats, but that’s OK!  You really, really don’t want ugly drip marks or gloppy looking spots so less is more.  Over time the thin, even coats will build up to a great level of coverage that looks really smooth!

Don’t mind the cracked off chunk on the front. It came that way and I chalk it up to “character.”
Oh, and I turn the table so that part is in the back :)

5. Apply as many THIN, EVEN coats as it takes to get your piece fully covered.  It took me many, many coats because I didn’t start with primer, but you won’t be like me.  You’ll be smart and PRIME FIRST if you’re going from a dark color to a light color.  RIGHT?! :)

6. Let the finished piece sit outside or in a well-ventilated, but segregated, area of your home so that it can off-gas.  Spray paint is stinky and toxic so you don’t want to be breathing those fumes inside.  A week or so is ideal for off-gassing but I found that about 4 days seemed to get rid of the majority of the smell.  I was too anxious to wait a full week!

Here’s a quick “before and after” so you can see what a dramatic difference a few cans of spray paint, a little elbow grease and a few days can make!


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  1. I’m glad you decided to do this one outside and in moderate weather vs. in the basement next to the furnace and then in the garage when it was 30degrees out :). IT looks great!