“Revitalizing Vintage Furniture with Spray Paint and Elbow Grease”

“Revitalizing Vintage Furniture with Spray Paint and Elbow Grease”


Vintage and antique furniture can add character and charm to any space. However, over time these pieces may become worn, scratched or simply outdated in color or style. The good news is that with some spray paint and a little elbow grease, I can give tired vintage pieces a whole new look! In this article, I will share my tips for preparing, painting and protecting vintage furniture to revitalize it with a fresh, updated appearance.

Assessing the Original Finish

Before I break out the spray paint, it’s important to assess the existing finish on the vintage piece. This will help me determine the proper preparation and painting techniques.

Identifying the Type of Finish

I need to identify if the original finish is wood stain, paint, lacquer or another type of coating. Here are some ways I can determine the finish:

  • Stain – I should see wood grain showing through and be able to feel texture. Stain will absorb into the wood.
  • Paint – Paint will feel smooth and cover the wood grain pattern.
  • Varnish or lacquer – These finishes will have a smooth, shiny coat over the stained or painted wood.

Checking the Condition

Once I know the type of finish, I inspect its condition.

  • Intact finish – I can paint over this without additional prep.
  • Worn finish – I will need to remove any loose finish material.
  • Damaged finish – Bare wood will need priming before painting.

Understanding the original finish helps me choose the proper prep steps.

Preparing the Surface

Proper preparation is crucial for my new paint to adhere well. Here are some key steps based on the condition of the original finish:


I always start by cleaning the surface with a lint-free cloth and mild soap and water. This removes grease, dirt and grime so the paint can stick.

Removing Hardware

It’s much easier to paint without drawers, knobs and pulls getting in the way. I remove all hardware, label it and set it aside until I’m done painting.


If the original finish is worn, cracked or peeling, I sand these areas to feather the edges and create a smooth surface. I use 120-150 grit sandpaper and take care not to sand down to bare wood.

Filling Holes and Imperfections

Small holes, gouges and imperfections must be filled so they don’t show through the new paint. I use wood filler and allow ample drying time as directed.


For surfaces with bare wood exposed, I apply a wood primer to seal the wood and allow for proper adhesion.

With good prep work done, I’m ready to add color!

Choosing a Color Scheme

One of the best parts of revitalizing vintage furniture is selecting a fresh new color scheme. Here are some of my tips:

  • Coordinate with your decor – Choose a color that complements your existing room decor. You can match an accent color or choose a neutral hue.

  • Consider the style – Some vintage styles look best in classic colors like white or black, while cottage style pieces can handle trendy colors.

  • Use the entire color wheel – Don’t limit yourself to just muted tones. Vintage pieces pop in bold hues like emerald, sapphire or lemon yellow!

  • Accent with contrast – Try painting the main cabinet a neutral tone and use a bright, contrasting color on drawers or legs.

  • Mix and match – For a eclectic look, use a different color on each drawer or section of a piece.

Picking the perfect color combo is an opportunity to add personal style. Don’t be afraid to get creative!

Preparing Supplies and Workspace

Now for the fun part – it’s time to paint! Proper prep of my supplies and workspace will make the painting process smooth and successful.

Selecting Paint

For most vintage revivals, I use spray paint. Spray paint adheres well and provides a smooth, consistent finish. I look for formulations safe for indoor use and those that work on the type of material I’m painting.

Masking and Covering

I protect all nearby surfaces from overspray by masking areas with painter’s tape and drop cloths. I remove hardware, drawer pulls and surfaces that I don’t want painted.

Setting up Workspace

I work in a well-ventilated area and set up my piece so I can easily walk around all sides while spraying. I place the spray cans nearby and make sure I have rags and stain remover handy just in case of any drips or errors.

Priming First

For bare wood or very light paint colors, I apply a spray primer coat first. This allows the topcoat to go on smoothly.

Spray Painting Techniques

With my workspace fully prepped, I’m ready to revitalize this piece with a fresh coat of spray paint! Here are my best tips for technique:

Several Light Coats

I apply several thin coats rather than one thick coat. I lightly spray side-to-side while gradually moving the can up and down and overlapping each pass. This prevents drips.

Keep Proper Distance

I follow the manufacturer’s directions for the ideal spray distance. If I hold the can too close, I’ll get an uneven, blotchy finish.

Spray Vertically and Horizontally

On furniture with panels or divider details, I spray horizontally across each section. Then I follow up by spraying vertically to ensure full, even coverage.

Hit All Angles

As I apply coats, I continually circle around the piece to hit it from all sides. This allows me to catch any missed spots.

Watch Paint Dry

It’s important not to add too many coats before allowing proper drying time between applications. I check for tackiness before adding another light coat.

With careful technique and multiple sheer coats, I can get professional-looking results!

Protecting and Finishing Touches

Once I achieve full coverage in my desired color, there are just a few more steps to complete the project:

Clear Topcoat (Optional)

For added protection on highly used pieces, I apply a clear acrylic spray topcoat. This adds a barrier against scratches and scuffs.

Reattach Hardware

Now I can put the knobs, pulls and any other hardware I removed back in place. This finishes off the freshly painted piece.

Touch up Imperfections

If I notice any small drips or imperfections once the main painting is complete, I carefully go back and apply touch ups with a small art brush.

Let Fully Cure

It’s important the paint fully cures, which can take 1-2 weeks, before putting the furniture back into use. This prevents any tackiness or paint transfer issues.

Enjoy My Revitalized Vintage Finds!

With some simple spray painting techniques and a bit of time and effort, I can give new life to garage sale finds, family heirlooms or flea market treasures. Nothing beats the satisfaction of taking a worn-out vintage piece and transforming it into a stylish showpiece.

Revitalizing vintage furniture has allowed me to add beautiful, affordable and eco-friendly designs to my home. I hope these tips help you discover the joy of upcycling old pieces into your own custom creations!