DIY Corner Presents: Make Your Old Furniture Look Like a Victorian Dreamland, Darling!

Turns out, five years of buying cheap college furniture and accepting all sorts of hand-me-downs does NOTHING for grown up apartment aesthetic.
Publish date:
August 14, 2013
furniture, victorian, home decor, diy life

Perhaps some of you have noticed that I’ve been writing about graduating and moving for what seems like forever now, but it actually happened! I’m out of colonial Virginia misery! I’m currently spinning around with old timey suitcases and an A-line skirt, all under the glittery lights of the big city as I belt some Chenoweth tune at the top of my lungs!

But the moving process wasn’t cutesy or inspiring in the least. It was actually hell. Don’t even get me started on apartment hunting in New York, though maybe I’ll write a tip post someday. Suffice it to say, moving has earned its spot on the top most stressful events people go through (sources say that number one is actually divorce -- RESPECT).

Moving became especially stressful when I inventoried the heinous hodge-podge of furniture I had to take with me. Turns out, five years of buying cheap college furniture and accepting all sorts of hand-me-downs does NOTHING for grown up apartment aesthetic. And I’m an aesthetic FREAK for a living! I write about beauty! And style! And fashion! Trust, cheap Formica and scratched pine can never look pleasant.

Honestly, I couldn't have cared less about my furniture in college. If I wasn’t studying diligently, parents, I was using it as storage for sticky shot glasses and gross college kid things.

But now, things have changed. I want things to look nice! I want to feel respite when I come back home from the cruel world out there!

The catch is, I have no cash. Moving sucks you dry, babes.

Luckily, I got my DIY juices flowing enough to spruce up the furniture I had.

My biggest project I undertook was my childhood dresser. It was originally a light pine with a hefty amount of finish.

I got it to look like this:

Painting treated wood takes a lot of preparation if you want your paint job to look good and last. You can’t just slather paint on wood UNLESS it is untreated, real wood without any finish. Otherwise, the paint will flake right off. Therefore...

STEP ONE: Apply the Primer

Preparation can go either of the following ways: using a sander or sanding block (and a lot of arm power) to get the finish off of the entire piece, OR (my way) priming the furniture with some hefty layers of solid, white primer.

Priming by hand is kind of the worst, though. You get unsightly glops and streak marks that will show up under your layer of paint. Then you have to take the time to sand it down and re-prime. That’s why I used this:

First of all, spray paint primer takes SO much less time. It goes on evenly, and it dries in minutes. That said, you should wait until your primer coat is completely dry before attempting a second layer.

Secondly, Kilz kills it (see what I did there?) in the primer department. It’s a heavy-duty, long-lasting primer that usually gets the job done in two coats.

I covered my pieces in three solid layers of spray primer before painting, because my things had gone through a considerable amount of wear and tear, and I wanted my new coat of paint to look as vibrant as possible. Again, any glops or dried droplets of primer should be sanded down, so that your final paint job looks smooth and even all over.

STEP TWO: Choose Your Paint

I knew going into the painting process that I wanted my furniture to look whimsical, girly, and somewhat Victorian. It seemed like a good balance for all of my weird trinkets. You know, like my severed hand and paint-chipped baby doll. Or my rock posters, taxidermy, and amateur comic strip art. Hooray for heavy-handed juxtaposition, right folks?

So I picked a baby blue, eggshell paint by Glidden (so cheap!) and a gold spray paint by Rust-O-Leum.

STEP THREE: Decorative Embellishments

To get the gold rim on my furniture, I simply sprayed the edges while the furniture was only primed. Each edge had a solid, two-inch layer of gold paint. Make sure that you spray with about a foot of space in between the can and the furniture; otherwise, you could wind up with a gloppy mess of paint that you’ll have to sand down.

Once it dried, I went over each surface with a cloth roller of the blue paint. Immediately, I took a moist rag and wiped down the edges, so as to expose the gold paint underneath.

It’s important to note that I wanted my pieces to look imperfect and antiqued, so I didn’t mind that my gold rims weren’t uniform. I liked the streaky look that the wiping created.

That said, if you want a neater finish, cover your furniture in the primary paint color and then use painter’s tape or newspaper to block the areas you don’t want spray painted in gold. That should result in nice, clean, straight lines.

For my mirror, I chose to scratch off the thin layer of blue paint on top with a fine-grain sandpaper, in order to expose the solid gold layer of paint that I had sprayed underneath.

You can try this on your larger pieces of furniture too, if you like the antiqued look more than the gold-rimmed look.

And there you have it! A quick, painless guide to painting even the ugliest and oldest of furniture.

Do you guys have other furniture renovation feats that you care to discuss? I still have a desk to paint, you know. Any ideas are welcome.