How to Paint Furniture - Child's Rocking Chair Flip

I’m a big fan of upcycling. It is cheap and it prevents things from sitting in a landfill. What is there not to love? Painting furniture is an easy way to take something that may look a bit dated or worn and transform it into a custom piece for your home.


Earlier this summer I found this adorable childs rocking chair on the side of the road in my neighborhood. I instantly knew my daughter would love it, so I circled around the block to pick it up.

It needed a little TLC, but I could see that it had potential. I knew that I could easily give it a quick makeover during naptime.

Refinishing furniture does not need to be daunting!

Prep Work: Fill, Sand, & Clean

Prepping to paint furniture is the most important and least fun part of the process. It ensures that your paint has a smooth finish.

1)Use wood filler to fill in any deep indentations. Check the directions on the product to drying times!


2)Using 120-150 grit sandpaper, sand down the entire chair while focusing on any rough, raised, and indented areas. You want to make sure you rough up the previous paint or wood sealer and smooth out imperfections. Always wear a mask while sanding!

LEAD WARNING You have to be super careful that you aren’t sanding down leaded paint. When you sand you create dust that you can inhale. You absolutely do not want to breathe in lead! You can buy lead test strips at your local hardware store to check to see if your paint or finish has lead.


3)Give the chair a good clean. You want to make sure you remove all dust, dirt, and extra grime. Use a bit of soap if needed. If you apply paint to a dirty surface the paint may start to bubble and peel.

Picking Out a Paint

Oil vs. Water Based Paints

There are two different kinds of paint: oil and water based. Spray paints, some wood finishes, and higher end paints are often oil based. Traditional latex wall paint is typically water based. You should always check the products before purchasing!

Unfortunately you aren’t really supposed to use water based paint over and oil based paint. The two surfaces will not bond well and the paint may peel. (You can have more success with oil based paint over a water based paint!)

If you’re uncertain about the previous finish or paint on the piece, you should assume it’s oil based. You can still use your favorite water-based paint! You just have to make sure you give it a really good sand and use a strong bonding primer. My favorite is the Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Primer. It is water based for easy cleanup, but still performs really well!

If you decide to go with a latex paint, you may want to splurge and get a higher end one, like Emerald Acrylic Latex Paint by Sherwin Williams. The better the paint, the less likely it is to get scratched or water spots.


My rocking chair had spindles, which would make it difficult to paint with a brush, so I decided to go with spray paint. (Hoping to get a paint sprayer soon!) I chose Vintage Teal by Rust-Oleum for the paint color.


If you are painting with latex paint, you should use a foam roller whenever possible. The roller hides brush marks and gives the paint a smoother finish. If you have nooks and crannies you can use a brush and then try to roll over whatever you can.


When painting you also want to make sure you use thin even coats and try to minimize brush strokes and drips. Read the instructions for you paint and make sure you abide by the recoat times.


Paint becomes dry to the touch fairly quickly, but that doesn’t mean it is ready to be used right away. A little bit of pressure from your hands, resting against your body, or knocking into a doorway could easily damage the fresh paint.

Let your piece sit for a few days to ensure that it is fully cured. You can test how hard the paint is by trying to give it a small indentation with your nail in a less noticeable spot.

Enjoy & Repeat!


Painting furniture is such a great way to transform an older drab piece of furniture into something more current with design trends. Purchasing new furniture can be costly and isn’t great long term for the environment.

When in doubt, pick up that old side table off of the curb, alley, garage sale, or facebook marketplace. With just a little paint and some TLC you can transform it into something perfect for your home!

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