Easy paint makeovers in your home

Painting accents in your house can embellish an existing scheme with fresh colors.

Story highlights

  • You can easily refresh your home with a quick paint makeover
  • Redecorate your throw pillows or spruce up unfinished wood furniture
  • Use stencils and exterior spray paint on mirrors, tables and curtain rods
A step-by-step guide to refreshing everything in your home that's paintable.
Unfinished Wood Furniture
What You'll Need
-One gallon Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Primer Sealer Stain Killer ($19, lowes.com for store locations).
-One gallon Benjamin Moore semigloss latex (shown in Decorator's White; $38, benjaminmoore.com for store locations).
-One gallon Behr High-Gloss latex (shown in Citrus Blast; $24, homedepot.com for store locations).
-Roller frame with cover (about $9 at hardware stores).
-Regular or foam paintbrush (prices vary, at hardware stores).
-One pack 220-grit sandpaper (about $4 at hardware stores).
-One one-inch-wide roll blue painter's tape (about $5 at hardware stores).
How to Do It
Step 1: If your piece has knots, sand them until they're even with the grain, then spot-prime them. Next, roll a coat of primer over the whole piece to seal the wood. This will hide imperfections and provide a surface for the paint to adhere to. Let dry for at least an hour.
Step 2: Using a roller on large surfaces and a brush on smaller ones, apply a coat of high-gloss latex paint (which will make the piece easy to clean and won't leave behind a tacky, rubbery surface that will stick to books and other objects). Let dry for at least two hours, then apply a second coat. Paint removable shelves separately.
Step 3: To create the two-tone look of the three-by-six-foot bookshelf shown at left, use one color to paint everything except the inside of the shell and the top and bottom of each shelf; use a contrasting color for those areas. When the shelves are completely dry, lay one strip of painter's tape on the top and another on the bottom of each shelf, placed flush with the front edge, then use a foam paintbrush to apply a streak-free layer of the first paint to the front edge. Let dry completely before removing the tape.
Already Painted Furniture
What You'll Need
-One gallon Ace Royal Touch Interior Alkyd Enamel Undercoater (about $40, acehardware.com for store locations).
-One gallon Behr High-Gloss latex (shown in Citrus Blast; $24, homedepot.com for store locations).
-Regular or foam paintbrush (prices vary, at hardware stores).
-One pack 100-grit or 220-grit sandpaper (about $4 each at hardware stores).
How to Do It
Step 1: If the paint is peeling or uneven as a result of multiple coats, give the entire surface a light once-over with 100-grit sandpaper to smooth rough edges and create a uniform surface. If the old paint is in good condition, with no flaking or bumps, use 220-grit sandpaper to rough up the smooth finish a bit so the new paint will stick. Vacuum up all the residual grit, or wipe it off with a clean cloth.
Step 2: Apply a single, uniform coat of primer with either a regular or foam paintbrush and let dry. Many brands recommend waiting up to 24 hours before painting.
Step 3: When the primer is dry, use a clean brush to apply the first coat of paint. Let it dry for at least two hours, then apply a second coat and let it dry (two coats are generally the minimum needed for a nice, even finish). For furniture with intricate carving or thin spindles, consider using a spray primer and a high-gloss spray paint after sanding (for the technique, see Step 2 of Coffee Table).
Glass and Metal Coffee Table
What You'll Need
-Two cans Krylon Fusion (comes in 40 colors; shown in River Rock on the glass and White on the frame; $7 each, krylon.com for store locations).
-One pack steel- wool pads (about $4 at hardware stores).
How to Do It
Step 1: Remove the glass and set it aside. Use steel wool to scrape off any rust you see on the frame.
Step 2: In a well-ventilated area -- outside on a nonwindy day is best -- set the frame on cardboard or a drop cloth that extends a foot beyond it in all directions. Shake the paint can for two minutes. Then, from 10 to 12 inches away, spray on a thin layer, using a sweeping motion that starts off of one side and continues past the other. Let it dry completely (check the can for drying time), then apply a second coat, flipping the frame over if necessary to cover it completely.
Step 3: Clean both sides of the glass to remove all dirt, dust, and streaks. Next, lightly spray-paint only the underside. This gives the glass opacity and a pretty color but leaves the top easy to clean and still able to accommodate a coasterless glass without scratching.
Rattan and Wicker Furniture
What You'll Need
-Three cans Krylon Interior-Exterior spray paint (comes in 62 colors; shown in Glossy White; $5.50 each, krylon.com for store locations).
-One pack 220-grit sandpaper (about $4 at hardware stores).
How to Do It
Step 1: If your piece has a clear topcoat or has been painted previously, give it a light sanding to help the paint adhere.
Step 2: Spray-paint the top of the piece (for the technique, see Step 2 of Coffee Table). Let it dry completely, which will take about an hour. Next, flip it over and do the same on the underside. Repeat the process as many times as you need to coat all the recessed areas.
Ceramic or Glass Lamps and Paper or Fabric Shades
What You'll Need
-One can Krylon Interior-Exterior (shown in Tidepool; $5.50; or one can Krylon Fusion, $7, krylon.com for stores.
-One quart Pratt & Lambert Accolade eggshell latex (shown in Ventana; prices vary, prattandlambert.com for stores). Or one one-ounce tube SoSoft Fabric Acrylics ($1.70, decoart.com for stores).
-One two-inch-wide roll Scotch Safe-Release Painters' Masking Tape for Very Delicate Surfaces ($13.50 at hardware stores).
-Soft-bristle brush (about $1 at hardware stores).
How to Do It
Step 1: Protect the cord and the lightbulb socket first by covering them with painter's tape, then spray-paint the base (for the technique, see Step 2 of Coffee Table). For a glazed ceramic or glass base, use Krylon Fusion, the only spray paint out there that adheres to slick surfaces problem-free. For a matte ceramic base, regular spray paint, such as Krylon Interior-Exterior, will do a fine job.
Step 2: To make over a shade as shown here, measure in one inch from the top of the shade and place the end of a roll of painter's tape below that line; continue measuring and taping around the entire circumference, leaving a one-inch border above the tape. Repeat the process on the bottom of the shade.
Two caveats about painting shades: Paint will block light, so limit it to small details. And because latex paint is water-based, expect a slight amount of crinkling where you paint a paper shade (fabric shades will be fine).
Step 3: Use a soft-bristle brush to fill in the borders with an even coat of paint (latex on paper, acrylic fabric paint on fabric). Let dry completely before removing the tape.
Painted or Finished Wood Mirror Frames
What You'll Need
-One can Krylon Interior-Exterior (shown in Glossy White; $5.50, krylon.com for store locations).
-One two-inch-wide roll Scotch Safe-Release Painters' Masking Tape for Very Delicate Surfaces ($13.50 at hardware stores).
-One pack 220-grit sandpaper (about $4 at hardware stores).
How to Do It
Step 1: Protect the mirror. If it doesn't detach easily from the frame, cut out a piece of kraft paper or cardboard to cover the glass, and secure it with strips of painter's tape. Make sure the tape strips are flush with the frame's border (or squeeze them under the frame if you can). This will spare you from having to scrape rogue paint traces off the glass with a razor blade.
Step 2: If the frame is finished with varnish, lacquer, or polyurethane, give it a gentle once-over with sandpaper until the texture is slightly rough. This will help the paint stick and ensure uniform coverage.
Step 3: Lay the frame flat and spray-paint it (for the technique, see Step 2 of Coffee Table). Apply several thin coats to avoid drips, waiting 30 seconds between coats. Let dry for an hour when done.
Fireplace Ceramic Tile Surround
What You'll Need
-One gallon Ace Stain Halt Latex Blocking Primer & Sealer (about $22, acehardware.com for store locations).
-One gallon Benjamin Moore Regal AquaGlo Semi-Gloss latex (shown in Decorator's White; $37, benjaminmoore.com for store locations).
-One quart Pratt & Lambert RedSeal Semi-Gloss latex (shown in Ventana; $14 to $16, prattandlambert.com for store locations).
-Two packs 80-grit sandpaper (about $4 each at hardware stores).
-China- or natural-bristle paintbrush (from $6 at hardware stores).
How to Do It
Step 1: Sand the tile to roughen the glazed surface; otherwise the paint will adhere in patches or not at all. Sand in small X patterns by going diagonally in one direction, then over the tile again along the opposite diagonal until you can feel that it is no longer slick.
Step 2: With a brush, apply a "blocking" primer, which will keep any old soot and smoke stains on the tiles from bleeding through your topcoat. Let dry for 24 hours. Painter beware: High heat and flammable paint are a disastrous combination, so the firebox (interior) is strictly off-limits, as are fire screens.
Step 3: Apply two coats of semigloss latex paint to the tile, waiting at least two hours between coats. Semigloss will give the tile a nice shine and make it easy to clean.
Varnished or Finished Hardwood Floors
What You'll Need
-One gallon (for a 12-by-12-foot room) Pratt & Lambert Withstand Oil Gloss Floor Enamel (shown in Lambswool; prices vary, prattandlambert.com for store locations).
-Orbital sander (about $140 at hardware stores or can be rented by the hour from Home Depot, homedepot.com for store locations).
-Paint roller with 48-inch extendable handle (about $15 at hardware stores).
-Paint tray (about $3 at hardware stores).
-One two-inch-wide roll blue painter's tape (about $8 at hardware stores).
-One pack 100-grit sandpaper (about $4 at hardware stores).
-Dust mask (about 50 cents at hardware stores).
How to Do It
Step 1: Before beginning to sand the floor with an orbital sander (which can be rented), dust and mop to remove any oil and dirt. Next, close all the windows and doors. Seal the cracks under doors with painter's tape to keep dust from traveling through the house; to keep it out of your lungs, wear a dust mask. Now you're ready to sand (if you don't, the paint won't stick to the smooth finish).
As you go, touch the floor occasionally to check your progress. When the glassy surface is gone and you feel bare wood, stop sanding immediately. Tackle corners and tight spaces by hand with sandpaper, then damp-mop up the dust. Let the floor dry completely. (It will take an afternoon to do a 12-by-12-foot room.)
Step 2: Mask off the bottom of the baseboards with wide painter's tape.
Step 3: Starting at the wall farthest from the door and working with a paint roller in the direction of the floorboards, paint in sections from one side to the other until you've painted yourself out of the room. After at least 24 hours (nothing must touch the floor while it dries), apply a second coat. With paint that's specifically formulated for floors, there's no need to seal afterward.
Natural or Synthetic Fiber Rug
What You'll Need
-One gallon Behr High-Gloss latex (shown in Citrus Blast; $24, homedepot.com for store locations). Or one one-ounce tube SoSoft Fabric Acrylics ($1.70, decoart.com for store locations). For sisal or jute, use a latex paint. For softer materials, like flat-weave wool or cotton, try a more flexible acrylic formulation for fabrics, which won't dry into a stiff surface that might eventually show cracks.
-One two-inch-wide roll Scotch Safe-Release Painters' Masking Tape for Very Delicate Surfaces ($13.50 at hardware stores).
-Roller frame with cover (about $9 at hardware stores).
-Tape measure or ruler (prices vary, at hardware stores).
How to Do It
Step 1: Outline your border stripe with painter's tape (which will peel off when you're finished without leaving a sticky residue). Starting at one edge of the rug, use a tape measure or a ruler to help you firmly place your first piece of masking tape where you want the outer edge of your border; measure every foot or so to be sure you're laying the tape straight. Continue all the way around the rug.
Then repeat the process to tape off the inner edge of the border, measuring in from the edge of the first tape outline. If you're not 100 percent confident about your ability to eyeball it, consider using a protractor to be sure the horizontal and vertical strips meet at a 90-degree angle. (Note to the ambitious: You can use this same technique to map out other designs, like stripes and plaids.)
Step 2: Using a roller (the thinner the stripe, the smaller the roller), apply the paint in an even layer between the two tape outlines.
Step 3: When the paint is dry (latex paint will take at least two hours), carefully remove the tape.
Throw Pillows
What You'll Need
-One one-ounce tube SoSoft Fabric Acrylics (shown in Tangelo Orange; $1.70, decoart.com for store locations).
-One one-inch-wide roll Scotch Safe-Release Painter's Masking Tape for Very Delicate Surfaces (about $8 at hardware stores).
-Stencils (various prices and packages, at craft stores).
-Soft-bristle brushes (various prices and sizes, at hardware stores).
-Small paint tray (about $1 at craft stores).
How to Do It
Step 1: Whether it's new or not, machine wash the pillow or its removable cover as the care label requires. Iron the fabric when dry.
Step 2: Carefully position the stencil over the cooled fabric and tape it into place with painter's tape. If you're working with a removable cover, place a piece of cardboard inside to keep the front from sticking to the back when it is painted.
Step 3: Squeeze a small amount of fabric paint from the tube onto a paint tray. Use a soft-bristle brush to gently apply a coat to the fabric, using up-and-down strokes (avoid side-to-side painting, which can result in paint sneaking under the stencil). Allow the paint to dry for 24 hours, then remove the stencil.
Plastic and Laminate Trays
What You'll Need
-One can Krylon Fusion (shown in Satin Khaki; $7, krylon.com for store locations).
How to Do It
Step 1: The general spray-painting technique found in Step 2 of Glass and Metal Coffee Table applies, but a few extra precautions are needed to keep puddles and drips from forming on the edges and in the corners of a tray. Don't spray down onto the tray; instead, set it on one side and hit it straight on, rotating to spray all sides and edges. It's especially important to keep sweeping from side to side as you spray so paint doesn't build up in any one area.
For an intense, uniform surface, apply several light, even coats, waiting 30 seconds to a minute between them; let dry thoroughly. Next, flip the tray over and do the underside the same way.
Step 2: Let dry for an hour before using the tray. (Always use dishes when serving food from the tray or any other painted surface, to avoid the risk of particles of paint flaking off and being ingested.)
Wood, Metal, or Plastic Curtain Rods
What You'll Need
-One can Rust-Oleum Lacquer Gloss White Spray Paint ($5, rustoleum.com for store locations). Or one can Krylon Fusion ($7, krylon.com for store locations). For wood or metal, a lacquer paint's hard, glossy finish will withstand the abuse of sliding curtain rings. For plastic, you'll need Krylon Fusion.
-One pack 220-grit sandpaper (about $4 at hardware stores).
How to Do It
Step 1: Remove the finials. If the rods are finished or painted, sand them lightly first. If they're unfinished wood, prime as explained in Unfinished Wood Furniture; for plastic or metal, skip this step.
Step 2: In a well-ventilated space, set down a piece of cardboard (that enormous box your computer came in, unfolded, will do nicely) at a 90-degree angle, with half on the floor or ground and half against a wall or fence. Leave about a foot of cardboard around the rod on every side to catch flying spray. To keep the rod from sticking to surfaces as you paint, lean it against the cardboard on the diagonal, so only the edge of the rod is touching the cardboard. Spray, then rotate and spray again.
Step 3: Remove the wall mounts from the wall and give them and the finials a coat or two of paint, as needed, on both sides, letting the pieces dry completely in between.