Make Rooms for Babies: These Furniture Pieces Will Become Cherished Heirlooms

By Jess Galvan
Local Artist, Creator & Goodwill Makeover Virtuoso

I don’t know about you, but I dang sure NEED flowers, summer, sunshine — and the ocean would be fine too.

I can’t make the sun shine or the temperature behave, but I can paint things, and I can put flowers and sea creatures wherever I want!

“You Belong Among the Wildflowers” was the inspiration behind this bookshelf makeover. The bookshelf itself was perfect in size and shape for its new spot in a baby girl’s room. But let’s be honest — the little fella was definitely not dressed and ready for that promotion!

For the dresser heading to a new baby boy’s room, the request was “under the sea but not baby-like … but not scary.” Like the bookshelf, this dresser was far from ready.

Getting Started: Prep Is Key

We’re going to use chalk paint as our base and then some watered-down acrylics for our floral art and octopus on these. On the dresser, we’ll use a mix of a few colors of acrylic paint and clear coat to make the hardware look the part as well.

A chalk- or mineral-based paint is always my go-to for wood furniture, whether it’s just solid colors or before acrylics, for quite a few reasons:

  1. One, very rarely do you need to sand first. (Ain’t nobody got time for that!)
  2. Two, it absorbs the layers of paint you put over it.
  3. Three, blending with other colors/sanding the perfect finish is something it’s made for.
  4. Four, it can be finished a with couple different top coats or sealers.
  5. And five, it’s nontoxic, low to no odor, and very low VOCs. So, when the weather is “Nebraska,” I can paint inside my house with no worries and no complaints of smells or making my kids loopy.

While sanding is hardly an issue, PREP IS KEY HERE, PEOPLE!

Of course, you wipe down your furniture and usually at some point you use a wood polish on it to repel dust. (I’ve heard this is a real thing, but don’t tell my husband. I’ve spent years convincing him dust is healthy for the immune system.)

Old wood furniture that’s been around for decades has years of polish and sometimes a layer of crud on it. So, you’ll need to wipe it down with a dry cloth first. Then you’ll use something to clean it better and give the current finish some bite or toothiness — I don’t think that’s a real word, but it makes sense in my head. [It’s a real word! —ed.]

I really mean a bit of “stickiness” so that your paint will adhere nicely. I use Jasco brand Liquid Sander Deglosser.

Shake the bottle and pour into a clean dry cloth. Wipe down the entire area, making sure to add more deglosser to the clean areas of the cloth when it gets dirty. You’ll probably be shocked and maybe even a little grossed out at how clean you thought the piece of furniture was until you did this!

Let’s Make These Things!

When the piece is all dry, you’re ready to paint. This is where I feel the need to tell you that you absolutely need a brush made for chalk paint. The bristles and shape truly make a difference. It’s not impossible to make something look good with a regular brush, but it’s worth the money to get the correct tools. (I use both Country Chic brand and Cling On brand. Both can be found online, and, if you’re in Omaha, at a couple places locally.)

Always make sure you have a good amount of paint on the brush, and make long, straight lines. Try your best to make the paint go to each edge of the side you’re working on without “stop marks” in the middle. I wish I could tell you the exact right amount, but it’s trial and error, really.

The first coat is on, and, more than likely, it’s going to look like you let a toddler take over. Especially if you’re doing a light or white color. DO NOT PANIC. The first coat always looks like that!

You’ll be doing at least two coats for a solid finish — on a light or white you’ll need three to four — always making sure the previous coat is dry first.

Like my grandpa would say, “Patience, grasshopper.” Which now makes me wonder if grasshoppers are known for patience …

So, you’re three to four coats in. It’s dry. It looks weird in spots. Again, don’t panic. We’re going to fix that.

With a sanding sponge wrapped in 220 grit sandpaper, you’re going to LIGHTLY sand the entire thing.

If your piece just requires painting to finish it, you’ll go back over areas you might want to look more distressed or worn. Remember to distress spots that would normally have that look after years of use — corners, edges, around the handles, if there are any. Then, you’re ready to seal, so you can skip the next couple steps.

If you’re going to add artwork with acrylics, do that before you distress the final edges.

But before any art is added, take a very lightly dampened cloth and gently wipe everything down. The paint dust will make a mess to paint on and your paint won’t stick.

For adding artwork, I sometimes use a tiny piece of chalk to sketch the main area of what I’m painting, and go just inside the chalk lines so I can wipe it off later.

I use regular artist brushes and a 2-1 mix of paint and water for this step.

After I’m satisfied with my art, I decide whether I want to distress any of it or leave it bright and shiny. For the floral bookcase, I distressed the sides and then went back over them with my watered-down base color and a wet cloth. For the octopus, I just wiped off my chalk lines.

Choose a sealant depending on where the piece is going and what it will be used for. Water-based clear polyacrylic is easy to apply, and it’s easy to wipe down later. You can also use wax meant for wood finishes, but you’ll need the patience to buff and add coats for protection over the years.

If you don’t have the perfect piece of furniture to paint, head to a Goodwill Omaha store! Remember, when you’re browsing, don’t LOOK at how some of the furniture appears, consider what it can become!

If you’re thinking you’d like to do this, but you’re intimidated or scared, just remember IT’S JUST PAINT! No matter how much paint you put on it, the wood will always be under there.

If you have questions, you can always reach out to me here or on social media. When you finish your project, make sure to tag #GoodwillOmaha and send photos!

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