Painting a wooden table set and color combos
February 12, 2016 12:31 AM   Subscribe

We want to paint a table and chair set - what type of paint do I need for our needs for this project? Also color combo suggestions welcome.

Part 1: Painting

We're picking up this table and chair set from Ikea.

We should just be able to lightly sand them(if that, it's untreated) prime, then do a glossy paint, correct? Or will semi-gloss be enough? What brands do you like? We're pretty DIY handy.

We don't mind a bit of wear, to be honest we hardly use our table other than for crafting/puzzles and I'll cover it with a waterproof barrier if I craft on it. I do not need a lacquer perfect finish, so dings or scuffs would be fine. Why get one you say? Well we're using a $40 folding card table set, soo..

I've seen things from people just painting it, or sealing it with some sort of clear coat, or putting wax over it. However since we hardly use our table - I'm thinking a few coats of gloss should be protective enough.

Note I DO NOT want to do oil-based. We have a small patio to paint on but I still think the smell will give me a headache and I don't want the dry-time for that since it's still cold here.

Part 2: Colors

Now I'm trying to decide what color to paint the table and what color for the chair. I'm drawn to greens, blues, teals, pinks, jewel tones, metallic gold/rose gold, etc. I would do yellow chairs but my husband refuses to do yellow. There's some ikat table runners I have in mind that have pinks, blues, yellows, and purples.

I love mid century modern and retro designs (60s and 70s). This dark wood cabinet will go behind it. Current colors are beige carpet and off-white walls in a rental - ew. Though that won't be forever but I don't mind re-painting it later. I'd like to avoid white but light/mid gray would be okay.

So far the color combos I'm drawn to would be:
Electric blue table and dark pink chairs
Emerald green table and mid-gray chairs
Aqua table & ?? chairs
Here's my favorite table runner, this and this are tied for second.
posted by Crystalinne to Home & Garden (19 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Someone will advise you on paint and color. I advise a little research on sanding and find a tack cloth to wipe the surfaces down, maybe an application of canned air at the end. Then find a calm area to paint and a way to move air past the units as completed. Also think of how you will position the table and chairs for ease of painting as it will take time, there are many surfaces. If the units come as parts all the better to handle. What you do not want is dust on the wood when painting, having to move painted units or parts around when wet and most of all handling marks from not planning just where those legs or seats will go after getting them wet. And wear gloves, let's you step away and not mess the area up.
posted by Freedomboy at 12:40 AM on February 12, 2016

Best answer: A satin finish looks nicer than gloss, in my opinion. High gloss on furniture (or walls) is just tacky.

If it is raw, untreated wood, you shouldn't need to sand.

Latex paint. Can be applied to a table top quickly with a mini-roller. I wouldn't bother with a separate primer, there's new-ish latex paints that claim to not require primer.
posted by yesster at 1:08 AM on February 12, 2016

Best answer: Sorry - didn't finish.

Mini-roller for table top. Fast, efficient, gives a good finish with no evidence of brush strokes or lap lines, if you're careful.

The mini-roller should work well for lots of surfaces on both table and chairs, since they're comprised of mostly flat surfaces. A small brush will get into the crevasses. Don't overload rollers or brushes. Take care of drips/runs immediately.

For brushes, buy cheap ones and don't bother washing them. You can put a brush in a plastic ziplock bag and it will stay fresh for a day or two. Throw away when done.

It is always better to do more thin coats, rather than fewer heavy coats. If you wait more than 48 hours or so, sand lightly before recoating.

Latex paint goes through a couple of stages after applying. First, it will skin over. It might feel dry to the touch, but it is still moist under the surface. After a few hours, it will actually dry. This is when you want to recoat. After several days or so, the latex will cure. If you apply more latex while it is dry, but not cured, the coats will tend to bond and cure together. Layers applied after curing don't always bond well, and can lead to peeling.
posted by yesster at 1:20 AM on February 12, 2016

Best answer: I think emerald green is your best table color idea, because a bright jewel tone green like that looks nice with nearly any other colors. (Grass greens, sage greens and hunter greens are some examples of harder to mix greens, but emerald is pretty timeless, and makes food look nice, too.)

You could have some fun with the chairs and paint most of them a soft grey but do a part of each chair in a bright color. Would your husband agree to something like just the backs of the slats being yellow? Or you could paint the seats an array of jewel tones. Just keep most of it neutral, and your other bright colors a similar brightness and saturation to each other.

I think since all your table runner preferences have that hot pink in them, a pink table or chairs would be too much. It's a very strong color and if you have the runner and maybe a few other pink things around the room, you'll really feel like there's plenty of pink going on, I suspect.

If I were you I'd go to the paint store/home depot and pull every color swatch that makes you happy. Then cull those swatches down while sitting in the space you'll put your table. Look at them in the morning, the middle of the day, and night time. Each time toss out more swatches that don't look nice to you as the light changes. Maybe reserve the hot pink you're most drawn to, since you know you're going to likely end up with things that color. (I do this with celadon green things.) After going away and coming back a few times, you'll form opinions and end up being drawn to the right color, or at least the right hue. Then adjust for how light or dark and saturated you want the hue to be.

Basically I guess my advice is ~follow your heart~! Bright colors all kinda go together, to be honest. If you want them to. And also especially if you're in a rental space with neutral finishes to balance things out.

One thing with Ikea stuff is that you should probably paint things after you assemble, which doesn't seem right but a lot of times their furniture is very precise in measurement and parts won't quite fit together if you have a slightly thick coat of paint on there. One time I got those little wooden drawers they made to hold sewing notions, and I painted every piece a metallic gold before assembling. And then none of the drawers would fit into their cubbies.
posted by Mizu at 2:42 AM on February 12, 2016

I know you said no oil based paints but have you worked with milk paints? It's lovely.
posted by tilde at 3:09 AM on February 12, 2016

You could also use spraypaint for this.
posted by Violet Hour at 3:14 AM on February 12, 2016

Best answer: Why not use ALL the colors? My sister paints her kitchen chairs each different colors, leaving the table natural, white, or grey, and it makes me unreasonably happy every time I walk into her dining/craft area. The table top she left natural, and it has picked up a really cool patina of paint spatters/cuts and nicks from years of artsy use. She repaints/changes out the chairs fairly often, as her mood or color preference changes, but keeps the table simple. She's used milk paint (which needs waxing periodically) or spray paint. A google search of "chairs painted different colors" pulls up examples, and pinterest is loaded with them.

If you're not adverse to wear and tear, and can see yourself re-painting, I've actually used kid-safe acrylic craft paint with success on wooden furniture. It's matte, inexpensive, and available an astonishing array of colors. A couple of coats of matte sealant over the top will make it last longer. I like a bit of the wood grain showing through, so I use one coat of paint usually. However, when my then-preschool son and I painted his salvaged dresser, I painted a primer coat of white all over. Then I gave him a brush and some sponges and some strong primary and secondary colors and let him go to town. Note that this is a dresser, not a table, so gets much less wear than your table will, but it's held up fantastically. I was afraid the inexpensive paint would fade over time, but more than a dozen years later they're still holding up great.
posted by Nancy_LockIsLit_Palmer at 3:38 AM on February 12, 2016

You probably won't need to sand the furniture before painting, but you might want to sand at least the table top anyway --- you'll want that (and maybe the chair seats?) to end up as smooth as possible.
posted by easily confused at 3:49 AM on February 12, 2016

Maine Cottage makes tables and chairs in gorgeous colors. You may get some inspiration for what color combinations to choose from their website.

I would recommend painting the chairs and the table base, but leaving the tabletop pine (maybe with a clear varnish to seal it). That lets you use colorful runners and different color plates without the feeling of overwhelming color overload.

This site is great for exploring color sets that go together
posted by Mchelly at 4:17 AM on February 12, 2016 [3 favorites]

I would go to a local paint store and ask since paint technologies change all the time, but failing that, I'd use whatever is suggested for trim which is usually semi-gloss. The degree of glossiness is up to you of course.

If the table is going to be outdoors, I'd use porch & patio paint if I could get the color I want.
posted by SemiSalt at 4:59 AM on February 12, 2016

Spraypaint can be a pretty easy way to go. Sand lightly with 400 grit between coats of paint for the smoothest possible finish. After you're done, finish with a few layers of clear polyurethane that you wipe or paint on; this will dramatically increase the lifespan of your paint. It also gives you a chance to choose satin or glossy finish, depending on what kind of poly you get.
posted by cubby at 6:11 AM on February 12, 2016

Color-wise, I'm doing a mid-century room and the Sherwin-Williams 'Vintage Finds' palette is meant to coordinate with itself interchangably, so any two colors from there will 'go.'

While not dark brown, the 'Morning Fog' and 'Softer Tan' in the upper left of the card match our Poang completely, and some dark ceiling beams are clear in the PDF linked above. (Would I ever use the yellow-green Frolic? Not until I saw it in that combo.)
posted by cobaltnine at 7:41 AM on February 12, 2016

Google Mary Englebrect (sp?). She is a children's illustrator/artsy person but the color pallete you are describing reminds me of her stuff. I've had some furniture done in her style for my living area and been very happy. It's not juvenile at all. Have fun. Sounds like a great project!
posted by pearlybob at 7:58 AM on February 12, 2016

You seem to be going off of the idea of painting each piece a solid color. I really think some sort of pattern on the table, and then doing the chairs in either two or four of the different colors would really pull it all together and look a lot more interesting and pleasing.

For example, do the legs and sides of the table in your base color, say black or pearly grey, and then paint the top in bands of color of varying widths, maybe teal, lavender, silver. Then paint one chair teal, one lavender, and two black or grey. Then maybe use the silver as an accent on the chairs. Like a few thin bands of silver around each leg, or a silver stripe across the backrest of each chair. Or add a few more colors to the table top, maybe a mauve, and a darker purple/eggplant for warmer colors, or to go cooler, an icy blue shade and a darker blue or icy mint green. The paint each chair in one of the colors and use the base black or grey to do the accents, instead of having a whole chair in the base color. Wow... hope this is clear, I can picture it so vividly, but not sure if I'm getting it across.

Another more playful or whimsical pattern I like is kind of a "harlequin", or diamond shaped checkerboard. I have a desk with the top painted like this in black in white. So for you, instead of white I'd do half the diamonds in the base color, and then I'd do alternating colors on the other half of the diamonds, and then use those colors for the chairs. For example, I think a pattern alternating black (maybe even a matte black for more contrast) and metallic colors, say metallic gold and rose gold. Then either paint two chairs black, and one Gold, one rose gold. Or all black, and then do the seats (and/or back rests) in alternating metallic colors. Or go for four colors, metallic or pearlescent teal, gold, rose gold/mauve and silver.

These patterns definitely call for more solid color table runners than what you linked, but I think incorporating lots of color into the furniture itself helps bring more warmth and color into the room, rather than having more subdued furniture and lots of color in the small accessories. I don't know, hope this is clear, pictures would have been so much easier than trying to explain these ideas.
posted by catatethebird at 10:41 AM on February 12, 2016

One other idea, if the wood really is unfinished, instead of the black or base color you could stain the wood the get some the the wood grain showing through, in combination with the brightly colored paint. I think either a very dark mahogany or cherry stain would go well with the color combinations I suggested, or go the opposite direction with a silvery/ashy stain. There are really a lot of colors and looks you can achieve with stain that you might not expect, and it's not any harder than painting.

I used to have a table set that came with a table finished in a very dark, almost black stain, and two bright primary blue chairs, and two red. It looked very nice, and I always wanted to add some color or design to the table top to finish the look, but never did. (Either primary yellow, or black and white were my ideas.) but yeah, the natural wood grain/bright paint combination can work very well.
posted by catatethebird at 10:59 AM on February 12, 2016

And let us know what you end up doing!
posted by catatethebird at 11:05 AM on February 12, 2016

Response by poster: Thanks! We put together our furniture today (oh man I'm beat!) and the set is indeed unfinished. I don't think we need to sand or prime. Only a few rough spots that need a quick light sanding. We'll wipe it all down with a microfiber cloth first. I think we'll do a satin or semi gloss finish. We'll be picking up some paint chips tomorrow but so far it seems like we'll do an emerald (dark cool green) on the table, a cool mid gray on the chairs, and a strip of chartreuse (yellow/green) down the sides of the tallest vertical railings.

We have lots of work to do around the house but I'm hoping to get some paint tomorrow or this weekend. My husband has Monday off.

Any more tips are welcome.
posted by Crystalinne at 8:36 PM on February 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: UPDATE! (If anyone's wondering.) We're done. Please pardon the fact that it's not perfectly staged and I don't have the table runner yet (I ordered the white, blue, and pink one) and still have some accessories to make.

But here's the stuff! Natural light & incandescent light. It's Dark Everglade on the table, Slate Rock gray, and Green Neon accent. Once I stage it all I'm submitting to Apartment Therapy - fingers crossed. (Memail me if you want my instagram for updates.)
posted by Crystalinne at 5:06 PM on February 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

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