The Non-Failure Paint Job

I’m still in a funk over royally screwing up my cabinet project on Sunday. (See the end of Monday’s post for that story.) I’ll be honest – I’ve been depressed about it for days. I know it’s not a big deal, but I really, really hate screwing up. Type A perfectionist much?

So, in an effort to cheer myself up, I’ll share another project that I didn’t completely ruin. (I’m exaggerating. My cabinet will be fine. I just have to sand it and start over. Sigh.)

This is my Ikea Rast nightstand. I use it as a shelf in my office. This is the project I planned to mess up – the piece was only $15, is too small to be useful, and is almost completely obscured by the giant printer that sits on top of it. That’s why I did this project first. I actually finished it about a month ago – not sure why I haven’t shared it until now!

I told a friendly employee at Lowe’s that I was going for a white lacquer look, and he suggested I use a latex primer, latex paint and water-based brush-on poly. This all seemed reasonable, so I bought my supplies and kicked off the project.

First, I sanded the whole thing down with both 50 grit and 220 grit paper.

I applied two coats of the primer with a foam roller and a foam brush for the crevices. I sanded in between each coat of primer. (See? I’m usually great with prep. I over-prep. That’s why my failure on Sunday was so frustrating.)

Next, I added three coats of paint. I sanded in between each of those, too.

I let it dry overnight, and the next day, I had a nice, clean white nightstand.

At this point, I planned to gild the front edges with liquid gold leaf. Unfortunately, it occurred to me that if I wanted to tape off the lines, I’d need to wait a while for the paint to cure, and I was way too impatient for that. I tried to make a clean edge by holding up a straight piece of cardboard, but it just bled through and looked terrible. In a rare moment of courage, I decided I’d free-hand. And shocker – some parts come out really nice!

Other parts … not so much.

No worries. When I was done, I went back in with white paint to touch up my many mistakes, and it covered just fine.

Next up was the polycrylic. Dude. I don’t have a photo of this step, but trust me when I say that polycrylic does not look like lacquer. I was very displeased, so I went back to Lowe’s and grabbed some real spray lacquer. Yes, it was fumier than the water-based stuff, but it was so much glossier. It would have looked even better if I’d done more than one coat, but by this point, I’d already spent a ridiculous amount of time on a $15 shelf, so I gave up and brought it inside.

That’s it! The gold edging looks pretty amateur, but for the most part, it was a fairly successful test of my limited furniture finishing skills. Like I said, it usually has a giant printer on top of it, but I just couldn’t put that image out into the world. The poor little guy deserved to show his top!

I want to cover up the screws on the side, and was hoping to use some kind of nailhead-looking things, but they can’t be a real nailheads, because there will be screws underneath them. I bought some little wood discs that I planned to paint gold, but I just don’t think they’ll look right. Anyone have any suggestions?


  • Kara C

    Looks great! Do you prefer liquid leaf or paper? I haven’t used either yet, but I want to try doing the drawers on a dresser in silver leaf. (or aluminum leaf if it starts looking too expensive)

    As for the holes – I would just glob some joint compound in there, let it dry, add more if it shrank down a lot, and then sand it until it’s smooth. Then you probably only need 1 coat of paint since it’s already white, and then you will be forced to do your second coat of lacquer!

    • Oooh! I’m planning to leaf the drawers on a dresser, too (yet ANOTHER unfinished Ikea piece that’s been sitting in my garage)! I’m pretty sure I’m going to use the paper, for two main reasons:

      1) I don’t think the liquid stuff is meant for large surfaces. It comes in a teeny bottle (which is $5-6!), and you can really only fit a small brush into it. You wouldn’t be able to dump it into a tray or anything, because it separates and needs to be stirred/shaken constantly. I’ve only used the paper kind on glass – a curved glass vase, actually – but it was pretty easy to use, even on that, so I imagine it’d be much easier on a flat surface like a drawer.

      2) The liquid stuff doesn’t look like real leaf. It’s pretty, but the gold is basically just glossy brown, and you can definitely tell it’s paint. I’m not sure I’d even call it metallic. The real leaf is so much shinier, and actually looks like metal! I only used the liquid on this project because I wasn’t sure if it would be difficult to use real leaf on the narrow surfaces. However, the “Liquid Leaf” brand might be better than the Martha Stewart stuff. They were all out of it at my Michael’s, so I didn’t get to try it!

      Thanks for the advice on my botched cabinet. 🙁 I think I have a couple options, and I don’t particularly care for any of them, but hopefully it’ll all be worth it! The holes aren’t REALLY holes … they’re just teensy bubbles that popped in the thin layer of paint. They’re more empty spots than holes. So it’d probably be easier to just sand all the paint off. Hrmph.

      You should write a blog, Kara! I want to see your projects, and plus, I was a big fan of your LJ back in the day. 😉

      • Kara C

        ooh good to know – ill go with the paper!

        and i was actually talking about this nightstand project when i said “holes” (I don’t really know why I called them that haha) but I meant the screws on the side. I’m currently a huge fan of joint compound after using it to fix a wall that had a bunch of chunks missing from it and it came out pretty good after I painted it.

        I’ve been thinking about starting one! I miss LJ-ing. I just get way too into projects and forget to take pictures of the steps… maybe next time I’ll be more responsible!

        • OH. Someone else suggested I fill in the holes on the dresser, so that’s immediately where my mind went! Dummy. That’s a really good idea!

          I know what you mean about taking pictures during the project — it’s seriously a struggle for me. Especially because my hands are always covered in paint or glue, and Brad throws a hissy fit if I get his camera dirty. 🙂

  • Looks awesome! you can buy nailhead trim where you only nail in every 5th head, maybe you could use that and glue it on?

    • AH! That’s so smart! Thanks, Danielle — that’s a great idea.

  • My takeaway message from your site is to add gold/metallics/sparkles whereever possible. LOVE. I totally need more in my life. Now the question is: where to start? Do you offer consulting?

    • That’s basically my life motto — so glad it’s coming through in my blog! Heheh.

      Where to start with gold/metallics/sparkles? EVERYWHERE! How about brass nailhead trim on your reupholstered dining bench?

  • The leaf is such a great addition to the shelf! It looks great, and deserves to do more than just hold up a printer!

    • Thanks, Morgan! Sadly, if this guy won’t hold the printer, NO ONE WILL.

  • Lisa

    You have definitely inspired me to refinish the amazin bar my dad (Brad’s grandfather) made a bazillion years ago that I have out on my screened back porch…it’s the only thing sturdy enough to hold the rum runner machine – but now I think I will refinish it and bring it inside to show off some wine and whiskey bottles. xoxo

    • I don’t know what a rum runner machine is, but it DEFINITELY sounds like something you need to have easy access to!

  • Lisa

    **amazing bar*** (I need a spell checker!)

  • Wowza! You’re so good about the prep. I just spray stuff randomly and then ponder why it doesn’t look good…

    • USUALLY. I’m USUALLY so good about the prep. Except for when I’m painting the biggest, most expensive piece on my project list. Stupid, stupid, stupid!

  • I’m impressed. You did a great job!!

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