DIY White Wallpapered Furniture

I consider myself a DIYer, but I am still learning when it comes to DIY furniture.  This project, by far, has been the hardest, biggest pain in my butt project I have ever been stupid enough to do.  When I found out our baby-to-be was a girl, I got this vision of a grey walled nursery and white furniture with floral wallpaper and bright nob accents.  This project literally took months to finish, though it didn’t help that halfway through I was put on a month and a half of bedrest.  Now that this project is (finally!!) finished, I am happy with the result, and gosh darn did I learn (from my mistakes, of course) a LOT.  So let’s begin…

Materials for painting (particleboard) furniture:

  • Furniture you want to paint
  • Electric hand sander (or lots of sand paper of course grit)
  • Sand paper of fine grit
  • Screwdriver (for removing hardware)
  • Medium sized paint brush
  • Primer
  • Paint in color of your choice (I used most of one regular sized can)
  • Polycrylic (I used most of one small can)
Painting supplies
Painting supplies

Materials for new hardware (if desired):

  • New hardware
  • Hole filler (if changing size, position, number, etc)
  • Tool to add filler (you can use a plastic butter knife and/or your fingers if in a bind)
  • Paint (if you want to change the color of hardware like I did)
  • Drill (for new holes if needed)
Spray paint used for knobs
Spray paint used for knobs

Materials for wallpapering (if desired):

  • Roll of wallpaper (I used less than one roll for everything)
  • Razor blade (with cardboard for underneath) and/or paper cutter
  • Tape measurer
  • Wallpaper glue (I used less than half of one bottle pictured below)
  • Wallpaper roller (optional but helpful)
  • Pencil or marking tool
Wallpapering supplies
Wallpapering supplies

1.  Find your furniture.

The dresser was the main thing I really wanted, but I was hoping we could also get a bookshelf too so I could make them match.  I wanted a dresser that could double as a changing table, so that was half the battle of finding something with the right height.  I started searching Craigslist, and right away I found this beautiful looking wooden dresser with matching nightstands and bookshelf.  All for $200.  Jackpot!!  I immediately contacted them and we drove right over.  The pictures made the dresser and nightstands look like beautiful knotted wood, but in reality they turned out to be Ikea (saw a sticker under a drawer) particleboard.  The bookshelf is real wood.  We were really committed by then, and even though I was hoping for beautiful wood we decided to go with them anyway.  My original idea was to whitewash the wood, but after finding out they were particleboard I had to quickly change my plan.  To Ikea’s defense, whoever created the sticker/cover/wallpaper/whatever that covers the dressers did a fantastic job, they legitly look like beautiful wood, especially in pictures.  Anyway, if you can find real wood, I definitely recommend it, but I know real wood furniture is harder to find and it is possible to make particleboard furniture look pretty (with lots of paint and time).

The dresser, nightstands, and bookshelf before I refinished them.
The dresser, nightstands, and bookshelf before I refinished them.

2.  Remove all hardware.

If you like the hardware on your pieces, then congrats, you are smarter than me!  If you don’t you will have to find new hardware and probably fill and re-drill the holes, like I did (more on this later).  Either way, you will have to remove hardware in order to paint properly.

3.  Sand slightly.

After finding out my new furniture was particleboard, I quickly started researching how to paint particleboard properly.  All the blogs I read said to lightly sand the paper surface without going through it and getting to the particleboard.  This was easier said than done and I didn’t do that good of a job.  I used my electric hand sander, but you could have gotten the same result with sand paper.

Sanding the top of the dresser with my electric  hand sander.
Sanding the top of the dresser with my electric hand sander.

4.  Fill holes (if you are re-drilling your holes for new hardware).

I didn’t fill my holes until later, to be honest, because I forgot to buy filler my first time at the store and because I knew they would be covered by wallpaper later anyway, but if I did it in the order I should have I would have filled the holes now.  One thing I found out the hard way is if you have holes you are more likely to drip paint through them, so some of my drawers have lovely white dots on the inside.  If you are not filling your holes, just make sure to check to make sure you aren’t dripping through or even lay down some newspaper inside.  Follow the instructions on the wood filler container.

5.  Prime.

This is where I got stupid.  Real stupid.  I read a few blogs that said that with particleboard you really need to prime first, but I am lazy and want to do as little as humanly possible.  I went to Home Depot and asked the paint dude’s opinion (because he works in paint and knows everything about everything, right?!).  He said that I didn’t need primer if I used a paint + primer, even for particleboard (which I specifically asked).  He recommended Olympic Icon in satin finish (because I didn’t want it too shiny) and I got the whitest white they had because that is what I wanted.  He also said I didn’t need a top coat finish because the paint would be tough enough to survive being worn and torn (again, I specifically asked).  The blogs said I needed a top coat, but if the paint god told me I didn’t, who am I to argue?

Three coats of paint later I thought I was finally done.  I let the paint dry for the length of time indicated on the can, and then we put the drawers back in and had them sit in the house for a few days before I had time to move on to the next step.  And guess what happened when I tried to open the drawers?  All the paint came off!  Just touching the paint made it flake off.  I literally cried.  Then researched (some more) and then cussed out the Home Depot god (OK, only in my head).  Long story short, if 10 fancy DIY bloggers tell you that you need primer and a top coat, you do, even if the “paint god” tells you that you don’t.  Better than that, just don’t talk to the people working in the paint department at all, because after reading horror stories even worse than mine I am certain they are just hired off the street and know absolutely nothing.

Moral of this story: prime your piece, especially if it is particleboard.  I can’t give much more advice than this, but do whatever the label says, or look up those fancy bloggers who know what they are talking about.  I’ll prime the next project and I will get back to you on this.  Just trust me, it is a step you NEED to do, and this is coming from the laziest DIYer ever.

6.  Paint.

Like I mentioned, I put three whole coats of my stupid paint + primer on and to be honest you could still kind of see through it in parts.  After my epic failure of having my paint peel and chip off, I touched up the parts that were bare particleboard again, and then I gave everything one more coat of paint, totaling 4 whole coats.  If I primed it first, I probably would have only needed two coats, and my layers would have stuck together better than they did.  In a nutshell, keep adding a coat until you like how much coverage there is.  This depends on the paint you buy, the color you started with vs. your finishing color, etc.  One thing I did learn on my second go-round is when you are done with all your coats let the paint cure for a few days (aka let the furniture sit there without putting drawers back in or setting anything on them).  I don’t know if this really helped, but that is what I read to do and I wanted to do everything in my power to not have it chip again.

Progression of paint coats: top=first coat, middle=second coat, bottom=third coat, final picture=fourth coat
Progression of paint coats: top=first coat, middle=second coat, bottom=third coat, final picture=fourth coat

 7.  Top coat.

This was something I decided to do after reading more about finishing furniture and NOT listening to the paint god at Home Depot.  Even though I have used Polyurethane before, I decided to go with Polycrylic because the blogs said that it has a slightly harder finish AND it won’t stain or yellow your paint, which is critical when you are using white paint (not as much when you are using a regular wood finish).  According to the can it said to do a minimum of two coats, and three were preferred, so I did three coats, each with 24 hours between.  Also according to the can, I lightly sanded between each coat.  One thing I noticed with the Polycrylic (and I am sure the white paint didn’t help) that I have not noticed before with Polyurethane is that a ton of little microscopic lint and hair and whatever pieces kept falling in the coats and I had to keep removing them with a paper towel and then adding more Polycrylic on top.  It was very annoying, but after all of this there was no way in heck I was going to have little lint pieces in my final product.  Like with the paint, once my three coats were finished I let it cure for a couple days before I put the furniture together.

8.  Paint new knobs and drill new holes (if you want).

Again, this step is super optional.  I didn’t like the old fashioned looking knobs that came with the furniture and I wanted something simple and girly.  I found cheap white knobs at Home Depot, and then bought some pretty pink spray paint to cover them.  My engineer husband decided to create a hanging device to make it easier to spray paint the knobs.  If your knobs are different sizes or you want them in a different layout than the original knobs, you will need to drill new holes based on where you want them.  Make sure you drill the holes before adding wallpaper so you don’t accidentally destroy the paper.

Knob painting station my husband invented
Knob painting station my husband invented

9.  Wallpaper.

This was my favorite part of the whole process, but it also had its own problems.  It would have been a lot easier if I didn’t care if the pattern continued, but the Type A in me wanted the floral pattern to EXACTLY continue throughout the entire piece of furniture.  My life would have also been a lot simpler if my drawer faces were full pieces, but one thing that really attracted me to these pieces was the fact that there were cut outs.  I wanted the wallpaper on the flat surfaces of the drawers only.  I was hoping I could glue the wallpaper to the dresser and then cut around the drawers, but that was NOT the way to go, trust me.  The easiest way was to measure the drawer face, and then use the paper cutter or razor blade to cut the piece.  I really liked how the bottle of glue we bought had a little roller brush attached, but however you need to do it roll the glue onto the piece of the furniture you are about to cover.  Then lay the piece of wallpaper down and smooth it flat with your hands, starting from the center and pushing outward.  Then use a roller to really press the paper down and make sure there are no air bubbles.  The paper I got had raised flowers, which actually helped because the raised pattern helped hide flaws like air bubbles.  The white paper against the white paint helped hide flaws like crooked lines.  I really made sure the edges were pressed down and secured, and if I had to I added a little extra glue and then re-pressed it down.  I continued this process until the entire piece was covered, which actually took a lot longer than I hoped.  I didn’t take pictures through this process, mostly because I was so amazingly OVER this project I couldn’t imagine doing one more step, so sorry, you will just have to imagine this, but here is a zoomed in picture of the finished paper.  My biggest advice: measure twice and cut once.

Close up picture of the wallpaper.
Close up picture of the wallpaper.

For the bookshelf, I took off the back of the bookshelf and then wallpapered the entire back.  It is hard to see it in the pictures, mostly because we have too much stuff, but here is a zoomed in picture that you can kind of see it in.

Wallpaper on the back of the bookshelf.
Wallpaper on the back of the bookshelf.

10.  Add hardware.

I waited about a day to let the wallpaper completely dry before I added the knobs.  Make sure you are careful when you poke through the wallpaper so you don’t rip the paper.

11.  Reassemble furniture.

Now you can finally move your furniture to their final location, add the drawers, and then fill the drawers and shelves!

Here are pictures of the finished products.  Before judging me, remember we currently live in a very small apartment, so the baby room is also half office.  Eventually when we move the baby’s room will be painted with grey walls and the bookshelf will only hold baby books and toys!

Finished dresser
Finished dresser
Finished night stands.  We currently are stacking them and using them to store baby products.
Finished night stands. We currently are stacking them (due to lack of space) and using them to store baby products.
Finished bookshelf.  It is hard to see the wallpapered background currently, but once it is filled with baby books and toys hopefully it will be more visible.
Finished bookshelf. It is hard to see the wallpapered background currently, but once it is filled with baby books and toys hopefully it will be more visible.
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