Thrift Store Table Makeover: How to Paint Shiny Laminate

Take your bargain find from sad to sophisticated with a few basic supplies.

By Erica Young

 

You never know what furniture treasures you can find at a thrift store. The key is to look past dated fabric and ugly paint finishes (of which there will be an abundance), and instead focus on the shape of the piece.

 

The right silhouette is all you need to transform your thrifty find into a beautiful masterpiece. Whether it’s recovering a couch, cleaning up a mirror, or painting a table, when you’re finished, no one will know you spent only a few dollars on your chic new purchase.

 

In this case, I fell in love with a round modern accent table, despite its need for a little TLC. Here’s how to transform a similar find, and what to do when you’re faced with the need to refinish something made of shiny laminate.

 

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1. Disassemble the table and clean

First, take the legs off the table. This makes the top more accessible for painting. Once the table is taken apart, give both the top and the legs a good cleaning. A simple vinegar and water mixture works great, and it’s gentle. You’ll want a clean dry surface before you start any painting to ensure the paint sticks.

 

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2. Sand

After the chrome legs were cleaned, they looked great. I love the shiny finish! But the top needed to be painted. My table was red on one side, and pink on the bottom. It obviously had received a bad paint job. When you’re working with shiny laminate like this, you’ll want to give it a quick sanding to rough up the finish. This helps the paint adhere. Make the job easy by using an electric hand sander. Use a fine grit sandpaper to smooth out any irregularities without damaging the top.

 

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3. Apply Primer

With some wood pieces, priming is not necessary. But when it comes to working with a shiny and smooth surface, a primer coat is essential. Zinsser Bullseye Primer works with almost all surfaces and is water-based, which is much easier to work with than oil-based primers. Apply one or two coats with a paintbrush or roller, letting it fully dry in between applications.

 

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4. Paint

Next, apply two to three coats of paint over the primer. Interior latex paint is fine. I chose a neutral gray color that would work well with many different color palettes. It’s a good idea to keep your bigger pieces, like furniture, neutral in color, and then add color to a room with accessories and art. Apply the paint with a paintbrush or roller, letting each coat dry before applying the next one.

 

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5. Finish with Polyurethane

To give your table a durable finish, apply one to two coats of clear water-based polyurethane. This will help to avoid scratching and chipping. The polyurethane is milky-white when you apply it, but it dries completely clear. Be sure to get water-based polyurethane as opposed to oil-based. The oil-based version is a lot harder to work with, and when it dries, it will have a yellow tint, changing the color of your table.

 

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Once your tabletop is dry, reattach the legs and you’re done! What was once a shabby and dusty table tucked away in a thrift store is now beautiful and stylish. If you feel drawn to an ugly piece of furniture with a modern silhouette and sturdy construction, don’t hesitate to buy it. As proven with this table, you can completely transform it with just a couple coats of paint.

 

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Images used with permission, courtesy of Erica Young

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