Tips for Painting a Dining Room Table

So you want to paint your table, huh?On our holiday break (right after Christmas) I got the itch to change up our space. Isn't that how is always goes? When you're supposed to be relaxing, project inspiration sneaks in! 

So I painted our dining room table (see how it looked before here) with three coats of oil-based paint. I'm in love with the result! I also loved it before, but after almost three years of daily use, it was ready for either a fresh staining or a coat of paint, and I felt like the room could use a little more white now that we have the wood walls. So I just went for it! 

So you want to paint your table, huh? Here are five quick tips for painting a table (or other heavily used furniture): 

1. Choose oil-based paint.

Both Laura and I have had an experience where we asked for a recommendation for what type of paint to use on a table and chairs at a home improvement store, and the person working there recommended using latex. Both projects were epic fails! 

Do not use latex paint for furniture that needs to be wiped down often or will be heavily used. Laura's table (painted with latex) is very hard to clean and leaves wipe marks each time she wipes it down. The chairs I painted with latex started scuffing and rubbing off immediately. 

This is the exact paint I used for this, my yellow chairs, my white piano and my bar cart. 

Rust-oleum Gloss WhiteI also love Rust-oleum brand spray paint. 

Tipsโ€”Be aware that oil-based paint will take longer to dry and SMELLS. Try to open the windows if you are painting indoors. You can't wash your brush out in your sink like with latex paint, so you'll either need paint thinner or a throwaway brush for this project. 

The only downside to oil-based paint is that you can't usually get the colors mixed, so you have to choose from what they have available (which is why all the projects listed above are white, yellow, and olive green). 

2. Take your time. 

Be sure you choose a time for this project when you can let your paint dry between coats and cure for at least a couple days before you start using your furniture again. Oil-based paint dries slowly, so these are not good one-day projects. i.e. Don't try this the night before a big party or event you are hosting! 

3. Choose glossy finish. 

In my experience the glossy finish looks the best when completed. That's what I used for this table and I really like it. Cleans up like a dream too! 

4. Don't be afraid of pattern. 

Just because you can't get this oil-based paint in a huge variety of colors doesn't mean you can't try patterns. Use black and white to create something customized for your style! 

5. Keep a touch up can at home. 

Even though this paint is super durable, any furniture that is used daily will eventually get chips or scratches. I always keep a touch up can hidden away in our laundry room for this reason, making it easy to keep pieces looking fresh for longer! 

So you want to paint your table, huh?  So you want to paint your table, huh?   So you want to paint your table, huh?    I hope this was helpful! If you're thinking of painting a piece of furniture in your home, be sure to pin this post so you can refer back to it! 

I love my painted table! It really brightened up our dining space. Thanks so much for reading! xx- Elsie 

Credits// Author: Elsie Larson, Photography: Laura Gummerman. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess Actions

  • Alykd based latex paints (Sherwin Williams Pro Classic, Ben Moore Advance, etc) hold up just as well as oil based and you avoid the smell/dry time of oil!

  • Very nice! Did you use a brush? If so, what brush? No “top coat” of any kind?

  • We are painting our kitchen cabinets (SW Pro Classic, we know it holds up) and sadly, listened to home improvement stores that told us, yes, we could prime with latex. No. No you can’t. The wood still bleeds through. Correction, you can if you put on 8 million coats which is what we’ll be doing on the frames. Sigh. Doors will have oil based primer for sure as they will be painted outside. (Have to protect our two little munchkins) I think these stores get rewards for pushing latex as it gets customers back buying other stuff.

  • New visitor here (found you via Bloglovin) love what you’ve done with the table – never heard of latex paint (in the UK) which sounds like it’s a good thing!

  • Thank you so much for this post, it came at a perfect time. I’m going to paint my dining room chairs next weekend and will definitely keep these tips in mind when choosing paint!

  • Supporter of Water-Based paint here. Water based takes more steps to have a hardy finish like you get with Oil-Based, but it’s more environmentally friendly and easier to dispose of extras (and less smelly). If you prime (water or oil based), then lightly sand then paint it will hold on wayyy better, and if you seal with polycrylic (water based – won’t yellow) it is just as durable.

    I painted 2 Rast dressers, the first with white rustoleum and the second with Behr Snowfall in Satin with Satin Poly and I like the second wayyyy better, like it become one with the piece more than the oil (that sounds really hippie but I can’t describe it another way). Not surprising, since with oil-based stain the pigment literally sits on top of the wood and water- or alcohol-based stain penetrates the wood.

    If you’re interested in all sorts of (re)finishing I highly recommend ‘The Furniture Bible’ by Christophe Pourny. It’s a great read for the variety and history of finishing techniques and most importantly how taking extra time is worth it on pieces that can last a lifetime, if not generations (which most furniture can, doesn’t have to be expensive, even ikea).

  • I really love your dining room. My dad and I built the same table using your instructions a few years ago and Iโ€™ve been thinking of doing a driftwood-grey or aqua stain lately but this painted table looks lovely too. What a wonderful space!

  • Elsie this looks amazing! I think that was absolutely the right call going while now that you have the wood paneling in there – it looks so fresh and makes the paneling pop even more. We recently moved and picked up a wooden extension table from Ikea – I am in love with it! But I also loved that getting an unpainted wood one meant that we could easily change it up 3 years from now. I’ll absolutely be filing this post away for then!

  • Your house is SO beautiful, please do a house tour!

    DIY LUSH BATH BOMBS + DEMO // ROSE, GLITTER, NEBULA + COLOR CHANGING

  • I love your tip on choosing a glossy finish. I would not have thought of that originally but I can totally see that glossy is the best choice!

    doitfortheirony.com / Creative blog for the future obsessed.

  • Thanks for the tip! Perfect timing – I have been thinking of painting out my kitchen table and with two very active (and artistic) little girls the table gets a lot of wear and tear. I have been meaning to paint it for a while and have been hesitant (resulting to table clothes) but an oil based paint sounds like the perfect solution sense I was planning on going all white with mine as well (and now I can proceed with your paint recommendation)! Thanks again!

  • I love your chairs! They go so well with the rustic wood in the room. Can you share where you got them? ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Did you prime first? How many coats did it take to cover the stain? Thanks! Such a timely post!

  • What a helpful guide. I had a table I needed to paint for the longest time and never found a time. I sold the table in prep for an international move, but this guide would have been helpful!

  • What perfect timing, I have a dining room table – purchased at a yard sale – that is in desperate need of repainting. Solid wood, not that pressboard stuff – I can’t wait to do it. Am definitely saving this post!!

  • This turned out amazing and this post is perfect timing for me, as I am planning on painting my dining room table too ๐Ÿ™‚ How did you prep for the painting? Did you have to sand everything first?

  • I love your dining room!
    I recently scored a big farm style table from a thrift store and am searching for chairs to offset it. Mind sharing where yours are from? Thanks SO much!
    -Kate

  • I’m pretty sure i used a foam brush!

    I don’t use any sealer with this paint because it doesn’t need it and I’ve had bad experiences with poly turning my white paint yellow in the past!

    xx- Elsie

  • Hi Julianne,
    Isn’t that frustrating! I used to always take their advice, but you never really KNOW when you’re talking to someone experienced and someone who is not. So now I always read at least a few tutorials online just to see if people have any big tips or fails.

    xx! Elsie

  • We inherited this table from my inlaws and I absolutely hate the color of the table and was thinking about painting it white!!!! How did you prep your table? Anything specific or did you just paint on top of your table?
    Thanks!

  • Love this! So fresh and clean! I’ve also learned that if you polyurethane the top of your table since it gets a lot of use it should make it last much longer and will be very durable!

  • That’s it! I’m painting my table white. I’ve had it for years. I’m new to your site, I’m glad you answer questions in the comments. What I’d like to know is how much paint did you use?

  • Totally off the topic of the table…Are those real succulents? I’d love to plant some in mason jars, but they don’t seem to do too well in any planters that don’t drain. Suggestions? Thanks!!

  • Did you paint the piano too? It looks fabulous! I was curious if you used the same process? I have an old oak one from my childhood and I was thinking of painting it too!

  • I am in love with this dining room! The long table is a home item almost lost these days–the way it symbolizes family and fellowship is so inspiring, as is the way you’ve styled yours. I’m such a fan of clean white these days, so the table is perfect and also the background ambiance. Great home design! Thanks for sharing ๐Ÿ™‚ -Anika

  • Your table looks awesome and this room is super pretty!!! I would add that oil based paint (especially white) will yellow after a few years so that’s something to consider with more permanent projects that you want/need to stay bright white – like kitchen cabinets, which I almost made the mistake of doing!

  • This turned out great! I absolutely loved the table when it was wooden too but I’m in love with all things white. Looks great with the bulb lights hanging above it too.

    Erin
    http://beingerin.com

  • We painted our last kitchen cabinets with sherwin williams pro classic and it looked nice when we were done (we used a paint sprayer) but in our new (old) house we went with oil based for the cabinets. And oh my goodness it is SO much better! Unfortunately in Utah, and probably a few other states, oil based paint is now illegal thanks to some laws about VOC requirements. SO lame. I went and bought the last 5 gallons in stock of my favorite paint and I hope that will get me through all my projects. Because latex paint, even the alkyd kinds, and even sealed with polycrylic just don’t hold a candle to two coats of oil. Your table looks great! It’s been fun to watch how you’ve changed up this room since you moved in.

  • First of all- I love the efect, and the 2nd to go- yes, whenever I plan to relax- I find new ideas ( like “must do it right now” ideas) on my mind. Love Your work- Marzena

  • Looks nice! ….it takes a LEAST a month for oil-based paint to cure. Which means truly harden and even longer to completely off -gas ….especially products like Rustoleum or Tremclad….which are ommitting VOCs into your house’s air-quality for quite some time…u might want to consider using a quality air purifier with charcoal filters for at least six months when using these products on daily use furniture. As a professional painter I know trust me on this! –not trying to be a downer on your project just want to let people know, especially if u have small children,pets or it’s something being used for food…the air pollution in rooms w oil paint off-gassing are through the roof! In Canada the availability of oil paint is next to nothing due to regulations on VOCs…but the wear and finish rocks, it’s true!! So don’t paint w these in the fall and then go thru the winter w all the windows closed people!! Lots of ventilation will speed the off-gassing up AND help your finish cure up nice and hard. (Ps don’t eat food off the table before before curing is complete!) I really miss the beautiful finish oil paint provides, but Low VOC paints ARE improving every yr. You can even use porch & floor paint or some Benny Moore types for furniture such as “Advance” ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Oil paint is the secret. Great job. Your Dining room is great really, white furniture and that wood tile wall on white wall, its looks super. Great tips here to get the rest of us to start painting and decorating our homes. You make it seem like just a cool thing to do really.

  • Love love love this so much! Did you have to use a paint stripper/sand first or were you able to paint the table as is?