DIY: Staining, glazing and spray painting

By Katie Landeck

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

It was when I started to decorate my apartment that I first realized I had a problem: I had watched entirely too much HGTV growing up and spent way too much time perusing the pages of Martha Stewart Living.


It doesn’t sound like a crisis, but it was.

Like many college students, the furniture going into my room were pieces that had been sitting in a basement waiting for someone to need them or, in the case of my desk, hidden under a pile of clothes in my sister’s room. In other words, they were the household rejects.

So of course, nothing matched at all.

The dresser was stained a light honey brown with copper handles. The coloring and bow front gave it a distinct vintage feel. The desk, on the other hand, was painted a glossy white with silver handles giving it a modern vibe despite its contradictory baroque details. They could not have clashed any more than they did.

I could not let it go.

I decided to stain the dresser a dark brown and soften the desk by glazing it a berry pink to bring out the baroque details. I also found a new set of handles and spray painted them to match the dresser. I know, a pink desk sounds crazy, but it works for me.

If you don’t want to go the same way I did and embark on a 72-hour journey of staining, glazing and spray painting I suggest you stop reading now (I also suggest you avoid HGTV and Martha Stewart).

But if you’re up to the task, here are some different techniques of varying difficulty to transform your furniture:


Staining is by far the most difficult of the possible wood treatments you could pick. Do not wear good clothes while staining, as any stain that gets on them will do just that: stain. My feet were speckled brown for a week.

Before even starting to stain, you will need to “strip” the old finish off. To do this, you want to go to your local hardware store and pick up a stain stripper. As each one is a little different, follow the instructions on the back of the bottle exactly.

Once you have finished that, sand down all of the surfaces you intend to stain. Sanding helps to eliminate blemishes in the wood that will become even more apparent once they have been stained and helps to open up the pores of the wood to the stain. Start with a medium grade sandpaper, like 120 for example, and work your way up to a finer grain.

Now, you can move on to the actually staining. I highly recommend reading all of the directions before you begin rather than as you go along as it will help the process go more smoothly. Start by staining a different piece of wood to test the color.

If you like it, move on to the piece of furniture. If you don’t like it, go back to the hardware store and pick a new color.

To stain, using a paintbrush, coat the piece of furniture with the stain. Allow the stain to sit on the wood approximately 10 minutes before wiping it off. The longer the stain stays on, the darker the color will be. Then allow the stain to dry as the directions indicate. This usually takes about two hours.

Expect to repeat this somewhere between three and five times.

Once you have achieved your desired color, seal the wood with a polyurethane finish, which can also be found in your local hardware store. Follow the directions listed on the can and apply one to three coats. The finish will help to protect the wood against water and other damage, as well as give it a glossy appearance.


I hadn’t heard of glazing before I spent several hours Googling different ways to paint a desk pink.

The basic concept is that by mixing paint with a clear glaze you make a thinner colored solution that can then be worked into the crevices of a piece of a furniture. This technique will not work on a piece of furniture that is completely smooth.

While traditionally people use black or dark brown paint to make glazes for furniture, you can make a glaze with any color paint. To make a glaze, you mix one-part paint to four parts glaze and stir.

To apply, using a paintbrush cover a section of the furniture with the mixture, making sure it gets into the cracks. Then wipe away the excess. You should be left with  paint mostly in the crevices and almost no paint on the smooth parts, adding depth to the piece.

If this didn’t happen with the first coat, don’t fret. Just repeat the process until the entire piece is finished, then allow it to dry according to the directions on the glaze’s bottle.

Spray painting

Spray paint is a DIYer’s best friend. It is the absolute easiest way to quickly transform a piece of furniture. You just pick your color, bring your piece of furniture outside, shake the bottle of paint, point and spray.

For best results, hold the can about a foot away from your target and spray in long even strokes. Do not hold it on one spot for too long or the paint will start to pool and drip.

Spray paint can be used on more than just wood. It can also be used on metal surfaces or glass, making it an easy way to update hardware, such as knobs and drawer pulls. I also recommend using it on cork to give a more sophisticated and personal look to a common tack board.

Katie Landeck can be reached at [email protected]