Priming Furniture Tips

Preparing and Priming Furniture Tips

Making Life A Little Easier


In my last post I told you about my new project. I’m turning my guest room into my office and craft room. I have some furniture that I can use, but I’m going to have some spend some time priming and painting. While I’m still deciding on colors and what style desk I’d like to find, I thought I could at least start by preparing some pieces and in the meantime share some tips for priming furniture.

We have had these components of the Pottery Barn Kids Cameron System for many years. This is the cubby and the open base. I love the Cameron System because there are several pieces to choose from and you are able to configure them to suit your needs.

Pottery Barn Bookcase

I have 3 cubbies and 2 open base units. Through the years, they have been used in bedrooms, playroom and even a closet. In my guest room I used a cubby and base set on each side of the bed.

Guest Room

In my upcoming office/craft room I plan to use a set on each side of the window and the single cubby below the window, with a desk in front. The bookcases fit perfect on each side of the windows, especially with the slant of the ceiling. I plan to use them to store and organize my supplies.


My first step is to change the look. I want everything to be lighter and fresh! They need to be touched up and painted. My preferred primer is Zinsser Cover Stain.

Priming Furniture tips

I began by lightly sanding each piece, focusing on scuffs, scratches and dents. That’s a plus when using Zinsser primer…a huge amount of sanding is not necessary. One thing to remember is that this primer is oil based, so you must follow the right guidelines for clean up.

priming furniture tips

While priming these pieces, I discovered a couple of new tips! First, I definitely recommend using a small roller to apply the primer. I used both a foam roller cover and one with a nap. I like the way the nap roller applied the primer but the foam roller was better for getting the primer into the corners.

Second, the cubbies were much easier to prime when I laid them on their back. You know what a pain it is to paint bookcases and shelves because you have to practically be a contortionist to reach under the shelves and into the corners!

Priming Furniture tips

By laying the pieces on their back, it was super easy to reach in and roll away! Remember, when you prime or paint, you should always go “inside-out.” I laid them on their back…painted the inside…sat them upright and painted the outside. They were primed in a flash!


Now, I’m being 100% honest when I say that I have no clue what color I want to paint them!

My first thought was white with a gorgeous color in the back. I love the bookcases at Centsational Girl! I love the pink Kate chose!


My second thought was something like these colored bookcases I found at Martha Stewart’s website. I love the green on the outside and if you notice, there’s a great tan color on the interior.


What do you think? Please give me your opinion. Any ideas on color would be greatly appreciated! If we put our heads together I know we can come up with a great color combo.

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  1. says

    Hi Leslie! Both of those are really cute. If you paint them white or a neutral color then you can do so much with the inside color or design. Did you see my bookshelves I just did? I used foam board and covered it with fabric then when I get tire of looking at it I just pull out the foam board and recover it. So much easier then painting.

    • says

      Yes Denyse, I did see your bookcases! That’s a great idea! You are right…if I do white I can jazz it up on the inside.
      BTW…I’m featuring your Stenciled Curtains tomorrow. Stop by and grab a “featured” button too. Have a great week.

  2. Kathleen says

    I did my cabinets in my craft room white (called popcorn) and I painted the inside my favorite color orange, then I stenciled an awesome paisley design on the back wall. They look amazing!!! I’m catching up on this project, so I’m sure you’ve already finished and I can’t wait to see them.

    • says

      That sounds awesome Kathleen! I have made some progress. I’ve stenciled a greek key design on the wall. It’s proving a lot of work! Have a great week.

  3. Theresa Nguyen says

    I also have 9 pieces of this Cameron system in my kids game room. I would like to paint it a lighter color, but the thought of messing up a REALLY expensive piece of furniture frightens me. Do you happen to have a picture of your finished product? Has the new paint color stayed on pretty good or does it chip off easily? I’ve never really repaired any furniture, but I’m guessing the sanding and priming stage is what helps keep the color on. Please help. Thanks

    • says

      The paint has stayed on good, but there are some scratches where I used wire baskets on the shelves. I totally understand about painting such expensive furniture. If you do decide to paint it, definitely research and do everything suggested to get a good finish. I would suggest giving the pieces a good sanding and use a great primer, but you will have to decide if you want to take the chance with painting it. I had my pieces for quite a while and wasn’t too concerned if it didn’t turn out perfect.

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