I was warned. When I first started painting furniture I really really wanted black chairs around our kitchen table. But I was told I shouldn’t. Painting furniture black is too hard and never turns out. Did I listen? Of course not. After I had a few painted pieces under my belt, including my kitchen cabinets, I declared myself an expert and went for it. The results were awful.
This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you make a purchase based on one of my suggestions I will make a small percentage at no extra cost to you. You can see my full disclosures here.
Why Painting Furniture Black is Hard
Black painted furniture has a classy way of setting off a room. I see the Pottery Barn look on furniture and just swoon! I just had to have something painted black. My dining room chairs would be a test. The warning was, the black color is never truly black, no matter what. It doesn’t distress well. And you cannot protect it without the wax turning a milky color. Stay far far away from it!
And the warnings were correct. The chairs were an ok black color but they didn’t distress well. Instead of looking worn it just looked like my kids took a knife to them. Maybe the color contrast to the original white surface was just too much. Maybe I should have sanded the surface first.
By the way, you’re probably wondering about sanding now. I answer that question in this post, Do I Need to Sand First?
And since I knew the protective wax I had used previously would turn a milky color, I chose to use a soft wax. Which did not hold up at all!
The good news? I wish I could tell you my chairs now look awesome. They don’t, I’m just letting my family use the heck out of them before I find a new set… possibly metal ones… possibly ones that can hold up to the two little tornados in our house. But the good news is I have successfully painted furniture black since the dining room chair debacle.
Tips for Painting Furniture Black
One of the hardest parts about painting furniture is choosing the right color. Sometimes you have an idea and sometimes you have your heart set on a color. For me that color was black.
I spent most of the last year trying new products and what I’ve learned is that there’s always another product out there to give you the results you want. I’m hoping that you are doing your research and found this post so that you can get that pottery barn black finish you are looking for… the first time!
- Paint. – I was mixing Plaster of Paris with paint for a chalky/matte finish paint before last year. I still love this option but I’ve learned there are other paints out there. The best one I have found so far is Pitch Black by Old Fashioned Milk Paint. It is such a true and rich black color. It’s not slightly grey or blue.
- Finish. – I was using a finishing paste before that would have definitely changed the color of the black paint. Leaving a milky color. Now, I like to use a clear wax or even a black wax! I use black wax from Diva of DIY on almost all of my black painted furniture. There are also products like a clear poly, just make sure they won’t yellow. Protect by Velvet Finishes is an easy one to use with hardly any smell at all. It can be used indoors. I just learned about Polyvine, it goes on clear and dries like a wax finish. I’m pretty excited about trying this out because you can even use it over decorative waxes! Game changer!
- Sanding. – Typically I use a matte finish paint and I like to sand the finish for a soft and smooth result. A little distressing is nice too. With black the second that sandpaper touches the paint you will get a dusty chalkboard looking finish. Don’t get scared! Wiping it off with a slightly damp rag (dry rag if you used milk paint!) will clear the dust and bring back your black finish. Depending on your sandpaper you will most likely see what looks like brush strokes in the paint. So it’s very important to pay attention to the direction of your sanding. Try to stick to straight lines on major surfaces. Sometimes the finish will help these strokes not stand out so much. And sometimes those strokes are really great for adding depth and character to a piece.
In the piece below I put a coat of Safecoat Acriglaze. This starts off with a milky color but as it dries fully that milky color will go away. You can also put wax over it!
Now I love painting furniture black. The legs on the table below were painted with Pitch Black and then waxed with a black wax. I loved this table so much I didn’t want to give it back to its owner. You can read more about this farmhouse table makeover here. And I recently painted my own table black and resurfaced the top. More on that table coming soon!
That perfect pottery barn finish is a classic home decor choice. Black will outlive any trend. You can’t go wrong by painting furniture black. Actually, you can… you’ve been warned!