New furniture isn't cheap.
And if you have to furnish a whole room, let alone a whole apartment or house, even an Ikea bill feels like a big drain on your bank account.
But there is a way to keep your furniture costs in check: Finish it yourself.
Many stories sell "unfinished" furniture, which still lacks primer and paint, but, crucially, is cheaper than the finished product.
By painting it yourself, you can not only save a few bucks but also give it your own personal flair. Assistant Managing Editor Gabrielle Karol painted her dresser (check out her handiwork in the photo!), and it saved her a sum and looks good to boot.
What You'll Need
Latex-based primer (the amount depends on the number of furniture pieces you have and their size; ask for a recommendation at the hardware store)
Lacquer paint (ditto regarding the amount)
Large paint brush
Possibly: Small paint brush, i.e. an old makeup brush
Possibly: Masking tape
A tarp (the size again depends on the size of your furniture, but always err on the side of giving yourself more space to work in)
A well-ventilated area
Prep and Prime
If there are any metals knobs or other hardware, remove them and store them in a safe place. If you can't remove them, tape them to cover the areas that connect to the wood pieces.
Place down your tarp in the well-ventilated area. Sand down every surface of your furniture to remove any rough spots. Just do enough that when you run your hands over it, it feels smooth.
Wipe down everything with a damp cloth to clear away all the dust. Let it dry.
Afterward, apply a coat of the primer, as evenly as possible. The primer will help even out the color so that the paint will look consistent when you put it on. Let the primer dry.
Very lightly, sand the surface one more time, not to remove the primer but just to give the paint something to stick to. Again, wipe off all the dust with a damp cloth.
Now, You Can Paint
To ensure the paint job looks good, keep all your strokes going in the same direction and along the wood grain. When painting around any metal hardware, which should still have masking tape on it, use your small brush to get in the nooks and crannies around each piece. If you have wooden knobs, you can also use the makeup brush to paint those as well.
Let the paint dry for about four hours, and then apply a second coat. Again, let it dry, and if you feel you need it, apply a third coat.
When you're all set, let the furniture dry for 24 to 48 hours. If you took the hardware off, replace it, and then head off to arrange furniture and decorate!