Introduction: From Boring to Boho - Painted Furniture

I've long been fascinated by everything Boho. In my mind, it conjures up images of gypsy caravans, wildly excessively painted vardos and even carousel horses! The style suggests a carefree lifestyle that's filled with color, texture and a touch of the exotic. I want Boho in my life!

When I happened upon a small side table at the local thrift store for $5.00, I had to have it. I knew it would make a perfect first project in my effort to inject a bit of the gypsy style into my home.

Let me say upfront that this Instructable will not be a step by step tutorial for replicating the piece of furniture that I created for myself. It will, however, teach you the steps necessary to create your very own unique piece.

Are you ready?

Well, then, let's begin!


Supplies for this kind of project are pretty basic to any kind of paint project, with the exception of the piece of furniture.

They are:

  • A piece of furniture
  • Sandpaper - 80 grit,120 grit (240 grit - optional)
  • Primer - 1 Quart
  • Paint - Base Color - 1 Quart of any color that makes you happy! :)
  • Craft Paint - various colors for design application
  • Paintbrushes - various sizes
  • Printable Designs
  • Carbon Paper or Transfer Paper
  • Pencil
  • Rags - Lint free is best, T-shirt fabric works really well!

Step 1: Prep Your Furniture

A good looking paint job begins with good preparation of the surface that you'll be painting. You can see in photo 1 that the top of my little side table had some deep scratches in it. In a Boho project, these aren't really important as most of the time you'd be painting and then distressing the piece. However, I wanted my table to look like a new piece of Boho created furniture. How it would have looked before it'd gotten all banged up and scuffed up riding around in the back of my vardo for a couple of decades. So, I decided to sand it down, beginning with 80 grit sandpaper to remove the deep scratches. Then I moved on to 120 grit to smooth it out even more. Between sandings, I wiped the entire thing down with a damp piece of old T-shirt fabric and let dry.

Tip: If you want a really smooth surface to paint on, you can even go over the piece again with 240 grit sandpaper.

Photo 2 shows the table covered in sanding dust after using the 80 grit sandpaper.

Photo 3 shows the table wiped down with a damp cloth and ready to prime after sanding.

Step 2: Prime Your Project

A good primer will help your paint to bond with the surface of your piece of furniture. I used Zinsser Cover Stain Oil Based Primer. It can be coated with any kind of top coat, which was important since I'll be using a water base acrylic paint over it.

(Back in the day, you couldn't use a water base paint over an oil base anything as it would refuse to stay on for very long. However, with today's technology they've jumped that hurdle. Sometimes, change is a good thing!)

Apply your primer using a 1" - 1 1/2" paint brush. Remember to stir your primer often as you prime. Primer dries very quickly and can develop a skin over the primer in the can or go "clumpy". Work around your piece, paying attention to areas that are easily missed.

Photo 2 shows where I missed getting primer into some of the fluted legs because I was painting from the other side. If that happens to you, just touch those spots up with a little more primer.

Tip: If your primer seems very thick and hard to work with, just dip your brush into a little mineral spirits (if working with oil base primer) or water (for water base primer) and brush lightly over the piece. It will thin and smooth out the primer.

After priming, clean your brush thoroughly. Your primer can will tell you what is recommended to use for cleaning up.

Let your primer dry completely before moving on to the next step. I let mine sit overnight.

Step 3: Base Coat

Once your primed piece is dry, it's time to apply your base coat. I'm partial to teal and chose Sailing Ship Teal in an eggshell finish for my base coat. Start by applying 1 thin coat of your base color, being careful to use long smooth strokes and watch out for drips. Let dry.

Apply second coat of base color and let dry thoroughly before continuing with the next step.

Step 4: Now for the Fun Part - Applying Your Design

Designs for your Boho furniture project can be found everywhere. Coloring pages, wallpaper, fabric or even a favorite rug can provide ideas. Doing a search for Painted Boho Furniture on the internet will present you with so many possibilities that you may become overwhelmed!

I already had an idea that I wanted something sweet and antique looking. What I found was an antique greeting card at She has over 5000 antique and vintage printables that are royalty and copyright free, just for the downloading. (I am not affiliated with her site. I just really like the graphics that she's collected.)

Once I had found the graphic that I was looking for, I downloaded it to my computer. The antique greeting card was printed in color and I used my photo editing program to turn it into a pencil drawing. I printed out one color copy of the greeting card graphic to use as color reference when I get to the painting part, and one copy of the pencil drawing to use in transferring the design to my table top.

To transfer your design to your furniture:

Place one sheet of carbon paper (face down) on your surface. Place your design sheet on top of the carbon paper (face up). Photo 1

Now, starting at one side of your design, use your pencil to trace all of the lines in your design. Photo 2

Tip: I found that using four pattern weights on the corners of my design sheet helped to keep everything in place as I traced all of the lines of the design.

When tracing your design, you may find it helpful to carefully fold back a portion of your carbon paper and design sheet to see what has transferred underneath. When you do this, you want to make certain that the rest of the design sheet and carbon paper doesn't move out of place. If it does, it's nearly impossible to line it up exactly over the lines that you've already traced! You'll be able to see if you've missed a portion or perhaps need to use more pressure to make your lines darker and easier to see. Photo 3

Once you've traced over all of the lines, it's time to remove the design sheet and carbon paper to reveal your transferred design. Voila! Photo 4

Step 5: Time to Go Boho - Adding Color

Remember that color print copy that I mentioned earlier? I'm using it to pick colors from my craft paints. Photo1

If you don't have a color print of your design to work from, you can choose the colors that you want to use now. By printing out several of your black and white design pages, you can try several color schemes until you find the one you like. Just like a coloring page.

Once you've got your colors together, begin painting. Photo 2

Wait, what?

For me, this is the point that I start second guessing myself and wonder why I ever started this project in the first place. What was I thinking? I don't know what I'm doing! I can't paint very well! Acckkk!!!

If you ever feel that way, I've got the perfect solution.... just begin. This is Boho... not brain surgery. It can be as bright and simple or as complex and colorful as you want it to be. It's just paint. If you don't like it, you can cover it up with another coat of paint and start again.

Tip: Use your color design print to use as a color reference when you're painting. Photo3

Step 6: Design Additions

Now that your main design is finished you may want to embellish the rest of your piece of furniture. You can repeat the steps that you used earlier to add more design elements or you may decide to freehand your design additions. There is no wrong way in Boho! The main thing is that whatever you add to your piece should delight your soul and make you happy.

Tip: Use a clear acrylic spray top coat to protect all of your hard work

Step 7: The Finished Boho Piece

Congratulations on your very own unique Boho painted furniture! It is truly an original expression of yourself that you can be proud of.

Thank you for letting me be a small part of your creative endeavor.

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