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How To Paint A Plywood Wardrobe And Save Your Home Decor

Updated: Mar 26

To most people, especially us women, "fixing our wardrobe" means obsessing over what's IN it. We spend an incredible amount of time filling it up with clothes, shoes, accessories, the works.

But for me, my wardrobe itself was a sore point. After spending 2 years (and counting) on doing up my place, covering every corner, piece of flooring, if there was one spot that I could never get round to rescuing, it was my wardrobe. The wardrobe per se was not bad, it was spacious, had sections, was minimal, had a mirror and did its job. But its color was what earned it its reputation.

Stark Raving red.

Tomato red.

Vermillion red.

This monstrosity stared me in the face as I woke up each morning. The contrast of red ruined the subtle greys of all of my linen, my carefully curated muted color decor and all the nice walnut, coffee furniture looked trash next to its red plywood doors, and every time I used a yellow bedsheet or blanket, well, I was living in a McDonalds!

Since the day I'd first seen this house, I knew the wardrobe needed saving. But somehow, I could never get around to doing it. It always felt like too much work, I didn't know how long I was going to stay in the house (the one excuse for any renter to get away from doing any work around the house), and honestly, I didn't know how to work with wood.

Sure, I could do the same Brick wallpaper sticker makeover I did with my kitchen cupboard doors, but for the wardrobe, it was a much larger area and I just got lazy.

Cut to yesterday, fresh from a renewed lease on the house, I decided enough is enough, and not wanting to endure another year of the red eyesore, I decided to give the wardrobe a lick of paint.

I've never painted (ply) wood before, I didn't know what paint to get, how to prepare the surface, aftercare at all. Again, I let my instincts take over.

So, I decided to paint the wardrobe dark grey because black would be too dark and make the room look even smaller, while white would get dirty and patchy. So grey it was: For a standard 3-door wardrobe, I used:

1) 300ml of white Acrylic paints (the kinds you get in hardware stores)

2) 100ml of same type of black paint

3) 500ml bottle of turpentine oil (An oil that basically "thins" the paint to make it glide over smoothly.)

4) A 2" wide paintbrush

5) Some rags to clean

And lots of newspapers to protect your flooring. (Trust me, those stains are a bitch to get rid of!)

And here is my step-by-step process to paint that plywood wardrobe

1) Mix the paints in a platter or plate - I used one of those food takeout disposable square containers. Now you need to spend a good 10 minutes blending in the two colors or they'd have a "marble" effect unless of course you're going for that look.

2) Give the painting surface - in our case the cupboard - a good wipe with rubbing alcohol or a 1:2 vinegar-water solution prior to painting.

3) Dust away the cobwebs and dust bunnies from the corners

4) Wear clothes you're willing to throw away post the paint job.

5) Cover the edges of the surface with masking tape or similar. This step is CRUCIAL as paint splotches on the edges will ruin your entire effort and look shoddy and amateur.

It's very important to get a sheet and newspapers lining every surface around the paint area cuz trust me it will drip and splatter far off. It's much wiser to get the stains on a rag than having to remove them later.

6) Put some music on, make sure there's coffee/food prepared BEFORE, to have once the job is done. (You'll thank me for this part!)

6) Start painting from the top, in horizontal, even strokes. Don't go back and forth on the same spot or it'll scrape the paint off and reveal the old colour beneath.

7) Have a rag at the ready to pick up stray drips on yourself or the painting area.

8) Put on a disposable cap, socks and gloves because it's very difficult to get oil paints off the body, and you don't wanna look like an unfinished painting yourself for the next 2-3 days!

9) Take breaks: Rigorous painting can be strenuous and you realise this much later when it's been done and dusted. Take breaks every 15 minutes or so. Stretch and move your hands. Get a sip of water, get back to the job.

10) Once the paint begins to dry, watch out for drips or uncovered spots. Give them a spot-on lick of paint.

11) At this point, clean up the spilled paint drips and spots with a swap of cotton dipped in turpentine oil. You can rub some on your hands and feet too to get them off. Basically Turpentine Oil is your one-point paint stain remover.

12) The smell of fresh paint and having to inhale it can be overwhelming. (or interesting, ahem) If possible, stay out of the room for 24 hours after the job.

13) Come back, enjoy a freshly painted wardrobe and a now new room.

Painted plywood cupboard

How did you like the before and after of my freshly painted once-ugly wardrobe? Do share in the comments.


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 I (Monica) am a lifelong traveler, (40 countries), sustainability and veganism advocate, and a marketer by profession. I'm old school in that I still like to blog and document rather than shoot and post.

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