The Number One Thing You Must Do Before Your Next Furniture Makeover

This is so simple, I hesitate to write a whole blog post about it, but this is the number one take-away everyone thanks me for after classes and workshops.

It’s my first suggestion when people ask me what color they should paint something.

It’s what I didn’t do for a long time, until I got smart and realized how much time and energy I could save.

It’s what designers do all the time.

Ready for the big secret?

Create a sample board.

Especially if you are trying out a fancy finish.  Do you want linen with a java wash or java with a linen wash? Does the dark wax look nice or just dirty over that white paint?

chalkpaint buffet2

Especially if you want to duplicate something on Pinterest.  Which product(s) do I need to use and in what order to recreate that super chippy antique inspiration?

chippy milk paint

Even if you love a color and are certain it’s what you want.  It ensures you’re selecting the right color for your room with your lighting and your decor.

one step paint amy howard

Tips for using sample boards:

1. I use cabinet doors (you can get from the Habitat store), thick boards or other pieces of scrap wood or moldings.  The trickier and fancier the finish you’re trying to duplicate, the bigger your sample should be.  If you’re just testing a color, you can use a piece of scrap wood.

2.  I write the colors and steps on the back of my board, so I’ll remember what I did later.

3.   If you’re a furniture painter and meeting with a client or designer, you will look super professional showing up with samples.  It also helps to keep everyone on the same page.  I usually have a client sign off on the sample board she picks and include a description in the quote I send.

4.  If you’re doing a very distressed look like this, make sure your sample board has a similar colored finish and wood grain as the furniture you’re redoing so you have a true idea of your end result.


Before I started using sample boards, I had complete do-overs on pieces I was unhappy with.  (More than once!)

By adding this one thing to your planning process, you can play around with multiple looks and colors and stop wasting time and money.


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