Painting Oak

By Kate Riley May 11, 2009

Last week I found a beveled glass mirror at the local thrift store for $8.  It was the perfect size for my daughter’s bedroom.  The only problem was that it was oak.  All it took to transform it was just some sanding, a bit of primer, and some white spray paint. 

Here’s the Before and After:

before and after

There are two schools of thought on painting oak.  The first opinion is that painted oak never looks good.  I happen to subscribe to the second opinion.  Painted oak can look good, if you follow through with several labor intensive steps.  

Clean and remove all dirt and grime from the surface.  Then sand off any varnish to get to the raw wood.  For big projects like kitchen or bathroom cabinets, you’re better off using a power tool sander rather than sanding by hand.  In my case, since my project was small, I used a medium grade sandpaper to remove the small amount of varnish on the mirror.   Be sure to wipe after sanding to remove all dust.  

oak mirror

I taped off the beveled mirror with painter’s tape and newspaper.

painters tape

Prime with an oil based primer.  Sometimes you must apply two coats, especially if you want to minimize the grainy nature of oak.  In bigger projects, allow to dry 24 hours.  In my case, I used a fast drying spray paint primer.  The first coat was dry after 30 minutes, so then I applied a second coat.  It is a good idea to apply two coats of primer since oak is a very grainy wood and the primer helps to fill in some of those grains. 


When your primer is dry, apply at least two coats of paint, preferably with a sprayer rather than a brush to avoid brush strokes.   In my case, I applied three coats of spray paint since the coats are thinner when you spray versus using a brush. 

spray paint

I didn’t bother painting the back since no one would see it anyway.  The mirror had no hooks on the back, so I purchased these from a local craft store:


Since the mirror is hanging in my daughter’s room, I also stapled a simple sew sash to the back to glam up the look of the mirror. 


Here is the final looking glass in her room. 

mirror final 2

For a great tutorial on transforming a kitchen’s oak cabinets into beautiful white cabinets, visit this post at the Howsed blog.  

In this post from the Cottage Magpie blog, you can learn how to prime, paint and trim oak cabinetry with your own color of choice. 

What are your thoughts on transforming oak ?


  1. Nice! I think it looks great! I, like you, think that painting oak is perfectly fine as long as you make sure you have good coverage and can’t see the grain lines underneath.

    I just painted my first huge piece of LAMINATE furniture and it turned out so well. It, too, was very labor intensive, but turned out perfectly. I’m putting together a tute on that one for next week.

  2. Adorable!

    I bet her room is darling.

    You are right about painting oak, you just have to follow the steps.

  3. That is beautiful! I also painted a mirror for my daughter’s room. It was oval shaped, which proved to be kind of difficult to tape off, however I was able to paint it white and it looks great!

  4. It looks great!

    My dad about had a heart attack when I painted the oak table and hutch my folks gave us. But, it wasn’t my style before at all and now I love it. And he likes it too (if he’d admit it).

  5. I love it!! so cute, and with a little paint and a sash, the mirror looks completely different!

  6. Most of the cabinets in my house are oak, and I have started refinishing some of them. I loved how they turned out in the bathroom so now I am tackling the laundry room. I think it is a great way to refresh a room for very little cost!

  7. I worked at a home decorating store and we had our own method for hanging items for your walls using ribbon. Introducing the "Fake Hang": Hang the item (we'll say it's a mirror)on the wall. Hang the nail cover/button ( or Hobby Lobby) above the mirror. Using 1/2 yard of ribbon hang it over the nail cover and secure each end behind the mirror with scotch tape. (no joke!) Take about another yard of your ribbon and tie it around the nail cover and make a bow or just tie it in a simple knot and trim the ends. This method is good for kids rooms or high traffic areas where the mirror may get bumped a lot. There is also a chance of the wood splitting if stapled into the frame. I love, love, LOVE this site and get so many great ideas from you! Thanks!

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