When You’ve Just Got To Paint It Right Stinking Now

By Kate Riley August 10, 2009

There’s a little saying that goes through my head every time I see woodwork that is extremely unattractive.  I don’t know where I picked it up.  Was it during those embarrassing days as a teenage cheerleader?  Is it from a movie? The little ditty goes something like this:

“U.G.L.Y. You ain’t got no alibi, you ugly, yeah yeah, you ugly.”

Sometimes you own see a piece of furniture, and at that moment it strikes you.  You simply must grab some paint and transform the piece that very instant.  When I feel the need, the need for speed, I turn to my trusty spray paint. 

I had this extremely unattractive “cherry” bench that I bought online years ago.  Real cherry wood is darker and richer.  But in my case, it was one of those moments of desperation when you 1) pretend the online photos aren’t all that bad and 2) need something right now and you don’t think the ugliness factor all the way through.

Exhibit A:

bench before

I am not a wicker person, and I typically steer clear of reddish cherry wood tones.  So what prompted me years ago to throw good money at something so faux?  A question Mr. CG has asked several times – I usually just change the subject.  But not today.  Today, I faced my ugly reddish wicker basketed bench* head on. 

*My sincerest apologies to anyone who owns said “ugly reddish wicker basketed bench”.

What is that color anyway? 

Must. Address. Problem. Now.

Step One:  Sand edges.

Step Two: Spray primer.


Step Three:  Miracle worker ‘Heirloom White’.

heirloom white

Step Four:  I located the plain Jane cushion that came with this bench in the depths of my linen closet, and with a bit of brown floral fabric, stitched up a quick little slipcover with my sewing machine with the same technique I used for these cushions.

I considered painting one of the wicker baskets for the center, but the bottom was prickly in parts and I risked scratching my paint job.  Some canvas bins might work here, or a higher quality softer bottomed basket.

Step Five:  Reattach brushed nickel knobs.  Reuse wicker baskets elsewhere.  Stack a few books.  Add a cozy blanket.  Voila !  Now I have myself a more Pottery Barnish (not a word) bench. 

pottery barnish

Once again, the ‘Before’ and ‘After’:

b and a bench 

After I completed painting this bench, I posted some words in a discussion about the pros and cons of spray paint.  It’s true, and I can’t deny it.  The smooth and uniform finish of perfectly applied spray paint on wood makes my heart go pitter patter. 

spray paint finish

Now this bench is perfect for extra seating at this pedestal table, lounging, reading a book, or enjoying a quick bite. 

bench under table

What about you?  Have you ever been stricken with the affliction to paint something immediately and without hesitation ? 


  1. i just recently discovered your blog and i LOVE IT!! you inspired me to go out and get some heirloom white spray paint and i've painted some frames i found at local flea markets! hopefully i can work my way up to a piece like this! i was just wondering…how many cans did it take to paint this bench? thanks!

  2. Love the results.

    Funny you post about these "moments" – I've had my fair share today!

    I shall post my results tomorrow

  3. You're right, that piece was UGLY. I am not a fan of reddish cherry wood and the new look is perfect for it. Was it hard to paint those wicker baskets or did you decide not to paint them at this time?

  4. Since discovering your blog, my family are going made with my constant trawling of trash and treasure markets (what we call them here in OZ), not to mention the embarrassment I cause them with my 'footpath trawling' (as they now term it) on council throw out days… thanks for all the inspiration I am truley addicted…

  5. I'm addicted to spray paint (actually the brand you used in particular). I spray paint something every week!

  6. I just was looking at a bench like that but it was white and the baskets were natural , I consisdered buying it , but it was too pricey .
    I have the same paint wood condition.
    Just Beachy

  7. LOL, love the "crikey" and "me likey." And yes, I often feel the need to transform things. Knowing the power of spray paint has changed the way I look at things!

    Words on Wendhurst

  8. what a transformation! It looks lovely!
    My sister (a long time crafter) has decided that it's time to stop crafting. I helped her clean out her garage last week, and she rewarded me with…are you ready for this? 81 cans of spray paint! I was thrilled! I've never been a spray painter, I've always leaned more toward "oops" paint.
    I am quickly becoming a fan of spray paint!
    Love your blog! You inspire!

  9. I think black spray paint on a piece like this one would look fabulous as well. And maybe sand the edges. Again a great project and more inspiration. THANKS!!

  10. Oh, you know it! That spray paint is the perfect thing to give all those old pieces new life. You've done it again. :) I actually don't mind the baskets, they could also work with some spray paint.

  11. The cheer is from the Spartan Cheerleaders skits from Saturday Night Live (Will Ferrell does them) and I sing it all the time to inanimate objects! The bench is awesome (now) and I laughed out loud at "crikey" and "me likey". Too cute!

  12. I didn't think the piece was too bad in the before, but the after just makes the before looks worse :) What a gorgeous result though.

  13. Oh, lovely! Yes, I once painted two crappy cherry colored cheap bookcases white. I couldn't stand looking at them anymore. And I didn't care that they only cost $40 a piece—new. However, it took me like 4 days to do it because I was completely unprepared for the task at hand. But I had to do it. I couldn't live like that.

  14. She isn't ugly anymore! Wow! You've done it again!! Great job!


  15. o i love it! i think i will have to do a bench in my breakfast area now! i am still deciding on what to do in that room. so hard to find the perfect round table!

  16. I love this bench!
    It's not easy being green, but I do try to practice many of the concepts at home and while doing design. In the big grand scheme of things I always ask myself what is the greater evil? In this case I would rather see one used can of spray paint versus your unalibied bench in the landfill.

  17. YEEESS!!! It's true! I'll admit it. I almost went out laet last night to pick up some spray paint because it was bugging me THAT bad!! Cause unlike you, though you're my hero… don't get me wrong (this may even be my first comment… I'm a DIY blog stalker and have followed yours for-like-ever!), but I don't have a stash of spray paint anywhere (nor a place to keep it, for that matter).

    But I MUST know where you got this bench?!?! Seriously… It's EXACTLY what I need!!

  18. Glad to see you were able to salvage the knobs! ; )

    It looks gorgeous! I really have to find a practice piece of something to hone my spray paint skills.

  19. So, here's my big question. With the primer, do you need to to any sanding? I have an old dining room hutch and bedroom set that need to be painted. In a former life my husband had refinished and varnished all the pieces. Does that make a difference? Or can I just prime right over the varnish? I'm desperate to paint some wood pieces black and/or white but not sure how to prep. Thanks!

  20. love this makeover! but as a questions….if you had wanted to keep the wicker, can you sand, prime, and stain it the color you want? i have a whole hand-me-down wicker set that i want to be dark, not the pale-pinkish color it is now

  21. I like that bench with the table!
    I've painted things too soon and did a poor job as a result. Since then, I've learned my lesson and sand when necessary.

  22. I absolutely adore that fabric you used for the cushion! So quaint and cozy and appealing. And the bench turned out beautiful. Now you have a piece you can be quite proud of!

  23. I loved the original piece–of course, red is my favorite color for just about everything and I like wicker. But your transformation is soooo much better! More updated and contemporary.

  24. TLB: Yes, sand the edges! – forgot to mention that – reposted article with sanding step. Essential !

    Astrid & Rhoda – yes, you can simply spray paint wicker, no need to prime. Wicker soaks up a lot of paint, so always buy extra spray cans. I just didn't like my baskets on the bench, but will use them elsewhere.

    :-) Kate

  25. i LOVE how you transform your pieces into such beautiful things! I agree, red wood is not my fave. the white is so classic and looks SO much better. i think "pottery barnish" should be a word, i use it all the time.. I just bought a night table that i want to sand down and paint, i just had a question about PRIMER. I think i've seen you use a rub on primer and the spray, what is the difference? also, is there anything you can put on after spray painting it to give it a more matte look?

  26. I love, love, love the transformed bench! It looks great…truly looks like a new piece of furniture. Oh, the wonder of spray paint!


  27. LOVE the transformation, looks like a totally different piece. Question ~ how many cans of spray paint did you use on this piece. I just acquired for FREE a hope chest, one on legs, that I want to spray paint a beige color, I am going to make it into a file for my Pendeflex folders for my clients

  28. She who hesitates is lost. I never know when inspiration will strike or that U.G.L.Y piece will suddenly scream at me.

  29. From another former cheerleader: I likey too! ;)

    Could you put a little bit of felt under the spray painted baskets in an obscure spot so it can't be seen? Love the new look!

    My Decorating Dilemmas Party will be up tonight after 10 (ET) and all day tomorrow…I hope maybe you can swing by. :)

  30. wow, that is beautiful…did you make the fitted cushion on top? or purchase? thank you for sharing, this is amazing…since before and afters are super cute!

  31. Yes, I believe 'Pottery Barnish' IS a word. Love the heirloom white…. but I can't find it ANYWHERE close to me! I've been using ye ol' Dover White… it seems to be okay, but I do lurve your heirloom white!

  32. OK…I really love the transformation but my real reason for commenting is to give you the entire cheer:
    U.G.L.Y – you ain't got no alibi, you ugly, yeah, yeah, you ugly
    M.O.M.M.A – we know how you got that way, yo momma, yeah, yeah, yo momma
    D.A.D.D.Y – you don't even know the guy, yo daddy, yeah, yeah, yo daddy

    I have no idea where it came from and why it is forever lurking in the recesses of my brain but there you have it!

  33. Oh yes…I buy a cans of spray paint without projects in mind for just such occasions!

    Your bench looks so pretty! Great job!

    Roeshel :)

  34. You have done it again! Just beautiful, I am not so good with spray paint..I can't seem to get it smooth and even like you do. Kuddos!!!

  35. Incredible. She's done it again! Another beauty. Keep the incredible ideas coming!

  36. if the piece is already painted, do you need to sand it? you said to sand the edges, so not the whole thing? I have a dining room table that is great, just not my favorite color, what steps should i take so I don't ruin it? I'm pretty sure it has a polyeurethane coating on it, and then back paint underneath. I don't know how I should proceed, and you seem like the queen of beautiful transformations!

  37. What a transformation…I love it!

    Since I started blogging, spray paint has become my new BFF…who knew!?!

  38. I have a bench with similar baskets & I was worried about scratching, but I found some felt strips at Wal-Mart ($3) – they are adhesive & stick right to the bottom of my basket. Now they slide right out and my paint stays intact! :)

  39. Yes indeed, I think a lot of us share your condition. Compulsory transformation.

    We had that same cheer in high school. Ain't got no alibi. What were we thinking?

    Now, are you thinking of TOP GUN when you feel the need, the need for speed?

  40. I believe the “UGLY” cheer comes from “Wildcats” with Goldie Hawn. Love, love, love the bench!

  41. such a wonderful project.. now i will be looking for some of the same items to do one for my bathroo.

    keep sending ideas!!
    Thanks a bunch

  42. When I added baskets to my newly painted shelves I had the same worry about scratching the paint. I just added those felt stick-on “dots” to the bottom of the baskets.

  43. I agree! We moved into a house this summer with salmon colored shutters. I love pink but could not take the shutters! Spray paint and an hour of labor later the neighborhood and myself were much happier!

  44. I agree! We moved into a house this summer with salmon shutters. I love pink but could not take the color. An hour’s work of labor and 3 cans of spray paint later, the neighborhood and myself were much happier. Great quick fix!

  45. Do you remember where did you get that bench? And for how much? I’ve been looking at some online that like your original, aren’t perfect, but if a cheap and easy transformation like the one you performed on your gorgeous bench is possible- I would be more interested in some of the ones I’ve been finding. Funny that you called it Pottery Barnish- I was totally thinking Pottery Barn when I saw the finished product! Love it!

  46. I spray painted an old large square wood coffee table. I lightly sanded, primed, and spray painted, but it feels a little grainy even though I used a gloss finish. Since it is a coffee table, should I wax seal it? I’ve already hauled the heavy thing back into the house and would prefer a hand wax. Do you know of anything? It’s painted with Krylon indoor/outdoor ocean blue gloss. Thanks.

  47. Not a wicker person much myself. Just this a.m. I came across a darling all wicker (white) dresser/armoire for only $15. I actually passed on it because I didn’t have the perfect spot for it. I’m in the middle of clearing stuff out….projects that I just don’t have time for. But I could have been really cute once painted and in the right spot.

  48. I’m so late to this game, but just had a must-paint-now moment! I had to shop for paint in my newly foreign country, so I accidentally came home with oil-based paint. But it’s my new favorite thing! Soo pretty! So glossy! Here’s my project: http://bit.ly/cRU4id

  49. Where do you get your foam? Do you have any tricks for finding cheap foam for bench projects and stuff?

  50. So much better! Yay for you! If you end up wanting baskets you could always hot glue felt to the bottom of those three. (After you paint them. Please paint them first. ;) )

  51. You make me laugh. I’m new to your blog, as of tonight, and I’m officially an addict. Haven’t been able to tear myself away for nearly 3 hours. I’m sick, I have three kids, I have a book to write, and I have to get up in the morning to work out. Wait, just one more project…

  52. I love your website and all the projects you do. You have an amazing eye! I feel like I have found a kindred spirit who shares a similar passion for transformations. I almost feel like I’m looking at a website of my own creations. I love them all!! I am inspired by your beautiful treasures and all the possibilities it has me thinking about for my own. Maybe I’m not the only girl out there who dreams of owning a paint sprayer one day! (I’ve actually got it on my christmas wish list) Keep up the great work. I am officially hooked! I’ll hopfully be submitting some pictures of my own soon…

  53. None of the pictures or links are working. I’d love to see how you did this project; is there anyway that you could post the pictures again? Thank you!

  54. No pix, just gray triangles with an exclamation point inside! On Firefox, I got a yellow strip at the top saying I was missing a plug-in needed for viewing these pix, which was Adobe Flash Player. I installed it, but still no pix. Same thing on Chrome and IE. Boo-hoo.

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