Paint Closet Essentials

By Kate Riley January 28, 2011

Greetings!  I had a fun time with a lot of great gals this past week, but thankfully I’m on a plane flying back to California today.  I miss my family.  I miss my broken in pillow with its perfect fill that never gives me a kink in the neck.  Mostly, I miss my paint splattered sweat pants from 1995, proudly worn here.   

There’s just no place like home!  

Terri asked a great question yesterday on my Facebook page:


Terri, I get a little nervous when my paint supplies dwindle so I keep several types of primer, paint and protectant around at all times. 

1)  I always have oil based primer on hand, especially for laminate surfaces like floating wall shelves or for covering wood like this oak mantel.  No sanding required!  Spray paint formulas are faster, but thinner in coverage.  I like brush on formulas for surfaces that will get a lot of wear and tear.  If you’re bored or curious, awhile back, I wrote up a few tips on refinishing with oil based primer and paint


2) I keep two kinds of water based primer around, basic white for wall projects like priming our wainscoting, and deep tint gray for painting darker pieces like this blue chalkboard table

. ,,,

3)  .I love white paint in all finishes, so I keep several shades of basic white in my garage cabinets, including flat finish for ceilings, eggshell finish for walls or furniture, and semi gloss for trim and cabinets.  I also have clearly labeled all the different paint colors in my house

I keep an unhealthy amount of spray paint in my DIY cabinet.  It’s an addiction and I’m not embarrassed to talk about it.   You never know when the mood will strike to change the color of a picture frame to make a jewelry holder, or transform a free brassy chandelier.  I follow the Boy Scout motto: “Be prepared to spray paint”.     


4)  I’m still working with high quality brushes since I haven’t decided which kind of professional sprayer to purchase.  As a result, paint conditioners are key for me for refinishing cabinets and furniture.  Penetrol is for oil based (alkyd) primers and paints.  I used it to refinish my kitchen island and the finish is so smooth, you simply cannot tell it was painted with a brush.   Trust CG on this one.  Floetrol is for latex paints and I used it on the gray blue dresser in my foyer. 

These two favorites are not paint thinners, they are conditioning additives available at larger home improvement stores in the paint department.  They practically eliminate brush strokes and drag in your paint, plus they lengthen your drying time just long enough to get a smooth finish.  I love these conditioners, and won’t paint furniture with a brush without them anymore.


5) Polycrylic is a great protective finish for painted pieces like this dresser, this credenza, or even this lamp covered in silver leaf. 


Finally, I do keep an extremely large stash of acrylic artist and craft paints lying around as well, just in case the ‘so you think you can paint’ mood strikes, like last weekend when I fancied myself an artist and mixed a bunch of paints to begin a large abstract. 

If only I could get the actual painting to look as good as the palette . . . 

Hope this answers your question Terri!  

Now I’m leaving on a jet plane, don’t know when I’ll be back again, oh babe I hate to gooooooo….  Thank you Nashville for showing this California girl a good time, and John Denver for your addicting lyrics.

Cleared for takeoff,




  1. Ahhhh, #4 might be just the thing we’ve been missing. We can’t figure out how everyone else has these nice painted finishes and ours look like we scraped them with a comb. Thanks for the tip!

  2. Oh, I need more paint. I have lots of artist’s paint (I like acrylic, trying to like oil) but in terms of house paint, we drenched every surface in crisp, clean white when we moved in so we bought a 5 gallon bucket o paint. So, when the walls and trim and ceilings and doors were done, we started painting the insides of cupboards too. I went white overboard. Time to get a few tins of some bolder colours, at least for DIY projects (I’ve been using leftover white for those too!).

  3. I have such a LOVE for paint too … I feel that I’m almost never satisfied with how a room looks so I always like to have options to change! :)

    Are we going to get a peek of the abstract you’re doing?

  4. thanks for all the tips – i am going to try the paint conditioners on my next project! :)

    on a random note, any tips on where to purchase some fake “real looking” flowers?

  5. I’ve never heard of Floetrol,that is priceless information. Visible brush strokes drive me nuts. I’m going to go out and see if I can find it.Thanks so much1

  6. I too, acquired a ton of paint last summer…Question…do they always “card” you when you buy spray paint. I am sure my local Wallyworld thinks I am a Granny Huffer…”how can she possibly use 3 cans of spray paint in two days?

    Have totally transformed all the junk yard furniture I’ve gotten over the years. Now “junking” is not such a trashy idea!

  7. I have loads of spray paint! I could be arrested as a suspected tagger!

    Thanks for your tips! I am so bad, I hate to prime stuff!

    And PS
    I always pack my pillow!
    The Boyfriend always asks me if I’m 5 years old!

  8. OK – This post is why I love CG – a perfect blend of fun and beautiful inspiration and practical help! I am especially happy to know about the paint conditioner – thank you so much.

  9. Thanks for the paint conditioner tip. I just finished painting a filing cabinet and wish I’d read your post before I started the project. I’ll add paint conditioner to my next hardware store shopping trip list.

  10. Totally agree with the oil primer and penetrol/floetrol. But you’re missing one biggie – white vinegar to use as a final rinse on brushes when cleaning water-based paints off. My grandpa was a professional painter back in the day and that was his trick. We have brushes from the 50’s that are still in great condition because of how he cared for them!

  11. OMG Thank you SO MUCH for this blog post! I’ve been a big fan of oil-based primer for years now (I swear by it now lol), but the brush strokes drive me insane! I never knew that you could buy an additive that will make them disappear – so thank you! (just wish I would’ve known that before I painted all our kitchen cabinets… doh! oh well, live and learn!)


  12. I painted our kitchen cabinets years ago and used floetrol, but could not remember what it was called. Thank you so much for reminding me!!!

  13. Lovely photos and great tips. I had never heard of a paint conditioner untuil I read your blog. So incredibly cool. I have 2 peiced of furniture that I need to paint so I will definitely be bookmarking this post.

  14. Very helpful info, Kate. I did not know about paint conditioners. It’s always great to learn a new tip! Safe travels back!

  15. Great tips, Kate! I have painted a ton of furniture in my time and I NEVER knew about the conditioners!! Now I’m looking around my house to see what else I can paint :).

  16. Great little explanation on paint! It’s always fun to hear what others keep on-hand! Just wanted you to know I’ve nominated you for the Stylish Blogger Award! I’ve linked to you on my blog and all the info about it is on there as well! Have a great weekend!

  17. Have you heard of gravity fed HVLP spray paint guns? They’re used for painting cars so they’re extremely precise. I have one from Harbor Freight and I love it. They run from $10-600…and I have one that set me back $20. It’s incredible! You will need an air compressor for it, which I am sure you have:) Thanks for this post! Please visit my website in a couple weeks once it’s up and running!

  18. It was such a pleasure to meet you at Blissdom. You are so sweet and kind and made me feel very welcome there, so thank you. Hope you made it home safely to your family and that you get a wonderful night’s rest! (I got a kink in my neck, too).
    Kristin (Melissa’s sister)

  19. wow, excellent post. i’m bookmarking this as a permanent reference for myself. thank you for putting all this together in 1 post!

  20. Such a good and instructive post, Kate! I’ve been painting for longer than you’ve been alive, and have totally missed the flotrol step. I’ve used the penetrol for oil-based paints, but just assumed I’d have to live with brush strokes in my latex! Great tip. I used to be a mural artist and decorative painter in a long ago day, and I STILL have gallons and quarts of paint hanging around. Another good post would remind people how to get rid of old paint! So excited to learn something new!

  21. I am new to just randomly painting objects except for walls. I would be terrified to paint a piece of furniture so I am starting with some baskets. The 3 baskets are all different colors have a sheer glaze over them – brownish red, green and yellow. They sit on a 3 shelf etagere made from a dark wrought iron. The kitchen is now “Comfort Gray” from Sherwin Williams and don’t fit the color scheme. I want them to be a light creme but feel that spray paint would be a little to harsh. Is there a glaze I could put over spray paint to give them a more weathered look? Any advice would be appreciated!

  22. Just a reminder to your readers – Do NOT keep your paint in the garage if you live in areas where temps can dip below freezing. Also, if you have large cans that are half-empty, you can buy smaller tins at HD or your local paint store. Finally, when you are ready to toss paint, make sure it is completely dried out; you can buy special paint absorbers for this purpose, or you can try using sawdust, cat litter, or get some oil-absorbant at your local autoparts store. Never put partially empty oil cans in with regular garbage — your town should offer special pick ups for oil-based paint.

  23. I just said the same thing on my drive home last night about what a pillow snob I am! It’s SO impossibly hard to find the “perfect” fill!

    Loved meeting you, albeit briefly. Maybe one of these days we’ll have a moment to actually chat! I’d love that.

  24. My very savvy daughter sent me the link to this post as I was bemoaning my lack of painting prowess. Not that I don’t paint, I paint everything, but if often looks, as my carpenter son so kindly said, “like you painted it with a broom”. I tried more paint, lighter touch – better, but still not great.

    I can’t wait to try the additives – could it be that I could become not only a painting addict, but a real pro??

  25. I have read that the professional painters like the XIM Extender brand over the Flotrol extending product. Unfortunately I didn’t learn of either of these products until AFTER I painted two big columns in my house, but plan to use it when I decide to tackle them again.

    Another paint I LOVE, but I didn’t see it on your list is Cabinet Coat. It dries hard and smooth like an oil paint, but doesn’t yellow and is soap and water clean up. It’s a bit tricky to work with, there’s a learning curve involved. It’s a bit thinner than normal paint, so it has to be applied in thin coats applied quickly otherwise it will sag or drip. The best part is no brush strokes!

    Thanks for all your helpful advice and for your willingness to get things done. It’s such a great motivation!

  26. Hi Kate, I bought the two paints from your bedroom and mixed 1/2 and 1/2. It looks more green than grey. Is that how it’s suppose to be?

    • Hi Linda, you’re talking about my Master Bedroom color? It really depends on the light. In bright sunlight it does lean more green, in softer afternoon light it is more gray.

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