Before & After: An $11 Refresh Makes This Second-hand Canopy Bed Look Much More Expensive

published Jan 16, 2022
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Here in the Midwest, we like to brag about how little we pay for things. We love a good deal, and we love sharing tips on where to find said deals, so hear this Midwesterner when she says: do NOT sleep on Facebook Marketplace! Truly, if there is any reason to continue to have a Facebook account, Marketplace is that reason.

Over the summer I became enamored with the Chicagoland Marketplace. I searched daily because I was looking for a wood canopy bed for my daughter. I had one as a kid and thought it was the absolute coolest thing, and knew she would love to have one as well. I found a few I liked ranging from $50–$900, but the last one in my search was only $90 and it was the exact shape I was looking for. I found out the one I’d fallen in love with was a vintage Ethan Allen canopy bed and it normally sold for anywhere ranging from $400–$900. 

The next day, we picked up the bed, and it was even lovelier in person with a gorgeous maple nutmeg finish. We constructed the bed in no time at all. No hardware or tools were required, and everything fit together using wooden dowels and pins, which is the mark of great craftsmanship! The bed sat in my daughter’s bedroom for a few months, because I couldn’t figure out how to style it. I’m not usually drawn to natural wood finishes, so I didn’t really have a clue how to incorporate it into the super-colorful style of our home. In my heart, I really wanted to paint it, but I kept hearing “it looked better before!” and “why in the world would you paint over that gorgeous wood!?” comments echoing in my head. 

Around that time I interviewed interior designer Christy Ramon for an article I was writing on a sunny yellow bedroom she designed for her son, and I spied his yellow spindle bed that she painted with paint leftover from their front door. It was bold and fun and just the nudge I needed to get over my fears of painting my daughter’s canopy bed. Before I knew it, I found myself at the hardware store picking out the perfect shade of mint green and prepping to paint. 

How I painted the bed for just $11

It took about a week (and 3 Audible credits!) to paint, which included one coat of primer, two of the topcoat, protective sealer, and about 2 days to let it cure. My total all-in cost was $11 for the green paint (I was able to use primer and a sealant that were leftover from a previous project) and I actually ended up using a thinner craft brush to paint the bed with, instead of one of my better, thicker paint brushes. I found the craft brush allowed me to get into the grooved details of the bed better than a thick brush would. Two days was enough time to let the bed dry, but to be sure it was cured completely, I would have liked to have let it cure for at least a week or two — just to be sure everything underneath the top layer was completely dry, but our daughter had already been sleeping in our bedroom for a week, so we had to get a move on.

Overall I’m so happy with the results! Louisa absolutely loved it, and it even inspired us to paint a fun checkerboard wall behind the bed. Things tend to change quite a bit in our house, so if she decides she ever wants the bed a different color, the process won’t take nearly as long to do because we’ve already covered the wood.

It’s so silly to think back on how nervous I was to paint the bed and “ruin” it. I have absolutely zero regrets and am so so happy with the results. I think the happy color really serves the room well, it feels less “precious” and way more fun — which, if I had to say, is the design goal of our home.

My advice to anyone wanting to paint good wood furniture is this: Do what you want. You are going to be the one living with it — why not enjoy it to the fullest? Push out those snarky comments in your head and just do exactly what you want to that furniture! It’s just paint. Wood can always be stripped and refinished, and in the meantime, you get to live with an inspiring new piece that will bring joy to your family every time you look at it.

My tips for painting wood furniture

I wouldn’t call myself an expert per se, but I’m no novice either. I’ve painted my fair share of furniture and learned a few things along the way. 

  • First: before you do anything, clean, clean, clean the furniture to remove the years of dust and debris and whatever else might be on the surface. Use a dust cloth for the first pass, spray the piece with water or a gentle all-purpose cleaner, then wipe it down with a rag.
  • If you’re using latex paint, use a primer first. This will ensure your color will lay smoothly and consistently for a true professional finish. If you’re using chalk paint there’s no need for a primer. 
  • Always seal the topcoat with a protective finish like wax or sealer. The topcoat will protect your paint from things like water stains from cups, scratches, and other normal wear-and-tear — which is especially important in a kid’s space.
  • The most important thing: Take time to let the paint cure. When painted furniture feels “dry to the touch,” it’s not actually ready to be used just yet. Letting the paint cure means you’re letting it completely harden and adhere to the surface. Depending on which type of paint you’re using, the process of curing can take up to 30 days. This step is so important though, because the longer you let your paint cure, the more resistant it becomes to dings and scratches.   

If you love painted furniture but are hesitant about your abilities, check your local antique stores for dealers who specialize in painted furniture. Most often, they are available to take commissions and will pick up and paint your piece according to your specifications. It’s a more affordable and sustainable way to get a custom-looking piece.

My tips for shopping the marketplace

Here’s the thing about the Marketplace: People can price things as absurdly high, or low as they like. It’s basically a giant communal yard sale that lasts until the item sells. 

You have the option to make an offer. That said, if you find a really good deal, you need to act fast. If you aren’t able to pick an item up immediately, ask to pre-pay using Venmo or Zelle so the seller will hold the item until you can make arrangements to pick it up. This can be a bit of a risk, but one I’ve found is definitely worth it! 

If you’re really into finding good deals and love shopping secondhand, browse the Marketplace often. Click to open up all the items you’re interested in, even if you don’t plan on buying anything right away. This way, the platform can learn what kind of items you like, and will get better and better about bringing those items to your attention in the feed. It’s called letting the algorithm work for you!