You don’t need to be a DIY aficionado to refresh old furniture with paint. Get inspiration and tips from Meg Piercy, a Chicago entrepreneur who turned one dresser into big business and TV fame.
MegMade chicago furniture store interior
Hire MegMade's team to refinish your piece or shop online and in-store for finished vintage pieces, plus new sofas, wallpaper, lighting, rugs and window treatments.
| Credit: Nicolas Gourguechon

Painting old furniture is a good gig these days. Just ask Meg Piercy, owner of ever-expanding refinisher MegMade in Chicago.

"I think people are really starting to put personality back into their homes again," Piercy says. "For a while, there was a wave of neutrals and minimalism. Now family heirlooms and one-of-a-kind pieces are starting to become the statements."

There's also emotional satisfaction in turning a cast-off item into something beautiful, an eco appeal to upcycling, and the benefit of saving money. That's how Piercy got into it. Too broke to buy a changing table for her newborn, she repurposed a vintage dresser found in an alley, learning DIY on the fly—"I remember staying up all night and watching YouTube," she says. That led to painting more furniture and selling it online with her husband, Joe. His catchphrase, "Meg made that," named the business. Now the couple sells pieces nationwide, does interior design, and stars in the new HGTV series Renovation Goldmine. But don't let them have all the fun. Maybe you can't change the world, or your life, but you can paint a dresser. And that can be a transformative experience.

Before-and-After Dresser Makeover

white refinished dresser brick wall mirror
detail white refinished antique dresser
Left: Credit: Nicolas Gourguechon
Right: Credit: Nicolas Gourguechon
antique dresser before shot
Credit: Courtesy of Meg Piercy

Piercy's furniture pickers scour flea markets and garage sales for unique pieces. The most promising finds fill MegMade's warehouse until Piercy and her crew revive them with stylish paint, stain and hardware.

refinished vintage furniture pieces teal dresser
Credit: Nathan Kirkman

Meg's Top Furniture Makeover Tips

Find it, prep it, paint it. OK, there's a little more to it. Meg Piercy's keys will help. 


Consider versatile furniture that can change with your needs—like a small table that could serve as a desk, an island (raised on casters) or a coffee table (with legs cut down).


Painting furniture is all in the prep work, Piercy says: "Take that extra time to really clean your pieces off so the paint adheres to the wood and not the grease and grime that's been on it for the past 10 years. If you give yourself a good base, you're 75 percent of the way there."  


Try chalk-finish paint—it doesn't require priming. Before painting, use a degreaser to remove grime and lightly sand. 


Test colors and techniques on the back of the piece to make sure you're happy with the results before doing the whole thing.


When glazing, dip a horsehair brush into the stain or glaze and dab on a paper towel to remove excess. Working quickly and in manageable sections, brush on the surface, then wipe off using a lint-free cotton cloth.


After painting, use wax to protect the finish and bring back the original sheen. Piercy's favorite brand, Amy Howard at Home, is available in clear, light or dark finishes.


To distress apiece, first prep and paint it the desired color, then apply an initial coat of gel stain or glaze. Apply a second, thicker coat in spots that naturally wear most: decorative details, edging and around hardware. Feather in the glaze, then let dry. Seal by spraying with a clear, low-sheen lacquer and let dry.


Hardware is jewelry that makes pieces sparkle. Piercy's go-to sources include Rejuvenation, CB2, Addison Weeks, Forge Hardware Studio and Etsy.