How To Paint Ikea Furniture: Updating Our TV Stand

paint ikea furnitureOver the weekend we made a noticeable change to the living room by applying our “skills” to paint Ikea furniture.

Yes, this is laminate but it actually wasn’t a difficult process in retrospect. Any difficulty arose from our refusal to disassemble the Expedit before painting!

We have been using a dark (and depressing to me) Ikea Expedit bookcase turned sideways as our TV stand/media center. Although there is nothing (really) wrong with the dark color, I am not a big fan of the darker “standard” Ikea colors. In this case, the tv stand/bookcase was destined to be replaced somehow because it was bringing down the whole room. Much like our couch actually, but that is another story.

We thought about buying a new tv stand, but an online search revealed that a “compartmentalized” media center to replace this sideways Expedit can run anywhere from $300 to $2000. Instead of buying a new piece, we decided to repaint the existing Expedit bookshelf/tv stand. The internet is full of articles on how to paint Ikea furniture so I did some research before going to buy things.

I have seen conflicting articles regarding sanding or not sanding before painting, primers to use, paints to use, etc. I arrived at the hardware store fully prepared with a list of items and a primer in mind. However, after talking to the paint experts my list changed a bit.

For the primer we used Glidden Gripper in white and finished off what was left from our DIY hairpin leg nightstands. I was expecting to use the Zinnser primer since others have recommended this to paint Ikea furniture. However, at the hardware store, the paint expert recommended the Glidden Gripper.

Glidden Duo Gold Coast

Glidden Duo Gold Coast

For paint, we used Glidden DUO in Gold Coast which is an off-white color with a yellowish tint (depending on the light!). I picked the color before realizing it was a DUO paint which technically does not need a primer. However, considering Ikea furniture is usually laminate, we did not take any chances. We got the paint in an eggshell finish to maintain the “smoothness” of the original paint. Now that I think about it, we might use an eggshell finish all the time! No more flat/matte.

First, we sanded the Expedit. This was probably not necessary but we did it anyway with fine sandpaper. This is a dusty process so gloves and a mask are recommended.

After sanding the entire thing (which took a while) we applied the primer left over from our DIY nightstand project.

Paint ikea Furniture - Priming the Expedit

We had to let the primer dry for an hour at least. You can still sort of see the dark “undertone” from this angle.

After priming, the fun part began. Painting. We ended up using foam brushes although we started with rollers. I found the foam better for a “smooth” finish vs using rollers. Of course, using the foam brushes took some time as well.

Once the paint was applied we left it to dry in place overnight.

Paint ikea Furniture - Left to dry

Left to dry overnight. You can see how the Glidden Gold Coast appears under a halogen light.

All this was done in the living room at night after a long day spent in the city. I was quite proud that we did not fall asleep halfway through. We had to move things out of the way, cover furniture, clean up, etc and we used cardboard boxes to protect the floor in the “work area”. By the end, we were pretty tired and conversation was at a minimum because it would have taken too much energy!

This whole process took up a quart of paint and 0.75 quart of primer. A bit more than I was expecting, but we had just enough to finish.

Here’s what it looks like in late morning sunlight from the window.

Paint Ikea Furniture - Repainted Expedit

You can still sort of see a hint of yellow but it definitely appears more “white” in sunlight.

I now think I sprained my wrist with this project! But, at least we have a much lighter tv stand! I really prefer this color. The darker color was a bit imposing in our (relatively) small living room.

Next time I decide to do this though, I have promised myself to disassemble first and maybe go with spray paint instead. These weren’t really options this time since we had to do everything indoors.

My next task is to get a large piece of plywood to cover the back of the bookshelf/tv stand and hide all the wires. I will need to figure out whether to go with the same color or be adventurous and use something “loud” like orange or maybe a pattern of some sort?

So glad this is done as it is another thing scratched off the To Do List! Thoughts on the new color?



  1. Natasha
    May 9, 2014 / 11:15 pm

    I have been wanting to do this for a long time now, thanks for the inspiration! It’s good to know someone who’s already done it. So no need to sand really?, prime and possible spray paint or just regular paint? I think I can handle this. I have 3 large pieces (2 expedite (now Kallax) shelving units, 1 hemnes tv stand) to do. The hardest part will be choosing the colours…..

    • May 10, 2014 / 11:51 am

      Glad you found this helpful! Definitely if you have the space I would spray paint. It will make things so much easier and I wish we had space to do that.

      I would also recommend disassembling (or painting before assembling). It is much easier to spray paint and fully cover individual parts and you’ll avoid brushmarks.

      Let me know how it goes!

      • Natasha
        May 4, 2015 / 4:26 pm

        Ok, I am finally ready to paint one of three Ikea items that I would like to redo. My question is this. I want to repaint an Ikea Hemnes tv stand. I really want to do the old wood look in an off white colour. Do you think that would be hard to do?

        I’m also using CIL Smart paint that has the primer in it already. Should I also use a separate primer too? I think any scratches would just add to the old wood look!

        I would love to hear your thoughts, and how your furniture is holding up after all this time!

        • May 5, 2015 / 12:03 pm

          Our furniture is holding up great! Definitely sand down as much as you can before you begin applying any paint. I don’t think you will need a separate primer with that paint. I googled the CIL paint and it looks like it is also great for outdoor use. I think the biggest thing here will be sanding down before applying any paint.

          The one Ikea piece we painted that has not held up as well as we hoped is the dining table top we did here. In that case we did not do any sanding beforehand and the dining table gets more “traffic”. Good luck with the project!

  2. sandra
    July 16, 2014 / 12:45 pm

    Hi i love it!! I love how it looks !! I have a couple of ikea dressers i would like to make-over but i have always wondered if the paint coat will be more easily to scratch off …could you let us know what happens after a couple of months of this project? Thanks a lot for everything ..pardon my english

    • July 17, 2014 / 11:53 am

      Hi Sandra,

      We have had the Expedit painted for almost 6 months now and it has held up. There is one small scratch on the top of the Expedit caused from the tv base when we first placed the TV on top of the stand (this was the day after painting so it probably wasn’t completely dry yet). Other than that, there has been no damage and it still looks the same!

  3. Amy
    November 9, 2014 / 1:50 am

    Thanks for this post. We were looking at doing this too. One question- how many of the squares fit the red lekman? box perfectly like the one on the right? Is the lowest shelf shorter or the same size? I was hoping to have 4 Drona boxes fit exactly (not just fit them in the wider areas because I was going to use them for something else)

    • November 10, 2014 / 2:04 pm

      Hi Amy,

      Only 2 openings will fit the Lekman box (and only 1 will fit perfectly as you see in the picture). We still have this shelf (placed vertically this time) and even then it’s still the same two openings that fit the boxes. The other openings are too narrow unfortunately.

      I think the Drona has the same dimensions as the Lekman.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Kiran
    December 20, 2016 / 10:42 am

    Wow! I have this exact piece and wanted to make it white. You mentioned sanding was not necessary. Can I just go straight to lamenting? Single female here with no handy skills- advice appreciated!

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