Fresh paint and new hardware completely transform laminate furniture.

The Different Ways to Dress Up Laminate Furniture

by Kathy Adams

Laminate furniture has a finish that from afar may look like a quality wood or paint, but up close, the finish is obviously fake. While buying new furniture to replace the laminate may not be an option, you don't need to settle for a less-than-pretty laminate look, either. Refinish or jazz up a single laminate furniture piece or an entire set with paints and assorted supplies from a craft or home improvement store.

1. Prettier With Paint

Whether the laminate is a plasticlike solid color or a faux stained wood grain, a fresh coat of paint gives it an entirely updated look. A gentle sanding removes some of the sheen from the surface, which allows the primer to stick. A special primer designed for plastics and slick surfaces is required; otherwise, the paint may peel right off. As for the actual paint, turn that laminate into a pink and purple zebra-striped desk, an antiqued white dresser rubbed with thinned brown paint for added age, or a bookcase painted with chalkboard paint on the sides and apple green inside, for a children's creative play area and reading room.

2. Duct Tape Drama

While the old silver-toned duct tape may not be a thing of decorative inspiration, this sticky substance is now available in patterns and colors sure to delight just about any teen, tween or twentysomething, such as blue and purple leopard print, lightning bolts, stars or rainbows. Use a different color or pattern for each drawer front on a desk or dresser, and cover the top of a badly damaged laminate table with one print or a combination of a print and solid. After taping over a drawer front, add thin painted trim strips tacked in place around the perimeter, over the duct tape, to embellish the furniture a bit more.

3. Designed With Decoupage

Decoupage turns even an ugly laminate furnishing into a creation customized to your own liking, and is simple enough a child can help. Old book pages, tourist destination flyers, maps and vintage magazine ads are all potential design material for decoupage furniture. Decoupage medium or watered-down school glue holds the paper in place. Cover a desktop in pages from comic books for a teen who enjoys writing or drawing comics, painting the legs and frame of the desk in a color that fits the room's decor. Colorful candy wrappers, flattened and decoupaged in place, create a burst of boldness for a drawer front, table legs or desktop; arrange them in stripes or squares of color to create a playful pattern. Fabric scraps can also be used in place of paper- or plastic-based materials.

4. Hardware Transformation

The hardware and embellishments on laminate furniture often lack interest and can leave the piece looking just as outdated if you don't replace or repaint the hardware as well. Modernize a laminate piece by removing hardware that would still look less than lovely even with a fresh coat of paint, replacing it with something more current and fitting of your style. Completely transform a piece such as a dresser or desk by giving it a funky hardware upgrade. Turn an old laminate dresser from drab to fab by first painting it black and stenciling a band or tour name, then embellishing it with road case handles designed for music gear transport and metal corner caps commonly found on a road case.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images