A Diamond in the Rough: How to Refinish an Old Bed and Make it Awesome

As soon as it was time to start transforming my daughter’s nursery into a “big girl” room, I knew that I wanted an emerald green, four poster bed.  Why?  I have no idea – and this was long before emerald was the 2013 Pantone Color of the Year.  Just like I had picked out the name Emma for my daughter nearly 30 years ago and it’s one of the most popular names in the US now.  I guess I’m ahead of my time.

I didn’t want to spend a fortune on a bed that I’d end up painting, so I scoured Craigslist for months looking for the perfect candidate.  It needed to be full sized.  Its posts needed to be the same height on the headboard and the footboard.  It needed to have a simple design.  And it needed to be cheap.

I finally found one for $35 and I was so excited to bring it home.  It needed much more work than I originally thought, but that’s a normal thing around here.  A lot of blood, sweat and tears (and cussing, if I am being honest) went into this transformation, but in the end, I think I hit it out of the park.

How to refinish a Craigslist cast off to an emerald green bed via MakelyHome.com

The bed had an original oil-based factory finish on it (white), but an eager DIYer had painted black latex on top of it.  Regular latex paint won’t bond to a shiny surface, so the black paint just scratched off. There was nothing I could do but scrape and sand the bed down to the original wood.

How to refinish a Craigslist cast off to an emerald green bed via MakelyHome.com

Once I got it down to the bare wood, I repaired some cracks in the posts with wood glue.  Then, I used my airless paint sprayer to apply Zinnser Cover Stain oil-based primer and then two coats of Benjamin Moore Advance paint in Cat’s Eye Green.  I could have also used a paint brush and roller, but I like the finish I get with my sprayer.  I chose to use Ben Moore Advance because it’s a latex paint (easy soap and water clean up), but it hardens as well as an enamel.  It’s perfect for furniture – particularly in a kid’s room.

How to refinish a Craigslist cast off to an emerald green bed via MakelyHome.com

The bed was just a headboard and footboard, so we put the mattress and box spring on a metal bed frame.  I found a set of bed rail hangers at Woodcraft, and we used those to attach faux rails (really just a 1×6 piece of lumber on each side) to the headboard and footboard.  The metal frame and box spring holds the weight, and the green wooden bed is essentially just decorative.

How to refinish a Craigslist cast off to an emerald green bed via MakelyHome.com

I am completely smitten with the new bed.  It turned out exactly how I had pictured it in my mind. How’s that for seeing the beauty in something that was so ugly when it came into my life?  A diamond in the rough.

How to refinish a Craigslist cast off to an emerald green bed via MakelyHome.com

Emma’s room is coming along nicely, and I’ll have more to show soon.  Until then, here are the projects and posts I’ve put together for this room so far:

I’m also participating in a really fun Christmas Home Walk this week – tons of bloggers are walking you through their beautifully decorated homes.  Here are Monday’s participants and today’s participants.  I’m up tomorrow – see you then!

Filed Under: Create Your Decor, Paint Your Walls, Project Gallery

About Lindsay Ballard

Lindsay Ballard is a former college mascot turned political geek turned DIY fanatic who is conspiring to live in a Technicolor dream world. Her designs are bold and graphic, while her spirit is fun and full of color. Lindsay chronicles her projects and design ideas here at Makely, where she shares daily tutorials and inspiration. Lindsay lives outside of Austin, Texas with her husband (Tom), children (Zack and Emma) and dogs (Jack and Duke).


  1. Julia@Cuckoo4Design says:

    I’m smitten with the new bed and color too 😉

  2. I’d probably be that eager DIYer that put latex paint over the oil-based. Is there a way to tell if it was oil-based paint or is it just better to always use primer?

  3. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I LOVE this

  4. I love the look and it turned out gorgeous. The before pic :/ I’m glad you saved a great piece of furniture. :)

  5. The bed looks great! And perfect color too. Love that Advance paint.

    Now we know why we give so many tutorials on what paint to use, glad you could rescue it!

  6. This room looks incredible. The color of the bed is so, so perfect for the room. Just loving all the patterns you’ve mixed in. Your comment about it needing ‘much more work than I originally thought’ – isn’t that always the case? If we thought things were too much work to begin with we would never get anything done. Incidentally, how long did this take you all up? At least the stripping, sanding and painting portion?

  7. It looks amazing!! Great job, I’m sure your daughter will enjoy it for years to come.

  8. i am fascinated by the bed rail hangers. can you share how they work/attach? the bed looks fantastic and i love the color.

  9. Which airless paint sprayer do you use?

  10. Swoon! That bed–the whole room, really–is absolutely spectacular! Thanks for introducing me to those bed rail hangers. What a clever idea.

  11. I LOVE this room. My soon to be 11 year old daughter and I are using this as our inspiration. She has picked some bold color choices for a desk and dresser we found on CL. Now I am in the search for the ‘perfect white’ to paint her walls. Do you have a friendly ‘pure white’ paint color that you recommend? Thanks!

  12. This is gorgeous! Just wondering, why finish did you use for the paint?


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