Thrift to Trend: Mid-Century Plant Stand + Metal Spray Painting Tutorial

I admire those folks who can spot the diamond in the rough.  There are people out there in the world who can eye the most hideous 1980's skirted polyester mauve couch and see a star.  

I am impressed by that because it is sooo not me.  

My first house in Houston was styled almost entirely by copying or purchasing from a Pottery Barn catalog [sorry PB, no offense intended...can we still be gracious friends?].  Our house looked very put together, but it had little personality.  

At least very little of my personality.  

Now stick with me folks, because there is a life message at the end of all this blabbering.  Over the years as we moved from Houston to the Bay Area into a temporary rental and then into our current house, I've had to take a good hard look at my style because I realized I've never really defined it.

 For FOUR years, I've analyzed my style.  

I've looked at it from this side.  I've looked at from that side.  I put it my mouth and chewed it up and spit it out like a 2007 cabernet [will the California wine industry ever stop talking about that vintage? it's doubtful].  

The point is I spent all my time trying to define my style rather than just doing it.  

As I sit here writing this post, I am amazed still that you can actually get better at things if you practice.  Doh!  I admit, I feel a little like a scolding Polish piano teacher, but it is seriously true!  Practice, practice, practice!  

Some people in life are blessed with these incredible talents, but for most of us we are not inherently blessed by the talents we may want to pursue [nor should we be so limited].  

Case in point on a much smaller scale - this rad plant stand.  

I've gotten more into scouring Craigslist, thrift shops and second-hand stores in the past year with the intention of honing in on this lucrative skill of spotting the diamond in the rough.  Mandi over at Vintage Revivals inspired me to do this after reading her blog for years.  

It is an oh-so-exciting treasure hunt, especially when you spot your piece.  This plant stand was mah piece.   

The moment I saw the photo on Craigslist, I knew it was going to be mine.  It had a great shape - I loved the skinny midcentury-esque legs.  

Plants were just meant to be suspended in air, weren't they?  

I was eyeing it for our fireplace which has a dark green granite surround, so painting was a must, which brings me to the metal spray painting tutorial below.

I've definitely spray painted before, but here's the thing about spray paint that the doers never tell you.  

If you want it to look good, it takes fooooorever.  Lots of coats.  Lots of drying time.  Lots of quick sands.  There are certainly other lazier ways to spray paint out there, but I wanted this stand to [literally] stand the test of time [and kids].  

[Psst!  Don't miss the little Meredith tidbit of inspiration following the tutorial...] 


Tack cloth

Primer spray paint such as Kilz

Spray paint colors of choice

Mineral Spirits

Steel wool

Dish soap


Using a cotton rag, wipe your surface down with the mineral spirits.  This product can be found in your typical hardware store somewhere near the painting supplies.  Mineral spirits  should be a milky white color out of the bottle, but it will dry clear.

With the steel wool, rub your surface down.  Don't be afraid to get rough!  The paint needs to be good and scratchy to adhere to the future coats.  If you're like me and have some paint bubbles and possible rust underneath, do your best to scrape off the loose paint and rust on the metal.  Full disclosure here, I had some pretty bad rust on two of the legs, so I gave up and grabbed Drew's dremel tool to finish the sanding.  

Before moving on, make sure there are no glossy areas left on your surface.  You know it's ready when the surface has a matte dullness to it.

Mix a few drops of dish soap with water and clean the surface to remove dust, oil and grime.  Dry thoroughly and wipe down with your tack cloth.  You are now ready to paint!

Before using your primer on the surface, give the can a strong shake for about 2 to 3 minutes.  The back of the can says about 1 minute.  Don't listen to it!  The more shakes, the finer the spray.  

Using Kilz spray primer (or similar product), begin spraying your surface using a back and forth sweeping motion.  Keep your can constantly moving about 12 inches away from the surface.  Each coating should be very light.  Always better to keep it lighter than heavier.  

For my stand, it took about one and a half cans and about five coats to fully cover.  

Allow the object to dry for about 30 minutes before the next coat.  I also allowed the primer to set overnight before beginning with spray paint.  

I noticed before painting that the Kilz still left a slightly gritty surface.  I used a piece of fine sandpaper and gently scraped the surface clean of grit.  I then wiped it again with the tack cloth to remove the loosened paint and it made a huuuuge difference in the way the spray paint settled on the stand.  

Spray paint following the same instructions as the Kilz primer.  Shake for 2 to 3 minutes.  Spray lightly with a sweeping motion.  Allow to dry about 30 minutes in between coats and several hours before starting the next step.  I did about 3 coats of the paint.

Enjoy your new awesome plant stand!  Or metal folding chair!  Or patio bistro table!  Or [insert random thrifted metal piece]!   

So, swinging it back around to the beginning, the moral of this story [other than metal makes a great canvas] is...  

Even the best interior designers likely went to design school, the most avid DIYers had to start with a simple can of spray paint and fear of ruining the wood grain, and you, my friend, can start too on whatever it is you are unsure of starting!  

Let's become renaissance women together!  

Because honestly, what's sexier than a woman fearless in her pursuits?

All ideas in this post are of my own opinions including mention of companies and/or affiliate sites.  No sponsorships were involved in the creation of this post.  Photographs taken by Meredith Wheeler using a DSLR Canon Rebel T3 and edited using iPhoto.