How to Paint 1980’s Laminate/Melamine Wardrobes

No need for new wardrobes or a new kitchen, get a stylish design upgrade with the use of paint. Discover how to prep, prime and paint your old laminate wardrobes for an instant interiors refresh.

Oh the lovely 1980’s laminate wardrobe doors. You can’t beat that glossy finish… or that fake wood effect…. Classy eh. Well, when we moved into our home that’s exactly what we had in our master bedroom. Needless to say, I hated them and it was top of my to-do list to either paint them or change them. After our budget went elsewhere on the reno I found myself researching and delving into Youtube videos to learn just how hard it would be to paint them… and if it was even possible.

I’m talking about wardrobes here today but the tips I’m going to share can most definitely be used for other laminate and melamine doors, like kitchen presses. 

Firstly you might be thinking what’s the difference in laminate and melamine? Simply put Melamine is a laminate, but not all laminates are melamine. This how to should be good on either, so if you don’t know what material you’re working with between the two fret not, it doesn’t really matter. 

Firstly, here’s the before picture. This was the wardrobes the day we moved in. 

Now onto the good stuff… how I did it. Now, let me be clear, there’s probably multiple ways to paint laminate but this is what I did and I’m pretty happy with the results. 

What you’ll need:

  • Primer - I used Colourtrend Prime 2 Epoxy Primer Sealer

  • Paint - I got a colour match to Farrow and Ball Studio Green in Morris DIY, Waterford 

  • Rollers (I’d recommend Two Fussy Blokes Rollers, honestly you can’t beat them. I must say for transparency I was gifted the rollers but I would hands down pay for them any day)

  • Masking Tape

  • Angled brush for edges 

  • Sheets to cover the floor (I was doing this over carpet so I had to be super careful)

Step 1: Prep the area  by Washing the Doors 

This is actually one of the most missed steps. If you want a smooth surface, ensuring the paint doesn't flake off you must wash the doors. I literally just used water and a towel and it did the job. 

Step 2: It’s all about the Primer 

Ok so once you mask the area up you’re onto the primer. I’m not going to make a whole step dedicated to masking the area but it should be noted that you must do this in order to get clean lines and no unwanted paint on any other surface.

When I was initially doing my research on how to paint laminate some people said you should sand the floors first, however the guy in colourtrend told me not to do this, that it would ruin the smoothness of the material and a good primer was all I needed. One less step, happy days. 

I went with dark grey primer because I was painting the doors a dark colour but if you’re going for light colour use white.

And I would highly recommend two coats of primer. I know it’s an absolute pain, but it will be worth it. 

Step 4: Paint it up 

And finally you’re onto the paint. 

I went to Morris DIY in Waterford to get Farrow and Ball Studio Green colour matched and it was spot on and saved me a fortune. However colour matching doesn't always work out so I probably should have tested it first before ploughing on.. 

I find the 100mm Smooth Two Fussy Blokes rollers an absolute dream to paint with. If your using these rollers, don't be afraid to lob the paint on thick, they can take it, and they'll create a super even finish. I did two coats but that’s most likely always going to be the way. You’d never really get away with one coat. And something to note… make sure the paint is dry before you do the second coat.

You’re dealing with dodgy laminate here so you need to take care with these steps. 

Step 6: Add the Finishing Touches

Since I only spent about €60 on paint and supplies I figured I’d treat myself to nice handles. I got mine from from a seller called Propper Copper Designs. They were €144 in total for 4 handles. I can’t find them on anymore but did find them on etsy here.

Step 7: Basque in the Glory or Your New Wardrobes 

I couldn't be happier with the results. The total cost was €204, which included all paint supplies and the handles. And there I was going to spend a fortune on new wardrobes. It’s great with a bit of paint can do. 

There you have it. It's really not hard, just takes time. Good luck on your quest to rid yourself of 1980’s laminate doors. 

Thanks for reading and drop me a line on the contact form with any questions.