Painting bedside tables is not as simple as slapping on a coat of paint. Because most bedside tables are either varnished, stained, or both, they are ill-suited for paint adhesion. If you want to generate an attractive finish that will not peel paint soon after application, you will have to remove the varnish. In addition, because latex paints do not bond well to stained surfaces, you will have to apply a base coat of the correct type of primer, or the paint will eventually peel away.
Move the bedside table to a ventilated area, and set it on top of a fabric dropcloth.
Remove the glossy coat of varnish from the finished bedside table by sanding it. Sand with the grain of the wood, or you could damage the table. Skip this step if the table is unvarnished.
Remove sawdust created during the sanding process by wiping the bedside table with a sticky tack cloth.
Place painter's tape on areas of the bedside table you do not want painted.
Apply an oil-based primer to stained bedside tables using a paintbrush manufactured for oil paints. Apply a latex primer using a paintbrush manufactured for latex paints, if the bedside table is not stained. Wait no less than three hours for the primer to dry.
Wash the paintbrush.
Apply a gloss or semigloss latex paint to the primed bedside table. Wait two hours, then brush on a second coat if the primer shows through.
Wash paintbrushes manufactured for oil paints using mineral spirits. Use plain water for paintbrushes manufactured for latex paints. Read the labelling on the oil-based primer to make sure it is formulated to be compatible with latex paints.
Don't use rags instead of a sticky tack cloth to wipe off the dust, because this may leave sawdust that could inhibit adhesion of paint.