Repainting furniture in lighter colors such as white, cream and beige are fairly easy to achieve with a few coats of paint, but it is the darker colors such as navy, or red which can be challenging.
In the Nordic countries in the 18th century red pigments were very expensive so it was very uncommon to have a deep red painted chest. Today we have a number of paint colors at our disposal, but many people still have a difficult time getting an even coat with these rich colors.
For my Dixie french provincial chest makeover I used gloss navy paint, and ended up putting close to ten coats on the dresser in order to get an even coat. This again reinforced to me the proper process of painting darker colors.
Although this french provincial chest was one of my first makeovers, I learned a good lesson of investing in good paint that covers well, which in the end saves a lot of time. Ideally if you have a French Provincial dresser with a baked finish, or hard finish, you will not be able to just paint over it with any old paint.
The very first step I suggest is to lightly sand it with fine sanding paper. I recommend buying a good sheet sander which saves a lot of energy. The Black & Decker Sheet Sander is only $30 dollars. I find I go through a lot of sand paper, and I can save money by buying individual sheets and cut them up myself for less money at our local hardware store.
(Norton Sandpaper 80 Grit 20-Sheets per Pack has 20 sheets per pack, which I cut down to 4 sheets per page giving me 80 sheets to work with for only 14 dollars)
Over the years I have found sometimes it takes more work to sand but it is worth it in the end. I tend to gravitate towards using an 80 grit sandpaper over my entire piece, and finish with a 120 grit to get rid of any swirl marks before painting. 80 Grit sandpaper is especially nice if there is a previous paint finish, while 120 is good for most finishes to provide the paint something to grip on to without fearing of any swirl marks. I find I can use 80 grit paper over and over, while 120 grit gets worn down quickly.
Ideally you will want to work with a french provincial dresser which is wood to begin with, rather than the white provincial dressers which at one time was sold as children's sets. The children's sets were the typical white baked finish rather than the adult french sets which were quality wood stained.
Start with a good flat oil based paint as a primer for those white based french provincial sets. For other top based colors, black can be the go to color for a base, and works with almost every color.
Rustoleum creates a great flat oil paint in black which sticks to almost everything without peeling. I also noticed they have the same thing in brown, which may be even better to replicate the color of wood.
I have used these products even over melamine tops after they have been sanded with no problems of them peeling over the years. I enjoy working with oil as a base because it sticks to almost everything without peeling. It has been the secret to my success with furniture.
After your furniture has dried, your top coat is ready to be applied. If you are planning on applying many more coats such as a glaze over a white finish, then use egg shell paint.