I painted a dresser with a base coat of Zinser and then 4 thin layer of Valspar semi gloss white. It's cured over two weeks now and it still chips so easily that it's clear that this is going to be a constant pain in my rear to keep it looking nice in a kid's room. I went to the local box home improvement store and asked their paint "expert" there what poly coat to use and how to get a smooth, hard finish on it and it became abundantly clear he knew even less than me.
We're getting ready to paint her newly built loft bed but I don't want to deal with the same issue. How does one get the hard paint finish that you find on furniture that you buy?
Of the bed or the dresser? The bed is from these plans but I don't have pictures yet http://ana-white.com/2010/05/furniture-plans-loft-bed.html
I love painting old furniture as well. Not only because I can customize it the way I want, but also because it puts your imagination at work. I recently bought some items from Broyhill Attic Heirlooms collection and I am trying to integrate them with my old cupboard painted by me and I have to say the result will be amazing. Put your imagination at work for the house of your dreams.
I recently did my old bed. I painted it and fixed some chopped material by putting some old wood instead. In the mean time I've found a really good site from where I got the inspiration: http://www.decorplanet.com/. My next project will be to redecorate the bathroom. I will be back with news. :0
On future projects you should be sure to lightly sand and clean your piece prior to priming to make sure the primer has a good bite on the wood. On heavily used pieces such as kids furniture or cabinets, besides using the best appropriate paint you might also want to consider a finish coat of polyurethane to further protect the surface. Good luck.