My step by step furniture refinishing tutorial. You can do this!

So ever since our wedding (when I got some awesome fancy china as a wedding gift)  I’ve been on the hunt for a china cabinet to put it in.  Fast forward roughly six months and I happened to stumble on this gem at a yard sale…


for $40.  You can’t go wrong for $40!

There were lots of indecisive moments going in to this project.  Moment #1 paint or stain?  Even though 90% of this piece was real wood, ultimately I decided to go with paint because the background was cheap wood paneling that I really couldn’t stain.  The first thing you have to do before anything else is to decide what color you’re going to paint it (duh)  haha.  My kitchen table has a dark stained top, and weathered white legs with green chairs.  My kitchen colors (even though this isn’t exactly in the kitchen because I don’t have room in there) are turquoise and green.  I decided to do the outside a weathered white to match the table and to paint the inside turquoise to give it a pop of color.  Plus turquoise is a pretty popular color throughout our house (just ask my husband)  so I could put it virtually anywhere in our home.

Now that you’ve settled on a color, it’s time to breakdown your furniture and prep it for painting.  You will need to remove all hardware, doors, and drawers.  Make sure to keep your hardware and screws in a plastic baggie and remember what they go to.

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Next, you’ll want to prep and de-scuzz the piece.  This item had a little bit of mold and nasty sticky stuff on it everywhere so I used my favorite furniture prep tool ever, Krud Kutter.


This stuff is ahhhmazing.  Just coat the item, let it sit, and then scrub with a stiff scrubby pad, then wipe clean with damp rag.  Krud Kutter also works great as a deglosser.  I’ve also had this same bottle through several furniture projects so it goes a long way.

Once you’ve finished Krud Kutting, then you’ll want to rough up all surfaces with 220 grit sand paper.  I know, sand paper (insert eyeroll here), but seriously, I can’t not sand things, I don’t care what you tell me.

Next I applied a coat of brown paint (what?!)  You may think this is strange and unnecessary and that’s okay, but since I was planning on weathering it, I knew I wanted the dark paint to be visible in some areas.  I used a Valspar exterior paint that they apparently no longer make anymore (but is super awesome, naturally) it is awesome at not showing brush marks, almost like it came with a thinner built in.  I would imagine that the paints made specifically for furniture are the exact same thing.

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Now that you’ve got a coat of brown paint on your piece you can apply your wax.  Yes, wax, good ol’ candle wax to be specific.


The areas where you rub the wax will be the areas that you see weathering so keep this in mind.  I love to do the edges of things with it, it’s a little harder on flat surfaces because it’s not as easy to find once you’ve painted (more on this later).  Also, get as crazy with the wax as you want to, it won’t all come off when you go to scrape so it won’t look exactly like it did when you put it on, this is a good thing.

After you have all your wax on, brush off the excess with a clean dry paint brush.  I have a brush that I use specifically for this, and only for this.


I should also mention that you want to make any repairs before all of this happens.  haha, the only thing I needed to fix was some wood on a drawer.  I painted the drawers after everything else because I thought I might be able to find handles that fit the same holes and didn’t want to fill them in until I knew for sure.


A little wood glue goes a long way!

So now you’re ready to paint.  I started with the exterior of the piece.  I used the Valspar chalky finish paint from Lowe’s.  The color I used was Kid’s Gloves which is a very bright white.  This was the first “real” chalk paint I have used and I really liked it.  The only thing is that you can’t feel the brush marks but you can see them.  The surface is smooth but you can still see the strokes.  A paint sprayer would certainly remedy this (and as I mentioned previously, Santa Claus is bringing me one…).

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This is one coat with the chalky finish paint.  This looks cool in its own right, but I knew I wanted a solid finish.  Oh, and another great thing about distressing is that you don’t have to be perfect.  I am a perfectionist so when I paint something and it doesn’t look perfect is bugs me, you can’t go wrong with a distressed piece.  Plus, if you move around a lot like we do, a few dings from moving aren’t going to ruin it.


At this point, I hit another moment of indecision.  Put the glass doors back on, or leave them off?  As you could probably tell from the initial photo, two of the panels had broken glass and were curved at the top.  I could have gotten the glass replaced for around $70.  I decided that I liked the look of the doors off, with the straight lines going across the top.  Something about the arched doors just didn’t do it for me.  I decided to save the doors in case I want to put them on in the future.

Moment of indecision #3… paint the shelves white, or paint them turquoise?  Having the inside already painted brown helped me to make this decision.  I had an idea of what it would look like being all one color.  I decided to go this route, plus it was a lot easier than having to paint the shelves.

All said and done, I applied 4 coats of paint to this thing.  Three coats of paint is typical, but even on the third coat I could still see some of the under coat coming through.  This might be a drawback for you with the chalky paint.  Once you’ve got your paint the desired consistency, then it’s time to peel off all that wax!


This is the fun part.  Take a plastic scraper/putty knife and go over all the places you put the wax.  The reason it’s hard to do it on large flat surfaces is because it’s so hard to find the wax that you’ll end up having scrape marks everywhere that only affect the paint finish and don’t actually take it off.

After you have scraped off all of your wax, you will sand the piece.  This is very important to obtain a smooth finish.  Again, I used 220 grit sand paper.  You will lightly sand, making sure to run your hands over where you have sanded to feel for smoothness.  Once you’ve reached your desired level of smoothness, you can dust off the piece with a stiff bench brush.


This is also a good chance to weather a little bit more.  The sandpaper will add a nice effect to the edges of the wood.

Typically when I distress, I like to go over my paint with stain.  It adds a nice patina to the piece.  However, the bright white was just so pretty that this brought me to moment of indecision #4 haha.  I tried out a sample on a paint stick and thought, “well this isn’t too bad.”  Then I tried it on a piece of my cabinet door and I panicked.  I thought, “Oh my gosh, this is SO dark!”  There was no turning back at this point.  It wasn’t until I started applying it to the cabinet that I knew I had made the right choice.  It really made the piece pop, and looked awesome in all the nooks and crannies.

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Scary right?  Ha.  So to do the staining effect, you’ll just brush your stain on the piece in small sections, then wipe off with a rag.  That’s it, that’s all you do.  You can also add some extra effect by leaving some stain in the corners and groves.  My favorite stain to use for this is Minwax stain in Provincial.


This is the part where I started to think, “Okay, this looks awesome!”

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Once you’ve got the whole piece stained, wait at least 24 hours before you seal it.  Because you have stain on paint, you will definitely need to seal it.  There is much debate between wax vs. sealer.  I choose to use a water based sealer because the durability is much better and I know that it will not affect my stain.  As I mentioned in my previous post, I ordered some General Finishes Flat Out Flat sealer for this project.  This sealer is made to be applied over chalky finish paints to maintain that dull smooth surface.  I’ll just say this, it did not disappoint!  I have loved every General Finishes product I have ever used.


I order my GF products on Amazon because we have no dealer where I live.  Yes, they are a bit pricey but in this instance you get what you pay for and it’s worth every penny.  Follow the directions on the can and you’ll be all set.  With any sealer, you need to lightly sand between coats.  I applied three coats and I couldn’t tell I even put anything on, it’s that awesome.  No brush marks, no nothin’.

After you’ve got the outside of the piece done, then you can start on the inside.  I taped off all the areas I didn’t want to get paint on.  I considered not painting the inside top, or the undersides of the shelves.  I decided to paint them and I’m glad I did because you can totally see them from our couch.



I knew buying a quart of paint would be way overkill for the inside of this cabinet so I got two jars of sample size from Lowe’s in Bayside.  Each jar cost about $3 and I used 1.5 jars.  I applied three coats to the inside.  The only part I applied wax to (pre-paint) was the outsides of the shelves.  I figured these would be the main parts getting dinged in real life.  After I painted I scraped off my wax and very very lightly sanded.  This is regular paint so it doesn’t work the same as the chalky paint does.  Once I did all that, I applied the stain to the insides as well, leaving stain the in corners for more aged effect.  I let this dry for 24 hours then began sealing the inside.  After you’re all done with that, here comes the fun part… removing the tape!


Tadaaa!  If you’re uncoordinated like me, you’re probably going to get some of the turquoise on the white paint by accident.  That’s okay, just dip a q-tip in some finger nail polish remover and lightly wipe over the spot until it is gone.  Don’t get too carried away or you will end up taking everything off.  This is another reason distressing is great, no one can tell you messed it up!

Now, moving on to my hardware conundrum.  I really hated that the hinges were on the outside.  I tried to find an alternative but quickly gave up.  I knew that whatever knobs and pulls I chose had to coordinate with my hinges, so that really limited my choices.  I decided on the oil rubbed bronze look because I knew I could paint the hinges to match.  This was definitely moment of indecision #75984.  Haha, just ask my poor husband who got sick of accompanying me to Lowe’s by this point.

The idea of painting your hinges might scare you.  Don’t be scared, it’s super easy and will be durable if you do it right.  The first step is to get them clean.  I did this by soaking them in hot soapy water and scrubbing them.  Once they dried they had clear crusty stuff pealing off which I assumed was some sort of factory finish.  I soaked them again.  Then I sprayed them with Krud Kutter (naturally) and scrubbed them.  After that I took some 220 grit “wet or dry” sand paper while they were still damp and sanded the crap out of them.  Making sure to get all the crusties off.  I rinsed them off and then let them dry.  Make sure they are 100% clean and dry before you start painting.  Once they are, you are ready to prime.  Priming is VERY VERY important here.  I used Kilz spray primer.


I started with the fronts facing up.  You’ll want to do a couple light coats.  Once dry, flip them over and do the back.  After that dries, open and close them to make sure you painted the hinge all around.  Then lightly sand with a small piece of 220 grit (can you tell this is my go-to sand paper number??).  Dust them off with your bench brush.  After that, you’re ready for paint.  I used Rustoleum Oil Rubbed Bronze spray paint.  This was also another moment of indecision, but I digress.  You’ll do some light coats until covered.  Let dry, flip, let dry.


They should look nice and pretty once you’re done.  Then you’re ready to put everything back together!

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I did have to drill new holes for my drawer pulls.  I just filled the old ones with drywall filler (because I loathe wood filler).  Let dry, sand until smooth, then paint like you did for the rest of your piece.  Once you’ve done that, find the center of your drawers my measuring, then measure the holes on your new handles and mark their locations, drill your new holes, install your pulls, and you’re done!

Now that you have everything put back together, it’s time to admire your work, by taking approximately 127 pictures.

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Then, after you’ve waited one agonizingly long day for your poly to dry, it’s time to decorate!


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And then the sun shines through your windows in just the right way, and you have to take more photos. haha.  How lovely is this piece?  The painting process is really very simple, you can do it, I promise!  That’s the beauty of distressing, you can’t mess it up!  I would love to hear your thoughts on this project, feel free to comment below!



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