How to Make Furniture Look Rustic

Today, we’re diving into the world of how to make furniture look rustic, transforming an average piece of furniture into something that showcases character, history, and craftsmanship.

If you’ve ever yearned to bring that cozy, weather-beaten black painted furniture look into your home, this easy-to-follow guide is for you. Let’s roll up our sleeves, get a little dusty, and turn your ordinary furniture into an extraordinary rustic masterpiece!

cabinet with marble top and 2 doors

Whether it’s a well-loved table handed down through the family, or a thrift store find that you see potential in, there’s something gratifying about breathing new life into a piece of furniture.

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Rustic furniture, with its charmingly rugged and weather-worn appearance, can add a touch of warmth and character to any room. And the best part is, you don’t need to be a professional carpenter to create this look.

With just a few tools, some patience, and a dash of creativity, you’ll be able to transform your furniture into a sensational rustic showpiece! Ready to get started? Let’s dive in!

Supplies for DIY Black Rustic Cabinet

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Here’s what we used for this rustic furniture transformation:

Remember, this list can be tailored to your specific piece and desired look, so feel free to get creative and make it your own!

Preparing for Paint

Before we get to the fun part of painting, we’ve got some prep work to take care of. Trust me, this step is super important to make sure we get a smooth and long-lasting finish. Here’s what we need to do:

First things first, remove all the hardware from your furniture piece. That means any hinges, knobs, or handles. By doing this, we’ll make the painting process a breeze and make sure these items stay paint-free.

Oh, and we also took off the broken marble top from our cabinet. It was just sitting on the top, so it was easy to remove.

cabinet without marble top

Next up, give your piece a good cleaning with Krud Kutter. This step is crucial because it gets rid of any grime, grease, or old paint that could mess with the new paint sticking properly. Learn more about how to clean your furniture in our cleaning before painting furniture post.

Now, grab some 220 grit sandpaper and lightly sand the entire piece. This will help the paint adhere better and give us a more durable finish.

Don’t stress about creating a perfectly smooth surface though – we’re going for that rustic look, remember? Check out our sanding before painting furniture post to learn about how to sand before painting.

Once you’re done sanding, remove any dust or debris that might be hanging around. Your trusty shop vacuum should take care of most of it, but for a really clean surface, go over it with a tack cloth. That’ll pick up any tiny particles your vacuum might have missed.

Alright, now that your furniture piece is all clean and prepped, it’s time for the exciting part – painting! Let’s dive right in and have some fun!

Painting a Rustic Look

We chose Country Chic paint in the color Liquorice for our cabinet. This paint is perfect for creating that desired rustic look. The key to creating this look is to apply thin coats of paint and let each coat dry completely before applying the next one.

Here’s our list of the best black chalk paint for furniture to help you decide what kind of black chalk paint is the right choice for your project.

Start by lightly dipping your damp Country Chic painting sponge into the paint. You don’t want to overload your sponge – a little paint goes a long way.

Apply the paint using smooth, long strokes, covering the entire surface of the furniture piece. The beauty of using a sponge is that it prevents brush strokes and leaves a smooth finish.

Wait for the first coat to dry. This usually takes an hour, but it can vary depending on the climate. Once it’s dry, take a look and assess. You’ll likely see some of your furniture’s original color showing through, but don’t panic! This is exactly what we want at this stage.

Now that your first coat is dry, you can apply the second coat. Follow the same method, using light, smooth strokes, and again, let the paint dry completely.

Check out another makeover of painting a wood bench with this painting sponge.

1st coat of paint vs 2nd coat of paint

When you compare the first and second coats, you’ll see how the color deepens and becomes more consistent with each application. But remember, don’t rush the process. Patience is key to creating a gorgeous rustic look.

The paint needs enough time to dry and adhere to the furniture piece properly. Hang tight, and soon you’ll see your ordinary furniture transform into a rustic beauty!

Distressing the Paint

Now that your last coat of paint is dry, it’s time to create that aged, weathered look that’s the signature of rustic furniture – we’re going to distress the paint.

cabinet painted with black paint

Grab your 220 grit sandpaper again, but this time, we’re going to use it a little differently. Instead of sanding the surface to help the paint stick, we’re only going to focus on the areas that would naturally wear over time.

Think edges, corners, and any raised details. Plus, sand the flat areas to create a worn look and show off a small amount of wood under the paint.

Start by lightly sanding, applying a little more pressure if you want to reveal more of the wood underneath.

The goal here is to create a worn, well-loved look, so don’t be afraid to really get in there and rough it up. Remember, there’s no right or wrong way to do this – it’s all about creating a look you love!

I personally sand in 1 direction to make sure the distressing marks all go the same direction.

As you work, you’ll see your furniture piece start to take on that characteristically rustic appearance. The beauty of this technique is that it’s incredibly forgiving. If you sand too much off, no problem! Just touch it up with a bit more paint and start again.

Once you’re happy with your distressing, give your furniture piece a good wipe down to remove any dust from sanding. And just like that, you’ve got yourself a beautifully distressed, rustic piece of furniture.

But hold on, we’re not done yet. We’ll apply a protective topcoat to protect all your hard work. Here’s our blog post about distressing furniture to learn more about the different techniques of distressing furniture.

Assembling the Rustic Wood Top

Now that your piece of furniture is distressed and looking wonderfully rustic, it’s time to assemble the rustic wood top. For this, you’ll need your 2″x4″ pieces of wood and your Kreg Jig.

You can also use weathered wood planks like how we did in this post on how to make a plank top dresser.

Check out the best stain for weathered wood look here that you can DIY.

Cut the 2×4″ pieces of wood to be about 2 inches longer than the length of your furniture.

Lay out your 2″x4″s side by side on a flat surface, making sure they’re flush against one another. The top surface of these boards will become the top of your furniture piece – so pick the side that looks the best to you!

Next, you’ll want to add pocket holes to the bottom of the pieces of 2×4 with your Kreg Jig. This nifty tool allows you to join the pieces of wood seamlessly.

Follow the instructions provided with your Kreg Jig to create the pocket holes on the long side of each piece of wood. If you’re new to using a Kreg Jig, here is a great youtube video on how use a Kreg Jig.

black painted cabinet with 2x4 piece of wood on top

Once you’ve created the pocket holes, align your pieces of wood again, making sure they’re flush. Now, screw the pieces together using your pocket hole screws. It’s important to do this gently to prevent any damage to the wood. If you’ve done it right, the top should feel stable and strong.

Voila! You’ve successfully assembled your rustic wood top. But we’re not quite finished. It’s time to stain and protect the wood to complete the rustic look.

Staining the Rustic Wood Top

Remember the Special Walnut Wood Stain and Water-based polyurethane from our materials list? We’re going to need those next. But before we move on, make sure to sand the new wood top to remove any splinters and to smooth it out a little bit.

Then give your newly assembled top a good wipe down to remove any sawdust or debris.

Wearing gloves, use a cheap paint brush to apply a coat of stain onto the wood. Make sure to get the stain in between the pieces of wood, and the underneath side as well. Here’s how to stain wood furniture to learn more about the right steps to follow when staining wood furniture.

Use a lint free rag to wipe off the excess, and then let it dry for 48 hours. We have to let the stain dry completely before applying a water based topcoat to it. You could use an oil based topcoat on it after only 24 hours though if you want.

It all seems to take about the same amount of time when it is all complete though.

Attaching the Rustic Wood Top to the Cabinet

Once your rustic wood top has dried completely, it’s time to attach it to the cabinet. Start by positioning the wood top on the cabinet, making sure it is centered with an equal overhang on each side.

Next, you’ll need to secure the top to the cabinet.

There were already pocket holes inside of this cabinet to attach a top to the cabinet. So I just used more pocket hole screws to screw the top onto the cabinet. Just be extra sure to use screws that are the appropriate length to secure the top without poking through.

Another common method is to use L-brackets. Position the L-brackets on the inside corners of the cabinet, aligning them so that they connect the cabinet wall and the underside of the rustic wood top. Make sure the bracket is not visible from the front or sides of the cabinet for a clean look.

Once your brackets are in position, screw them into place. You’ll want to use short screws that won’t pierce through the top of the wood. After you’ve attached all brackets, give your cabinet a gentle shake to make sure the top is secure.

And there you have it! You’ve successfully attached your rustic wood top to the cabinet.

Topcoating the Rustic Cabinet

Once the 48 hours have passed, it’s time to apply your topcoat. We recommend using a water-based polyurethane for this part as it’s much easier to work with and dries faster.

And, because of its non-yellowing properties, it won’t discolor the wood over time like an oil based polyurethane would.

I personally like spraying the waterbased polyurethane on with my paint sprayer. Here is how to spray polyurethane with a paint sprayer. But if you don’t have access to a paint sprayer, the next best option is using the minwax polycrylic spray.

Learn more about the features, and pros and cons of Minwax polycrylic spray here.

And of course, you can always brush on the poly as well. Here is how to apply polycrylic to painted furniture to get a streak free finish.

Since we’re using water based polyurethane (aka polycrylic) you can also topcoat the chalk painted cabinet with it as well!

Make sure to apply 3 coats of poly to protect your hard work and make it all more durable.

Let the topcoat dry for 24 hours, and then put it all together. I ended up painting the original hardware black to blend in with the rest of the black cabinet.

Here is what it looks like now!

I absolutely love this look! What do you think?

If you want more amazing furniture makeover ideas, check out this post for fresh and innovative ways to revamp your furniture and elevate your home’s aesthetic.

closeup of the black painted cabinet with stained wood rustic top
black painted cabinet with black hardware and stained wood top

More Before And After Makeovers

Click any of these “before” photos below to view the “after” of that makeover.

closeup of rustic wood 2x4 top on cabinet

How to Make Furniture Look Rustic

black painted cabinet with rustic wood top

Want to make update your ordinary furniture into some rustic furniture for your home? Here is how to make furniture look rustic!


  1. Remove the hardware and hinges to remove the doors. I also removed the broken marble top.
  2. Clean with krud kutter, then lightly sand with 220 grit sandpaper to help the paint stick. Remove the dust with a shop vacuum and tack cloth.
  3. Use a country chic painting sponge to apply thin coats of the color Liquorice by Country Chic Paint. The painting sponge helps paint the paint on in thin coats, which helps the paint go on without brush marks. Let dry between coats for about an hour. Apply 2-3 coats. I also painted the original hardware.
  4. When the paint is dry, sand it all with 220 grit sandpaper to distress the paint some and show off the wood.
  5. For the top, I used my Kreg Jig and pocket hole screws to attach a bunch of 2"x4" pieces of wood together for a chunky wood top. Sand the wood to remove splinters and make it feel smooth. Stain with special walnut wood stain. Let the stain dry for 48 hours.
  6. Screw the wood top into the cabinet walls with pocket holes that were already inside of the cabinet, or use L brackets to attach the top to the cabinet.
  7. Topcoat everything with water based polyurethane. Let dry 24 hours. Put the doors and hardware back on.

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vintage cabinet with marble top and 2 doors

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