These vintage end tables got a complete makeover with some paint and stain. Here’s how to get this farmhouse modern look AND how to restain wood when you don’t want to remove the old finish.
Hey there! I’m so excited to share these light gray nightstands with you today! We updated them with one of my all time favorite colors, and it’s not white!
Speaking of paint colors, check out our best selling paint colors here!
Get more painted nightstands ideas here!
The Furniture Find
I feel like finding and picking up the furniture is an adventure in itself! After finding these little gems on craigslist, I enlisted my husband to help me pick them up, along with a matching dresser.
As we got close to the sellers home, the temperature dropped by 20 degrees, anndd it became super foggy. And right when we got there, it started to rain. Thank goodness it was just a light sprinkle.
But we didn’t have a tarp to cover the furniture!
So we waited it out until the rain passed us, hurried and loaded the furniture up, and wrapped it in a blanket in case we hit any more rain on the way home.
Thankfully it didn’t rain anymore on us, but once we got home, our tarp went back to being stored in the pickup. And in case you’re wondering, it was still sunny and warm at our home when we got back.
Go figure. ha!
It was all worth it to get our hands on this furniture though! These nightstands are built so well, and I just love their legs!
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Walnut Gel Stain & a Cut Up T-shirt
Before paint, we prepped..
These cuties were definitely in need of a refresh and were pretty worn out! So of course I started out by cleaning them up, and prepping them for paint. You can read (or watch) all about my prep process here.
Sanding the Tops for Stain
I sanded the tops of the nightstands down right away since the finish on the top of one of them was worn down (see picture).
It would have been so much easier to strip them instead of sanding them because of the details on the edges. I typically strip them instead, but something about a worn off finish makes me want to sand. ha!
It’s so much easier to get into the details with folded up sandpaper, and I really didn’t want to damage the details with a power sander.
The 80 grit sandpaper does a great job at getting the old finish off because of how coarse it is.
But once the finish was gone, I went back with 220 grit and then 400 grit to make the wood super smooth.
If you aren’t familiar with the different levels of sandpaper, the lower the number, the more coarse or rough the sandpaper is.
So it will be easier to take off a finish with lower grit sandpaper.
But, the wood will be rough after that.
So it’s always best to work your way up to a higher grit sandpaper to smooth everything out and make that wood shine.
Protecting from Overspray
I also taped off the drawers with the plastic and the tape.
You can see how to prevent over spray from your paint sprayer from getting everywhere.
I lightly sanded the legs down, and then wrapped some brown paper around the legs with tape (the pre-taped plastic is also great for this!) to prevent over spray on them since I wanted to keep them stained.
Filling In the Hardware Holes
To update the hardware, I filled the holes in with bondo.
Bondo is a great alternative to wood filler since it dries super hard pretty quickly, and it doesn’t shrink and crack like wood filler does.
The biggest downside is how bad it stinks! You can see how to use bondo in this live facebook video.
If I can’t get to a well ventilated area, I use kwikwood to fill the holes. It also dries hard and doesn’t shrink.
But it doesn’t stink as bad.
It’s really simple to use too. Just break off the amount that you need, and then knead the product together, mixing the stuff on the outside of the roll with the stuff on the inside.
Once its completely mixed together, fill in the holes, and let it dry completely before sanding it all down smooth.
No matter what I use for the main filler though, I always go back with a small amount of wood filler to smooth out the bondo. I swear there are always little tiny spots that need filled in just a bit after sanding.
Preventing Bleed Through
Since it was nice and warm, I took the nightstands outside to paint. I simply laid down a few large cardboard boxes on the ground, and then got to work. Before I went any further, I sprayed 3 coats of shellac onto the nightstands.
In the furniture painting world, there is this ugly thing called “bleed through” and you really never know when it’s going to strike.
But shellac really helps with that issue. So I shellac everything now.
And I mean everything.
But especially light colors that won’t hide the bleed through.
I know a lot of people only shellac or prep for bleed through on light colored pieces, but I have had it show up even on dark painted pieces.
And sometimes it won’t show up until months after you have painted a piece.. or it will show up right after you put your top coat on. And in that case you literally have to start over. No thank you.
So I shellac or use this stain blocking primer on every last piece. The stain blocking primer is even better than shellac, but it’s tinted white (the shellac dries clear), so I only use it under pieces that will be painted white, or pieces that I want white to show when I distress.
The Best Way to Paint on Paint – The Paint Sprayer
I love to paint my furniture with a paint sprayer. Mostly because I love the brush free finish, but also because I love how much faster it is!
My time is mostly spent doing other things while I wait for my paint to dry instead of painting one coat, and the paint already being dry where I first started to paint.
There is a little bit of a learning curve to thinning out the paint, but to help you with that, I wrote (and created a video) to help you with using a paint sprayer.
It’s a three part series that takes you through the ins and outs of using a paint sprayer. I’m also working on another tutorial that will go into even more depth!
I used Country Chic Paint’s Lazy Linen for these nightstands. Lazy Linen is the very best light gray chalk paint I have come across yet! It’s a warm grey or greige, and I just love the modern touch it gives furniture.
Oh and don’t forget to follow them on Facebook to see more inspiration!
So I thinned out my paint for my paint sprayer, and painted about 3-4 coats of Lazy Linen on the nightstands.
I used 3-4 coats because of how light the paint is.
Not because it doesn’t cover well, but because no light paint covers very well. And when the paint in thinned out for the paint sprayer, another coat is usually necessary.
Just because the coats go on thinner than if you were to brush them.
After the paint was dry, I lightly sanded everything down with 220 grit sandpaper. I usually sand everything down on light colored paints, but dark colors I only sand where I want distressing.
The sanding makes it just a bit smoother, and it also distresses at the same time. I’ve also used 400 grit sandpaper to smooth out a finish without distressing the paint.
But for these I wanted a more distressed and worn finish.
So I made sure to sand all the edges until wood started to show through.
I also sanded a few areas on the flat surfaces to create a worn look.
Once the bottoms were painted and ready to be sealed, I took off the plastic on the tops and the legs.
I stained them with walnut gel stain. Gel stain is a stain that is usually used over an existing finish, like how these legs weren’t sanded down to bare wood.
You do need to lightly sand the old finish a bit to give the stain something to grab onto.
When I wiped the stain on, I wiped around the legs, all the way from the top to the bottom. When in doubt, look for the grain pattern, and follow it. I worked on two legs at a time.
See gel stain in action with this tutorial on how to stain wood darker.
Staining the Tops
I also used the gel stain on the tops to keep the tone of the wood the same as on the legs.
But gel stain really soaks into raw wood, so it’s not quite as easy to work with. So I worked as fast as possible, one table top at a time.
When staining the tops, it’s easier to have a piece of paper or something to hold against the already painted finish so stain doesn’t get on the paint.
If stain does manage to get on the paint though, it’s not the end of the world. Some light sanding and a damp rag usually get’s it off.
If not, a high quality small artist brush and some paint will cover the stain up. Once the tops were completely dry (a day or two), I lightly sanded them with 220 grit sandpaper to create a worn feel.
How to Restain Wood Legs
Staining over an existing finish is a little different than staining raw wood. Once you wipe the stain on, it’s best to let the stain sit for a bit (maybe 30 seconds) before wiping it back off.
Letting it sit for a second will help it soak into the wood just a bit, and will give you a thicker coat.
If it sits too long, it’s hard to get off!
But one trick is to wipe on more gel stain. More gel stain gets the first stain wet again and makes it wipe off easier.
If you need another coat, wait for the gel stain to dry at least 24 hours before putting on the next coat.
Sealing the Chalk Paint for Extra Durability
To finish up these nightstands, I sealed the paint and stain with multiple coats of my favorite poly. If I used a paint sprayer for one thing, it would be to poly furniture.
A brush just leaves behind too many imperfections and streaks, but a sprayer makes it easy to get a smooth even finish. A
nd poly is super important! Not only does it seal the chalk paint, but it also creates a strong, durable and smooth finish.
Learn ALL of my tips and tricks on How to Spray Polyurethane here!
A lot of people use wax to seal their chalk paint, but wax really isn’t as durable as poly, and it takes so much longer to wax on and wax off. haha! But really. It takes forever compared to spraying the poly on.
The Updated Hardware
To finish it off, I drilled new holes into the center of the drawers, and added some fresh new clear knobs to finish out the look. I love the worn feel mixed with modern accessories and paint!
I styled these with some of my favorite decor from Hobby Lobby. The wood sign, greenery and the white bowl all came from hobby lobby, including the greenery inside the bowl. The books and vase came from yard sales or thrift stores, and the bird and moss ball I have had for years.
What a makeover! I know there were a lot of little pieces to this tutorial, and I hope that doesn’t overwhelm you! Please let me know how I can help and if you try doing something similar! I would love to see!