How to Tone Down Orange Wood Furniture

Today, we’re addressing a common conundrum faced by many who love the thrill of second-hand shopping—how to tone down orange wood furniture pieces. The vibrant orange tint can be quite the eyesore, but don’t let that put you off.

With some creativity, a few handy tools, and our step-by-step guide, you’ll learn how refinishing furniture can transform that overly-orange piece into a chic and charming addition to your home. Let’s dive in and give that orange wood furniture a much-needed makeover!

large square coffee table with gloass top and orange wood finish

Thrifting is a fantastic way to find unique furniture pieces that add character and charm to your home without breaking the bank. However, sometimes you might stumble upon a gem that doesn’t quite fit your decor vision due to its overly vibrant orange wood tone.

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Don’t let that discourage you! That’s exactly what happened to Kara of Lemons to Lemonade Furniture. Here’s her experience!

I found this 1980’s rounded edge coffee table in the last chance pile at my thrift store for $10. I love the look of rounded edge furniture but the orange finish…needed an update!

With a bit of creativity and some simple techniques, you can easily transform that eye-catching yet overwhelming orange wood furniture into a sophisticated addition to your space.

In this blog post, we’ll explore some effective ways to tone down the orange and breathe new life into your thrifted find.

scroll down to see the after photos

Supplies Used for Toning Down Orange Furniture

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Clean the Furniture

Most of my furniture pieces come from thrift stores or auctions and even though the styles are all different, one thing remains the same….they’re usually covered in fingerprints and dust!

I like to use a good quality degreaser like Simple Green. Warm water and shop rags work fine for this step. If I have a piece that is really dirty like this coffee table was, I will use the cleaning brushes that attach to a drill.

For more information on how to clean wood furniture before painting or staining, read our cleaning before painting furniture post.

cleaning the coffee table with a drill and brush attachment

Always be sure to wipe away the degreaser with clean water after you are finished giving your piece a good clean. This makes sure your paint or stain will adhere nicely.

Sand Off the Orange Tone

The first step in toning down orange wood furniture is to sand away the existing finish. This not only removes the glossy layer but also provides a smooth surface for the new paint or stain to adhere to.

But if you don’t want the process of sanding off the old finish, here’s how to change wood color without sanding.

using a power sander to remove the old stained wood finish

Start with medium-grit sandpaper to remove the top layer of varnish or finish, and then switch to fine-grit sandpaper to achieve a smooth surface. Check out our blog post about sanding before painting furniture to learn more about the importance of this process before painting.

Be sure to sand in the direction of the wood grain to avoid damaging the piece. Using an orbital sander will make this process go much faster so I highly recommend one if you plan on sanding items down to bare wood.

If you’re new to projects like this, here is some more information on the different types of sanders for furniture, as well as our post on the best sanders for furniture to help you know which sander is right for you.

For small spaces and hard to reach edges, I like to use sanding grips. It’s easy to wrap a piece of sandpaper around the one that fits your surface and make quick work out of removing a stubborn finish.

Check out this post to learn more about how to sand in tight spaces.

If you have curved edges and details as well, here is how to sand curved surfaces.

using a sanding grip to sand the crevices on the furniture

Remove all of the Sanding Dust

Once I have sanded back all of the orange finish, I like to use mineral spirits to wipe off my project and make sure that all of the dust and grit is completely removed before I proceed with next steps. This ensures that nothing will get into my final finish.

Pro tip! Mineral spirits will also show exactly what color your wood furniture will be if you were to seal it just as it is right now!

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Refinishing Wood with Stain

If you are looking to keep the wood finish look, find a stain that fits your décor style.

Stains come in a variety of shades, as well as oil based and water based. With the wide selection today, it makes it easy to find one that will match your home style. Here is more information on the best wood stains for refinishing furniture to help you decide what to get.

I chose to use Minwax Special Walnut oil based stain. I didn’t want it as dark as the can and was aiming for more of a tobacco color. To achieve this, I cut the stain with mineral spirits about half and half.

Check out our blog post about how to make furniture look rustic where we used Minwax Special Walnut oil based stain.

using a staining pad to stain the wood furniture

If you have any damage on your furniture that needs filled with wood filler, here is great information for staining wood filler after you fix the damage on your furniture.

I applied the stain with my favorite stain pads. I prefer to use these for an oil stain application.

Apply thin, even coats and allow each coat to dry completely before applying the next. Multiple thin coats are better than one thick coat, as they result in a smoother finish. This coffee table took two coats for full coverage.

Learn more about the staining process in our how to stain wood with a rag post.

If you’re working with a larger area and wondering if can you spray wood stain with a paint sprayer, check out this post to find out.

using a stain pad to stain another part of the coffee table

Sealing Stained Wood

Since I used a oil based stain on this project, I chose to seal it with an oil based top coat, Minwax Spar Urethane. This top coat is extremely resilient but it will yellow overtime.

Another great alternative if you want to spray your oil based topcoat on is spray on Minwax polyurethane. Learn if it is the right choice for you in our Minwax polyurethane spray post.

If you are using a lighter stain or a water based stain, I would recommend using the water-based Minwax Urethane instead. Learn more about the spray on version in our Minwax polycrylic spray post.

If you aren’t sure what to use for your project, read our polycrylic vs polyurethane post, or our spray polyurethane vs brush on polyurethane post.

spraying oil based polyurethane topcoat on the coffee table

I was thrilled with my choice of top coat because the golden ember color added more depth to the tobacco color of my stain choice. You can watch my full transformation in this Coffee Table Makeover YouTube video.

Transforming orange wood furniture from a thrift store into a stunning addition to your home is a rewarding DIY project that allows you to infuse your personal style into your living space.

By following these steps and exercising a little patience, you can effectively tone down the orange and create a piece that perfectly fits your décor vision.

square wood coffee table with tobacco color stained wood
large square coffee table with new stain and glass top

So the next time you spot an orange-hued treasure at a thrift store, don’t hesitate to bring it home and give it the makeover it deserves!

If you enjoyed this flip tip, you can find Kara on Youtube under Lemons to Lemonade Furniture. And for more behind the scenes content you can also join Kara on Instagram!

scroll up if you missed the after photos

How to Tone Down Orange Wood Furniture

stained wood coffee table with glass

Get rid of the orange finish on your furniture with this step-by-step tutorial on how to tone down orange wood furniture.


  1. Clean the furniture using a degreaser like Simple Green. If the furniture is excessively dirty, use cleaning brushes attached to a drill. Rinse the degreaser with clean water to ensure paint or stain adherence.
  2. Start sanding off the orange tone with medium-grit sandpaper to remove the top layer of varnish or finish. Then, switch to fine-grit sandpaper for a smooth surface. Always sand in the direction of the wood grain. Use an orbital sander for efficiency and sanding grips for small spaces.
  3. After sanding, wipe off the project with mineral spirits to remove all the dust and grit. This prepares the furniture for the next steps.
  4. Choose a stain that fits your décor style and apply it with staining pads. Apply thin, even coats, letting each dry completely before applying the next.
  5. Finally, seal the stained wood with a top coat. The choice of top coat depends on the type of stain used. For oil-based stains, use an oil-based top coat like Minwax Spar Urethane. If you're using a lighter stain or a water-based one, opt for water-based Minwax Urethane.

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square coffee table from the 90s with an orange wood finish and glass top.

One Comment

  1. Thank you!! Kara from Lemons to Lemonade Furniture did this makeover and I agree, she knocked it out of the park! Thanks so much for the love!

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