I used to cringe every time I saw a beautiful piece of furniture doused with paint in the name of DIY, but lately I’ve been succumbing to the lure of painted furniture. A big issue with painted furniture, in my opinion, is it can cover up the character and warmth of the original wood, and it also just comes across as lazy, in my mind, when someone would rather slop some paint on a cabinet instead of properly refinishing it to restore it to its former glory.
In this case, I was working with a pretty primitive cabinet that didn’t have beautiful features besides just being rugged and worn, like the honest, wrinkled face of an experienced ranch hand or something. It was endearing, but not refined.
Initially the cabinet had caught my eye because of its beautiful green color, but it won my heart with its simplicity and character…not to mention its affable price tag. I love mixing primitive pieces with more streamlined mid century things, so I decided to take this cabinet home with me for extra craft supply storage in my dining room.
But once I got it home, I decided the green was a new color in my home that just didn’t sit right with all the yellow. What can I say? It wasn’t perfectly my style after all, but it was pretty darn close. It just needed a dye job, so to speak. Enter, the lazy gal’s DIY project: painted furniture!
This paint job is something a bit different, though, and hopefully it honors the rugged simplicity of the original cabinet. It’s still distressed and in keeping with the cabinet’s rough patina.
Instead of just painting the cabinet a flat gray, I think this rustic paint job is still interesting and contrasts nicely with the rest of my decor. Check out how easy it was to give this old cabinet a new face!
Step One: To begin, I wiped down the cabinet with a damp rag and made sure it was dry before applying petroleum jelly. The petroleum jelly will resist the paint, so apply it where you would like to reveal the original finish behind the paint you apply.
I chose areas which naturally would receive wear through the years, like at the edges, between pieces of wood, and in a couple of random spots across the door.
Try to remember where you applied the petroleum jelly—it’s important for step three.
Step Two: Apply the paint to completely cover the original finish of your wood. Do not use primer—you want to be able to easily scrape it off in the next step, and primer will make that very difficult.
I used Benjamin Moore’s Stone Harbor in an eggshell finish, and it covered completely in two coats.
Step Three: Use a metal spatula to scrape away the paint on the areas where you had previously applied petroleum jelly. The paint will easily flake off with the help of the spatula, so don’t dig in and scratch the wood. Do just a little bit at a time until you like how it looks.
You can finish your paint job with a sealant like polyurethane if you’d like to minimize further distressing with use.
I left the inside of the cabinet untouched, so I still get that fun jolt of green whenever I open the cabinet door. But now the exterior of the cabinet peacefully coexists with the rest of the decor in my home. Time to fill the inside with boxes and jars of supplies!
Well, I guess painting furniture is quite satisfying after all! Maybe now I understand the appeal of it, but don’t worry, I’ll refrain from painting everything in sight! I love the variety of painted furniture alongside stained wood, and I still stand by my opinion that some things are too sacred for paint. But that’s another story for another day! –Mandi
Credits // Author and Photography: Mandi Johnson. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.