Cabinet Before & After

Rustic Cabinet Before & AfterI 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.

Distressed Cabinet Before & AfterInitially 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!

Distressed Cabinet Before & AfterSupplies:
-petroleum jelly
-paint (no primer)
-paint brush
-metal spatula (drywall spatulas work best)

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.

Distressed Cabinet Before & AfterStep 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.

Distressed Cabinet Before & AfterI 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!

Distressed Cabinet Before & AfterDistressed Cabinet Before & AfterWell, 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.

  • Nice cabinet! But I find the farmhand comparison really offensive. Englisch is Not my first language, maybe I understand it wrong?

  • Thanks for sharing! I knew the designer, but nothing about the backstory. So cool! -Mandi

  • It’s an Olle Eksell piece, so you could try searching and maybe you can find one available on eBay or somewhere. 🙂 -Mani

  • Yes how fun to see that poster! Saludos from Sweden!

    Ewlake, it’s acctually a logotype for cocoa, the brand is called “Ögon Kakao”, means Eye Cacao. Good luck!

  • Although the after is pretty, I like the original better. Either way this piece has a lot of character but I would be nervous to paint it.

  • It looks so good! I love the distressed look with the bits of green still poking through.

  • Wow I love this! I remember lining the perimeter of my face with petroleum jelly when dying my hair at home in high school, to keep the dye from bleeding onto my skin, haha! Never thought about how the same would apply with painting furniture!

  • Fun fact about the poster. In the beginning of the 1950s Mazetti (the company for which the logo was made) sold cocoa in bulk, recieving criticism that it didn’t stay very clean when people were to buy it. They then started to eye their cocoa, making sure it held high standards. The slogan “See with your own eyes that you get Mazettis eyes” was born. The logo, designed by Olle Eksell in 1956, showed up on the first cocoa-packets and people started calling it “ögon-kakao” (“eye-cocoa”), and we still do. Thank you for a wonderful blog!

  • Love this, I’ll be keeping my eye out for any diamond in the rough pieces that need a little love and a good lick of paint.

  • The cabinet looks so much better now. I have always loved the distressed look, so I cannot help enjoying this tutorial. Also I love the color combination, classy but still refreshing.

  • That turned out so cute!! You are so talented!!!

  • Now, its a perfect fit in your room. Love what you’re doing with the wood on this site.
    I’ve even mentioned you on the top of my List of Decor Blogs to Follow!

  • This is so adorable! I love how you kept the rustic worn feel of it. Perfect little storage space!

  • Great tips, would have never thought to use vaseline to help get that rugged look! Love it!


  • I totally used to be the girl who would paint everything in sight! I’m with you though, there are some pieces that just shouldn’t be painted. PS- Love the cotton branches!

  • Beautiful, I love the slight colour coming through!

  • I love the after of this cabinet! You did such a beautiful job!


  • Such a lovely addition to your other furniture, it really compliments it and has its own little personality!!

    Jodie | A Textile Perspective

  • Wonderfully done! I really like that shabby chic design!

  • Love this cabinet, it looks amazing. And it looked great before too. Great DIY 🙂

    Valentina from

  • wow, such a beautiful piece! makes me inspired to go out and find my own and do the same! i agree with the above comment both the before and after colours are great!

  • Now this one looked good before and after! 🙂 P.s. There was no posts on Sunday this time, right? xo

  • Just gorgeous! Honestly I love the before just as much as the after on this one. 🙂

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.