DIY Furniture Makeover: Bright Furniture on a Budget

6 Materials
4 Hours

"How to Get Bright, Bold Charming Furniture on a Budget"
That’s a question I’ve probably typed into Google like… a zillion times. Well, I’ve finally taken the plunge and I’m never going back. I seriously want to paint every piece of furniture in my house using this technique. it’s so EASY…. and so FUN… and the results are AMAZING.

More photos and detailed instructions are available on my blog:
Start with an old piece of furniture
This is mine. A hand-me-down dresser I was using for extra storage. It’s actually my childhood neighbor’s bedroom dresser.If you don’t have a piece like this, you can use one of your IKEA end tables… or scour Good Will, Craigs List, LetGo, Facebook Marketplace and the like for something really cheap. Just make sure that it’s in good shape so you don’t have to spend time making repairs to the veneer or wood. Trust me on this… this project is super fun and easy, but if your furniture isn’t in good shape, it won’t be so fun.

Lightly scuff your furniture then paint
Chalk paint can be applied to any surface to make a durable finish. The best part is how little prep work there is! They actually don’t even recommend sanding the surface first… but honestly if you have a high varnish, slippery surface your are better off doing a quick sand before you start. Wipe it down, then begin applying the chalk paint. You can be pretty sloppy with this. I’m the sloppiest painter ever… and it came out nice for me. The biggest thing is to get the paint into all the nooks and crannies. I applied 2 coats of paint (annie sloan antibes green) to my dresser and drawers to get most of it covered. You don’t need a super perfect finish, like I said… just make sure you get most of the surface covered with a layer.
Sand & Distress your newly bright furniture (Optional)
Ok…. the color is bright. I bet if this were you, you’d be having a freaking heart attack right now. I agree, this color is ugly…. BEFORE the final step. My experience has been to pick gaudy colors for this technique. Those candy colors that are too bright to put on the walls…. a shade or two too saturated.
Once you’ve got your piece painted, let it dry overnight, you can sand along the edges of the piece to remove some of the paint to create a distressed look. The best way to do this is the think of the places the piece would naturally wear over time… near the knobs and handles, along the edges where someone may touch it or set something onto it… and also along the “detail” parts that you want to highlight.

I skipped this step… for the most part… except for getting a couple huge gloppy pieces off (messy painter). So, you don’t have to do it but a lot of people do distress before waxing.
Wax and buff your furniture
This is the fun part. In order to use a dark wax or a black wax, you first have to apply the clear wax. Annoying, I know. But this will seal the piece so that the black is way easier to work with. Luckily I’ve found a time-saving secret to avoid this… mix the black and clear waxes together! Grab a spoonful of the clear wax and a spoonful of black wax and mix them together in a cup or on a paper plate. Make sure they are mixed together well, and then you’ll only have to apply this wax once. If you choose to do them separately, make sure that you put the clear wax over every square inch of the piece, then wipe the excess with a rag. Then, you’re ready to apply the black wax.
Rub your waxing brush or rag into the can of black scary goodness. Then just rub it into your furniture right over the paint. I started at those “Distressed” areas… inside of the detail parts and where I wanted the wax to be darker. Then I took a rag and just rubbed the black into the whole piece. It dries quickly so I wouldn’t recommend leaving it on too long like you would with a stain. You’re better off applying and wiping within 2 minutes — so make sure you work in small sections.  If you have a spot where you think you applied too much dark, don’t worry…. just take some of the clear wax and rub it over the black wax. It acts like an eraser and it will simply remove all of the dark from that area. Apply and work the wax around until you are happy…then buff it until it’s shiny and there’s no residue.
Spray Paint the Hardware (Optional)
The last and final, again optional, step is to spray paint the hardware. I just soaked my hardware in some paint thinner (whatever I had laying around)…. and dried it. Then I used a can of “oil rubbed bronze” spray paint to freshen up the pulls and hinges. It really made a HUGE HUGE difference and I’m so happy I did it.
Here's the final product!
Here’s another project I tackled with chalk paint (this time I made my own chalk paint instead of paying for the Annie Sloan). There's a tutorial for this on my blog as well. On my bathroom vanity, I used a very pale blue and then distressed using the same technique with black wax. It’s not as bright and bold as the green dresser, but it really makes a big impact.

More photos, detailed instructions, and make your own chalk paint tutorial are available on my blog if you click the link below.

Suggested materials:

  • Sandpaper or sanding sponge — medium grit  (
  • Paintbrush & Waxing Brush (optional — you can just use a rag)  (
  • Rags. We have always have these white rags on hand.  (
See all materials

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Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!


Have a question about this project?

1 question
  • Kimberly Bryant
    on Jun 30, 2019

    Fantastic! I have a mahogany credenza that needs a major face lift. It doesn't go with any of my other furniture but it's so useful I won't sell it. As I've seen said on this website "It's got good bones". I'm thinking of adding legs since it sits on the floor and then distressing it and changing the hardware. If you have done this (of course you have) can you send me a link?

Join the conversation

  • Wow! What a pretty color!
    • Amy
      on Jun 26, 2017

      Thanks! Or thank Annie Sloan :)

  • Itsmemic
    on Jul 30, 2018

    GORGEOUS !! Have an old tv stand that is just plain fugly. Was having a hard time finding the right color to fit my living room. I'm kinda diggin' this ugly green turned wonderfully boho !!

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