Painting and Distressing Bedroom Furniture

Morgan found this furniture all by herself from a friend’s grandmother who was selling it.    She knew a good deal when she saw it!  (Must have been all that garage selling when she was little). The furniture was in great shape – all the drawers slid in and out nicely and there were no stains.  The only thing that was wrong was one of the handles had come loose.  It just needed a coat of paint and a little bit of distressing.  It sat in her room for awhile (the ugly walnut with the lose handle) until we decided on a color to paint it.

Here are the items that you will need for this project:

TSP (trisodium phosphate), Tack Cloth, Paint brush (I only use Purdy), Primer, Paint, Sandpaper, foam brush, Elmer’s Wood Filler, Glaze and Polyurethane.  All of these items can be purchased at any hardware store (Ace, Lowes, Home Depot).

Let’s talk paint brushes first.  I only use PURDY.  Nothing is more frustrating than picking loose brush bristles out of your paint.  I like to use an angled brush.  It allows you to get into crevices and grooves and it’s easier to “cut” into areas where you need to paint a straight line.  If you take good care of your brushes (try not to get paint in the furrows, where the bristles attach to the metal) they will last a very long time…. my hubby’s paint brushes last FOREVER.  I have my own now (I’m not allowed to use his anymore) because I get paint in the furrows :-(.  I’m not a fan of using a roller on furniture.  If you do use a roller, use a foam one (that is used for doors) and immediately follow up with your paint brush.


This part of the job is not too fun, but it’s gotta be done (ha! poet and didn’t know it)

Remove all of the hardware  and take out the drawers.  Wipe down with TSP to remove dirt and grease.

Using a sander (or you can do this by hand) with medium – heavy grit sandpaper, sand the top of the furniture so it feels smooth when you run your hand across it.  If you have any dents, fill with Elmer’s Wood Filler (with a putty knife) and follow directions for drying time.  Wipe down with the tack cloth.


Priming is important if you don’t want your paint to peel or chip off.  It gives the paint something to grip to.

1.  Apply a coat of Kilz ODORLESS OIL-BASE  paint.

Make sure it is OIL BASED, not water based.  Oil based dry time is much quicker than the latex version, which can take up to a week to cure.

When brushing the primer on, paint in the direction of the grain in the wood.  I put 2 coats on the top of the dresser to give it extra durability.

After your coat of primer is on and dry, sand very lightly with a fine grit sandpaper.  Sand LIGHTLY in the direction of the grain.  Run your hand across the surface and make sure it feels smooth.  You don’t want to remove the primer, you want to only smooth the primer coat and prepare for the next coat of paint.

After you have sanded lightly, remove the dust with your tack cloth.


I used a gray semi-gloss paint.  Paint WITH the grain of the wood.  Apply a LIGHT coat of paint and allow to dry.  I always apply two coats of paint.  Be sure to allow your 1st coat to dry at least 4-6 hours before you apply the 2nd coat.  Most times I will let the 1st coat of paint dry over night before I put the 2nd coat of paint on.  If you apply a 2nd coat of paint before the 1st coat is dry you’ll have “gummy” looking brush strokes.   Before applying the 2nd coat of paint, run your hand across the painted surfaces (especially the top of the furniture) to make sure it is smooth.  If it is not, lightly sand and then wipe down with the tack cloth.


Distressing is easy and the fun part! Use a medium grit sandpaper (I usually use about #120 grit). I have a Mouse Sander that I absolutely love, but I only use it when I have a lot of distressing or a large surface area to sand….I suggest perfecting your “distressing technique” first before you use a sander (when I first started using the sander I had to work at making the distressing areas look natural).   Sand in spots that would normally get “wear and tear”.  All the edges, drawers, corners, front of the legs….basically anything that “protrudes” and would get scratched easily.  At this point you can even use a hammer or a chain to make dents in your wood!  Depends on how “stressed” you want it :-). When you are finished distressing, wipe it down with your tack cloth.

"Hmm, I guess this color will work"

Don’t you just love my mauve colored grout in the kitchen???  This crap tile/grout is gone VERY SOON!!! Hello granite!!!


I have used Ralph Lauren’s faux glaze that I bought at Home Depot for years.  Then, Home Depot quit carrying RL, but you could ask them to mix it for you because the formula was still in their computers.  TODAY, (yes the day I’m posting this) I find out that they NO LONGER have the formula in their computers!!!!  Ugh.  So, here is what my buddy, Julie (who is the Queen of faux painting, decorating…you name it she can do it) suggested.  Buy the Martha Stewart or Behr Faux Glaze (it’s clear) from Home Depot and add your own color of paint to the glaze.  Home Depot suggests a 4:1 ratio.  Martha Stewart’s glaze is washable.  She also has her own set of 8.5oz samples of paint colors.

The color of my glaze that I used on Morgan’s furniture was called “Smoke” by Ralph Lauren.  If I was to pick a color of paint to mix in with the glaze, I would choose a blackish/brown or dark brown.  Sorry folks.  I will know more about this when I use it on my next project. But I do think this will work fine.

There is several ways that you can apply the glaze depending on how dark you want to make it.  For Morgan’s furniture I didn’t want it to be too dark.  Using a sponge brush, I applied the glaze into the grooves first.  Then, using a slightly damp cloth (lint-free, I use old t-shirts) I dipped it into the glaze and began applying it to the furniture.  If you want it to be darker, then you can use a dry sponge brush (instead of a rag) OR use a dry rag.

I suggest practicing on a piece of wood.  You’ll get the hang of it!


Last but not least, apply 3 coats of polyurethane.  Make sure that it is water based!

Allow your painted furniture to dry overnight before you apply the polyurethane.  I use a foam brush to apply it.  I’ll be honest, polyurethane is a bit tricky (especially if you are painting something vertically like the front of  the dresser) because it runs/sags if you get it too thick.  So what I do is I apply a thin coat and then keep inspecting where I have applied to make sure that this doesn’t happen.  Even when you think the coast is clear, you’ll go back and there are the drips….so keep an eye on it. If this happens, wait for it to dry (don’t try to go back over it with your foam brush) and sand it lightly.

Between each coat, sand lightly with your fine sand paper.   DO NOT attach your sand paper to a block unless you are 100% sure that your furniture is flat, otherwise you end up creating deep scratches into your polyurethane.  Run your hand across the surface after each sanding to make sure you get all the tiny little bumps!  Don’t freak out if you have a lot of bumps, this occurs because 1)poly dries very quickly  or 2)you didn’t get all of your debris off before you applied the poly.

The polycrylic comes in several types of finish – satin (being least shiny), semi-gloss, gloss.  This stuff is amazing.  My daughter’s, friend knocked over a bottle of fingernail polish remover and it didn’t even hurt it!

After applying the last coat of the poly, let dry for at least 24 hrs. before setting anything on it.

Now, I’ve heard that polyurethane  yellows on lighter, colored,  painted furniture.  I have several things that I have applied it to (years ago) and so far, so good….. no yellowing.

I kept the original handles and just spray painted them with Rustoleum spray paint.

Here’s the finished project!


If you have any questions, PLEASE don’t hesitate to leave a COMMENT.  If you have questions, I’m sure everyone else does too! YOU CAN DO THIS!  It’s just paint :-).

Can’t wait to show you my thrift store finds from the weekend!  So many creative things swirling around in my head…….Ugh…why do I need to sleep????

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  1. Oh, I love this.. the final result actually looks a little like a bedroom set I had a girl. Love, love, love the look!

  2. I so love this! She’s so gorgeous now! I found you via Redoux. Pop on over for a visit when you get a moment. Tootles, Kathryn

  3. Tyler Rogers says:


    • She knows a good deal when she sees it!!! I’ve taught her well. Join us for taco salad one night this week?????

  4. Really nice! Looking for a “Frenchie” type nightstand myself. Love what you have done to the furniture!


  5. This was a great tutorial. Beautiful transformation of these pieces and super “picking” eye by Morgan.

  6. this is my favorite look with my favorite furniture style!!! Great job!

  7. hi what a cute dresser! good job! I spray painted an old dresser a deep plum color, it only came in gloss( spray paint). Tried to add MStewart’s bronze glaze on it but goes on uneven and wipes right off with a damp rag! Any ideas? thx!!!

    • Thanks so much AJ. It was really a fun project and my daughter loves her furniture.

      Keep in mind that anytime you use a glossy paint, it is so slick that the glaze has nothing to grab a hold of. I use a flat paint or a satin. I use a paint brush to apply the glaze. Then, with a slightly damp old t-shirt I go back over the glaze very lightly to achieve the look I want. I use a very light pressure. My other thought is, it is very difficult to achieve the look you want with glaze when your paint is really dark. You could go back now and and try it again using a darker glaze, especially applying it in any crevices/grooves that is in your piece of furniture. Did you distress first? If you distressed down to the bare would, the dark glaze should grab a hold of that fresh wood and achieve the look you are hoping for. I hope this helps!

      • well i decided to leave it be, for now 🙂 next time i will choose a lighter color when i want to glaze on top! This time I used KRYLON’s rich plum and looks super hot with just its shine , i may do a laquer topcoat for more shine. thanks!!

  8. They look magnificent. So romantic looking. Have you ever tried milk paint? Just made a significant investment in Annie sloan’s milk paint. Going to do several projects and time is and issue. ( my mother in law was displaced after hurricane and we are trying to put her back in her home, however we would like it to be better than ever without breaking the bank). Having said this I am doing my due diligence and I came across your website and loved your thrift makeovers. I also adored the blue table and chairs. So if you by any chance could offer any advice on milk painting techniques I would greatly appreciate it. Great website!!

  9. I am TOTALLY new to this and am thinking about distressing my son’s furniture. Can you tell me what he purpose is of the glaze? I am wanting to distress it a deep brown – what colors should I use for everything besides the kilz?

  10. I am starting with a wood set and distressing it the deep brown as mentioned above… I need to remove anything prior to starting?

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